On Thursday, Merseyrail said forecast ice and snow overnight would likely halt all Friday Liverpool city region train services – but now the trains are running again. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyrail has resumed its rail services from lunchtime on Friday after originally planning to run no trains due to the bad weather.
On Thursday, the Liverpool city region rail operator said forecast ice and snow overnight and into Friday morning would likely mean there would be no services on the Northern or Wirral lines. However, with weather conditions now improved Merseyrail started to run trains from midday.
In a statement, it said: “Following forecasted adverse weather conditions overnight and this morning, work has taken place to clear lines and the network is now being assessed. We are currently working towards reintroducing passenger services on a line-by-line basis this morning with the aim of running our timetabled service from approximately midday.
“Services may be subject to delay and passengers are advised to continue checking @merseyrail on Twitter and the website before they travel. Commuters are advised to check Twitter @merseyrail or the website. Rail replacement buses are not in operation. However season tickets will be accepted on Arriva, Stagecoach and Mersey Ferries.
A combination of snow, sleet and rain can pose problems for Merseyrail’s electrified third rail. Rain and sleet can wash anti-ice away, while snow and sleet can create a new layer of ice on top of the rail, which electricity cannot pass through and therefore trains are unable to run.
On Friday morning, specialised trains were deployed on to the network to assess lines and lay anti-ice.During the test runs, the test trains did become stuck, meaning if it had committed to running a timetabled passenger service, there would have been an extremely high number of cancellations on the network throughout the morning.
The primary cause of disruption to services is a build-up of ice on the third rail, which is often worsened by the rail temperature being much lower than the air temperature. This ice can damage trains as electricity tries and fails to pass through it. Nearly one third of Merseyrail’s trains were damaged during the freezing New Year conditions due to a build-up of ice.
COVID-19 timetable changes
From Sunday, January 10, services on the Southport and Hunts Cross lines will return to a 30-minute frequency Monday to Sunday. The West Kirby and New Brighton lines will be running at a 45-minute frequency on Sundays. These lines will continue to operate every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday with a 15-minute service between Birkenhead North and Liverpool.
The timetable across the rest of the Merseyrail network continues to operate as follows:
- Ormskirk line – every 30 minutes Monday to Sunday.
- Kirkby line – every 30 minutes Monday to Sunday.
- Chester and Ellesmere Port lines – every 30 minutes Monday to Sunday (15-minute service between Hooton and Liverpool).
Trains will be operating as six cars wherever possible across the network. Government issued travel advice is that passengers should only travel if they need to, and if travelling, to do so with confidence by planning ahead, avoiding busy times and routes where possible, and wearing a face covering while travelling (unless exempt).