One of the new class 777 trains set to run on the Merseyrail network travels for 135km on test run using just a battery – paving the way for the network’s expansion. Tony McDonough reports
A test run of one of the new class 777 trains that are due to be introduced on the Merseyrail network saw it travel 135km using just a battery.
An earlier test in the summer saw one unit run around 32km by battery. This latest breakthrough will be some comfort to City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram who said he was “devastated” the new trains would not be introduced this year.
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has paid Swiss manufacturer Stadler £500m for the 52-strong fleet.
They will offer free Wi-Fi, wider seats and space for up to 50% more passengers. They will also feature pioneering sliding step technology which will allow unassisted access for wheelchair users and those with bikes or buggies – a first for the UK.
Following extensive testing on the Merseyrail network it was hoped the trains would come into service before the end of 2022. But, in an interview with Radio Merseyside, Mr Rotheram revealed the introduction would now happen in early 2023.
He blamed the latest hold up on a range of issues, from Brexit to recent industrial action by rail staff and the freezing weather. He said: “I’m absolutely gutted,” he said.
“My ambition has always been to get our new trains on the tracks before the end of this year and with everything that’s happening in the wider world it’s just not going to be possible to do that.
“If people are disappointed and rightly blaming me I’ll have to accept that because I did say that they would be on the tracks before the end of the year. That’s because I genuinely believed that they would be, but we’ll have to go again next year.”
However, the latest test offers good news for Mr Rotheram and his ambitions to extend the Merseyrail network without the need for expensive electrification.
Battery-powered trains will run to the new Headbolt Lane station at Kirkby which is due to open in 2023. The technology also offers the possibility of Merseyrail services as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.
Posting on social media site Linked In, Joaquim Font Canyelles, project leader at Stadler Rail, said: “Our new Merseytravel class 777 IPEMU (Independent Powered Electrical Multiple Unit) proved its strength after running 135 km fully loaded and without external current supply, which is much longer than we expected.
“This unit is an upgrade of the ‘normal’ EMU, first of the seven we are building, that will also operate the non-electrified lines next to the Merseyrail network, connecting the city of Liverpool to its surroundings.
“So future services will be created and passengers won’t need to change to diesel units anymore. This is a pioneering technology that will modernise transport in the UK, help decarbonise the mobility and bring passengers back to the rails.
“We are just finishing the type-testing in Germany, so you’ll see the IPEMU running in Merseyside very soon. Can’t wait for that.”