Metro Mayor reads riot act to Swiss train maker

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram demands ‘immediate improvements’ to Merseyrail services on new Kirkby line extension after repeated failure of Stadler’s battery-powered trains. Tony McDonough reports

A Stadler-built Class 777 Merseyrail train at Headbolt Lane station


Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has met with the chief executive of Swiss train manufacturer Stadler to demand “‘immediate improvements’ to its battery-powered Merseyrail trains.

In early October trains from the new £500m Merseyrail train fleet, built by Stadler, began running on the line between Liverpool and the new £80m Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby.

To avoid an expensive electrification of the line extension the trains are being powered by batteries. However, there have been a number of teething problems with the units leading to multiple delays and cancellations. 

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority bought the trains from Stadler and the Swiss company is also responsible for their maintenance, taking over the former Merseyrail depot at Kirkdale.

Now Mr Rotheram has met with Stadler chief executive Markus Bernsteiner and told him the performance of the battery-powered trains had been unacceptable and had let down frustrated Merseyrail passengers.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Combined Authority said: “We can confirm that Mayor Rotheram met with the chief executive of train manufacturer Stadler yesterday afternoon.

“In what was a full and frank exchange of views the Mayor made clear, in no uncertain terms, that current performance of the fleet roll-out had been frustratingly poor and demanded immediate improvements for passengers.

“While we are all exceptionally proud of the investment we’ve made in the country’s first publicly owned trains in a generation, we are aware that the standards of service specifically on the Kirkby line have fallen well below the high standards that passengers rightly expect.

“During the introduction of any new technology, such as the battery powered fleet, initial problems are to be expected. However, particularly since the opening of the new £80m Headbolt Lane station, the new trains servicing it have been very unreliable.


Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram next to a new 777 class Merseyrail train
Markus Bernsteiner
Stadler chief executive Markus Bernsteiner


“The Mayor and Combined Authority officers have repeatedly raised concerns about the level of performance with Stadler and also urged Merseyrail as the train operator to do everything possible to minimise disruption.

“The Mayor sought assurances that the level of service and reliability would improve (as initial teething problems are resolved).

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“Promised performance improvements have not been delivered to date and the CA will be holding commercial discussions to identify appropriate compensation for passengers for the disruption caused.

“The Mayor will be making an announcement on what this looks like in the near future. It is our hope – and belief – that these months of disruption will soon be behind us and passengers will enjoy decades of service from a modern, accessible and innovative fleet of trains.”

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