Media report on Tuesday morning claimed signalling issue could hold up phased introduction of new Merseyrail train fleet – but Merseytravel insists its plan is on track. Tony McDonough reports
Merseytravel insists its plan to start introducing its new £460m train fleet on the Merseyrail network in 2020 remains on schedule despite a report claiming a signalling issue could delay the roll-out
North West media outlet BusinessDesk.com is reported on Tuesday morning that the phased introduction of the new trains, due to begin in 2020, could be delayed with the current decades-old fleet having to be kept in service for longer.
It says the problem is focused on the length of the new trains. The current fleet operates three-car and six-car services but the new trains will have four carriages during off-peak periods and eight cars during peak periods.
Merseyrail and Network Rail is in the middle of a platform upgrade programme designed to eliminate the gap between the platform and the train. However, the report claims that the eight-car trains would overlap the current signalling system at some stations.
It adds that engineers only became aware of the issue four months ago and were now looking at two options – using the old trains for longer while the signalling is gradually upgraded or, bring forward the scheduled signalling upgrade work by more than two years, significantly adding to the cost.
However, Merseytravel said on Tuesday afternoon that it and Network Rail had become fully aware of the signalling issue four years ago as part of the usual assessment of any major project, adding that it has been “working with Network Rail since to develop and implement a solution along with the other works that are being undertaken. We have always known that works need to be undertaken”.
It went on to say: “It has always been planned that the trains would be introduced in a phased programme, starting from 2020 through to the end of 2021, with the timetables being changed once all the trains were introduced. Naturally, as new trains are phased in, the old trains will be phased out.”
The 52-strong fleet of trains is being manufactured by Swiss company Stadler with work taking place at locations in Spain, Switzerland and Poland and, once the carriages are complete, they will arrive in Merseyside for testing before being rolled out on the network.