Passengers on the Merseyrail network will finally start using the first of the new £500m train fleet this autumn. Tony McDonough reports
More details about when the new £500m Merseyrail train fleet will start carrying passengers have been revealed.
In April, LBN reported the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA), which owns the new 52-strong fleet, would start operating the trains by the end of this year. Now the CA has confirmed an autumn launch, although has yet to specify a date or whether they will start on the Northern or Wirral line.
In a statement to the Liverpool Echo, the CA said: “We understand and share the desire of local people to see our new, state-of-the-art trains in operation across the Merseyrail network. Although we aren’t yet able to confirm an exact start date, we expect that the fleet will begin to be phased into service by autumn of this year.”
First announced in 2016, the new trains were acquired by the CA from Swiss manufacturer Stadler. Platform upgrades were started three years ago and the testing of the trains began in 2021. It was originally hoped they would come into service in 2020 or 2021 but faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CA added: “From the pandemic, factory floods, international travel restrictions preventing Stadler engineers travelling to the UK to carry out work on the trains and, of course, the impact of the ‘pingdemic,’ which meant that many staff were unable to operate the current fleet, let alone test and train on the new one.”
It means the current 56-strong fleet of trains, that have now been in service for more than 40 years, will continue calling at Merseyrail’s 68 stations for the next few months. Upgrade work on platforms and signalling, which began in 2018 will also continue.
As part of the testing of the trains, battery technology was trialled. This was declared a success with trains able to run up to 20 miles without recharging. This means the network can be extended without the heavy expense of electrification.
Work has already started on the new £80m Headbolt Lane station at Kirkby. Battery-powered trains will serve the station and it will also offer a link for services to Wigan and Manchester. Battery technology means services to Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn are now also possible.
The new trains include free wi-fi, wider seats and space for up to 50% more passengers. They will also feature pioneering sliding step technology which will allow unassisted access for wheelchair users and those with bikes or buggies – a first for the UK.
All of the trains will be more energy efficient and the CA estimates the investment will boost the city region by £70m a year. They will also come equipped with wifi, plug sockets and USB charging points.
Merseyrail has also released details of services on the day of the Champions League final on Saturday, May 28, and for the parade in Liverpool on Sunday, May 29, when tens of thousands of extra people will take to the city centre streets.
On Saturday, James Street and Lime Street low level stations will be closed from 4pm to manage passenger numbers. Liverpool Central and Moorfields stations will remain open. Green Lane and Bromborough Rake stations will be closed all day.
Passengers are advised to check train times before they travel on the last services, which are expected to be very busy especially if the match is extended through extra time or penalties. There are also likely to be queues at Liverpool Central and Moorfields stations.
On Sunday a 30-minute service will run with some changes to train times. Due to the large crowds expected, the following stations will be closed all day:
- Lime Street Lower Level
- James Street
- Green Lane
- Bromborough Rake
In addition, Northern line trains will call at Moorfields only and Wirral line trains will call at Liverpool Central only, helping to manage passenger flows through both stations. Six-car trains will run wherever possible. Click here for more information.