Merseyrail celebrates its 50th birthday

It was October 1971 when the Merseyrail name first came into existence and pupils from across Liverpool city region have designed birthday cards to mark the milestone. Tony McDonough reports

Rock Ferry
Merseyrail trains at Rock Ferry in Wirral in the 1970s


It was 50 years ago this month that the Merseyrail name first came into existence and Liverpool city region children have been designing birthday cards to mark the milestone.

In October 1971, the name ‘Merseyrail’ was created by the British Rail Liverpool Division following the creation of The Mersey Railways Extensions Act, and it was decided that a new name was needed due to the local nature of how our rail systems were operated.

Merseyrail was first applied to the Wirral line trains with the Northern line roll-out following the year after along with changes to station entrance signage, timetables, posters and more.

The network was divided into four separate segments – Exchange, Central Low-Level, Central and Lime Street – and it was decided that the routes would be renamed Northern, Wirral and City lines.

It was not just the name that changed, however, as the development of the brand involved a series of initiatives including service improvements, fares simplification and publicity and advertising. A lot has happened over the last 50 years, including:

  • The opening of the Loop line underground stations in 1977.
  • New Class 507 trains entering into service in 1978.
  • Opening of Bache, Bromborough Rake and Eastham Rake stations in 1984, 1985 and 1995.
  • Opening of Overpool station in 1988.
  • Opening of Brunswick and Conway Park stations in 1998.
  • Opening of Liverpool South Parkway station in 2006.
  • Opening of Maghull North station in 2018.

Now new major changes are on the horizon. Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has invested £500m in a new 52-strong train fleet that is due to replace the existing rolling stock in the next few months.

And as part of the testing of the new trains, a successful trial saw the trains travel for up to 20 miles using on-board batteries. This offers the potential to extend the network with the need for expensive electrification. Also, the new Headbolt Lane station at Kirkby is due to open in 2023 with the reopening of the old St James station also a possibility.

New Brighton
Merseyrail trains at New Brighton in 1971
A Merseyrail train at Green Lane in Birkenhead. Picture by Tony McDonough
One of the new Merseyrail trains arriving at Sandhills station
One of the birthday cards designed by children to celebrate Merseyrail’s 50th birthday


Merseyrail Electrics is currently run as a 50/50 joint venture company between Serco and Abellio, which has a 25-year concession agreement with Merseytravel – the transport executive body and delivery arm of the city region’s Combined Authority. It expires in 2028.

Andy Heath, managing director for Merseyrail, said: “Over the last 50 years the Merseyrail brand has gone from strength to strength – from creation to the upcoming roll-out of the new fleet of trains.

“It is a privilege to serve the people of the Liverpool City Region and our performance is a result of the hard work and dedication shown by our staff day-in, day-out. Being recognised for our punctuality and winning multiple awards is an honour and I’m sure the best is yet to come.”

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