By the end of the year Swiss manufacturer Stadler will have shipped units from the continent to Merseyside to begin testing on the Merseyrail network. Tony McDonough reports
Swiss manufacturing giant Stadler has started testing Merseyrail’s new £460m train fleet due to come into service in 2020.
In a crucial milestone in the manufacture of the new units, Stadler has competed the basic structure of the first of the 52 units, with the wheelsets (bogies) attached, and factory-based testing has now started.
The company will put all 52 trains through the rigorous testing process. Once the ‘marriage’ is complete, trains will undergo routine static commissioning as a first step in preparing them for the authorisation required to enter service.
Dynamic testing will kick off at a test-ring in Wildenrath, Germany later this autumn. Much of the testing is being undertaken at this purpose-built facility to minimise the need for testing and any associated disruption on the Merseyrail network itself.
The first train is due to arrive in Liverpool for testing later this year. The trains will begin to be rolled out for passengers from 2020.
And much of the work is under way in the Liverpool city region in preparation for the new trains. The re-build of the Kirkdale depot is nearing completion and platform upgrade works to ensure level access at all stations onto the train, is entering its final phase.
However, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has still to settle a dispute with guards’ union the RMT over who will be responsible for operating the doors on the new trains. A series of one-day strikes is now on hold while talks continue.
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “This is where vision really starts to become reality. These state-of-the-art trains are game-changing, not just for us but for the whole industry.
“Not only will they be UK-leading in accessibility, they are also publically owned, by us, and built specifically for our network and with features local people have said they want to see. I cannot wait to see them arrive on our network.”
Merseyrail has promised and “end to cattle trucks’ when the new trains come into service with each unit offering 50% more capacity. Currently a three-carriage Merseyrail train has a maximum capacity for 303 people.
They will also allow easier access for wheelchairs with a step that will slide out automatically. This will end the current practice of station staff having to bring out a ramp, potentially causing delays to departure.
Fadi Khairallah, project manager at Stadler, said: “Witnessing the fusion of these two basic components is an almost moving experience and we are very excited to have reached this hugely symbolic point in the manufacturing process.
“With so much progress having been made over the last few months, we look forward to starting the crucial test phase over the coming months.”
And Andy Heath, managing director at Merseyrail, also said: “Works through September and October will complete the platform upgrade programme that will support the new trains’ pioneering sliding step technology offering unassisted access for all, as well as improving power supply across the network.”