Battery breakthrough will see Merseyrail network extended

A trial saw batteries installed on a number of trains from the new £500m fleet and its success means the Merseyrail network could be extended without the need for electrification. Tony McDonough reports

One of the new Merseyrail trains fitted with a battery


Battery operated trains will allow the Merseyrail network to be extended without the need for expensive line electrification and will see energy usage slashed by 30%.

A trial saw trains from the new £500m 52-strong fleet acquired by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA) fitted with a battery. They were able to run for up to 20 miles without the need for recharging.

This could allow the CA to extend the Merseyrail network with new stations in Baltic Triangle in Liverpool, Woodchurch in Wirral and Carr Mill in St Helens. It boosts Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Merseyrail for All pledge made in his manifesto during his successful run this year for a second term.

On Thursday the CA said the battery-powered trains will run to the new Headbolt Lane station at Kirkby which is due to open in 2023. The technology also offers the possibility of Merseyrail services as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Early in July the CA announced the testing of the new train fleet was being stepped up although there is no confirmed date for when they will start being rolled out into service on the network. Last year Mr Rotheram told LBN the CA had the option of purchasing more than 100 trains from manufacturer Stadler.

On Wednesday, Mr Rotheram said: “For people in some parts of our region, Liverpool can feel as far away as London. I want to change that. Merseyrail for All is my ambitious plan to extend the current network, so it reaches communities right across our city region and beyond.

“We know that our new publicly owned trains will revolutionise transport in our region but, after these battery trials, they’re going to help take it to another level entirely and ensure no community will be left behind.

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram with a new Merseyrail train
How a map of the extended Merseyrail network could look


“Good public transport is vital for connecting people with each other and opportunity. Our region deserves what London has had for years: a transport system that is affordable, reliable and easy for people to get about. I’m working to build one and these trains are a massive part of that.”

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport town centre, Wirral Waters and LIverpool’s Knowledge Quarter.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line. The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the city region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

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