Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is investing in the new 52-strong fleet to replaces the current rolling stock, some of which dates back to 1978. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyrail has revealed that the first of the new £460m train fleet is on its way to Merseyside from Switzerland to begin testing on the network.
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is investing in the new 52-strong fleet to replaces the current rolling stock, some of which dates back to 1978. The new trains will offer 50% more capacity, with the rail operator promising an “end to cattle trucks”.
Swiss manufacturer Stadler has been manufacturing the units in Switzerland and Poland and, in recent weeks, testing has been taking place at a specialist facility in Germany. Now the first of the units is heading to Merseyside.
Over the past year or so, Merseytravel and the combined authority has embarked on a major platform upgrade programme at all its stations across the network ahead of the introduction of the trains, due to start later this year.
Top of the agenda was to minimise the risk of previous tragedies where passengers had fallen into the gap between train and platform. The gap will now be eliminated which means wheelchair users will be able to easily get on and off the trains without the assistance of station staff and a ramp.
All of the trains will be more energy efficient and Merseyrail 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.
Up until this point, most of the testing has been undertaken at an established railway testing centre in Wildenrath to minimise the need for testing and any associated disruption on the Merseyrail network itself.
The test track focus in Germany is on train on-track performance which requires the operational and mechanical elements of the train to be fully functional, while some on-board cosmetic elements are yet to be completed.
In November it was announced that a £21m transformation of the main Merseyrail depot at Kirkdale in North Liverpool was complete with Stadler now in charge of the facility. The rebuild began in 2018 and newly upgraded facility includes washing and heavy maintenance capabilities as well as stabling room for 30 of the new eight-car trains.