‘Brilliant news’ will see new trains on Merseyrail

Train drivers on Merseyrail agree new deal clearing the way for introduction of £500m train fleet into service in Liverpool city region. Tony McDonough reports

Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram on a new Merseyrail train. Picture by Tony McDonough


Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram says an agreement between train drivers and Merseyrail that will see the new £500m train fleet come into service is “brilliant news”.

Last week it was revealed that the long-awaited introduction of the new 52-strong train fleet was imminent. The final obstacle was a ballot held by train drivers’ union ASLEF on new terms and conditions for Merseyrail drivers.

On Tuesday it was announced the drivers had voted in favour of the agreement. This means the first of the 777-class trains will be introduced on the Kirkby line within days. It will take around 18 months for the full roll-out across the network.

This latest news will come as a relief for Mr Rotheram and the Combined Authority who had come under some public criticism for delays to the introduction of the fleet which will replace the current 50-year-old rolling stock.

“The agreement between Merseyrail and ASLEF is brilliant news for us because it gives the green light to launch our region’s new £500m fleet of publicly owned trains into action,” said the Mayor.

“We are enormously grateful to passengers for their patience during this process but the day we have all been waiting for has finally arrived.

“Throughout this process, all parties have worked diligently to ensure that passengers can enjoy our new trains as soon as possible.

“We’ve worked with the trade unions and the train operator to help deliver a fair deal for everyone. One that protects jobs, enhances the role of a second safety critical member of staff on every train and provides passengers with value for money.”

Just before Christmas Mr Rotheram said a range of issues from Brexit to recent industrial action by rail staff and the freezing weather had led to delays in the introduction of the train fleet, which has been built by Swiss manufacturer Stadler.

Once in service the new trains will offer free Wi-Fi, wider seats and space for up to 50% more passengers. They will also feature sliding step technology which will allow unassisted access for wheelchair users and those with bikes or buggies – a UK first.


One of the new Merseyrail trains undergoing tests using a battery


In December LBN revealed that a test run of one of the new class 777 trains saw it travel 135km using just a battery. An earlier test in the summer saw one unit run around 32km by battery.

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 without the need for expensive electrification.

Mr Rotheram added: “These new £500m publicly-owned trains will be the envy of towns and cities across the country.

“By putting our principles into practice, we have developed the most sophisticated and accessible local trains in the UK – symbolic of our wider efforts to modernise and grow the Liverpool city region.

“Today is a massive milestone in my journey to build the London-style transport system that our area deserves. These new trains will bring the region’s rail network into the 21st century.”

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