Chancellor to fund £710m Merseyrail expansion

In his Budget on October 27 Chancellor Rishi Sunak will hand Liverpool city region £710m to extend the Merseyrail network using battery-operated trains. Tony McDonough reports

Merseyrail
One of the new Merseyrail trains fitted with a battery

 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will offer £710m to the Liverpool city region in his Budget next week to fund Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s plan to extend the current Merseyrail network.

In July it was announced that trials of the new £500m Merseyrail train fleet had included a pilot to test whether the trains could run on batteries as well as using electrified rails. That was deemed a success with trains able to travel up to 20 miles.

This will allow the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA), which owns the 52-strong fleet, to extend the network to areas such as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn without the need for expensive electrification of the line.

On Wednesday, October 27, Mr Sunak will deliver his Budget to the House of Commons and the Liverpool Echo is reporting he will offer almost £5bn for transport projects in the English regions as part of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements. Greater Manchester will receive £1.07bn and West Midlands £1.05bn.

READ MORE: Merseyrail celebrates its 50th birthday

Mr Rotheram is sure to welcome the announcement. In July he 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.”

Merseyrail
How a map of the extended Merseyrail network could look

 

As well as extending the network outside of the city region Mr Rotheram also wants to increase the size of the network within its current footprint. This could mean new stations Baltic Triangle in Liverpool, Woodchurch in Wirral and Carr Mill in St Helens. 

Last year Mr Rotheram told LBN the CA had the option of purchasing more than 100 trains from manufacturer Stadler. The new trains are still being tested on the network and the CA has yet to announce a date when they will come into service.

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.

In August LBN also revealed Mr Rotheram was in talks with senior Government officials about taking full control of the Merseyrail network, including the physical infrastructure, Full devolution of the network would give the CA direct control over significant areas of land, opening up the opportunity for new development.

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