Merseyrail’s new £460m train fleet is due in service by 2021 and Swiss manufacturer Stadler has alraedy started production of the 52 units weighing 99 tonnes each. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyrail’s longest route from Hunts Cross to Southport is around 28 miles but the rail operators new trains will travel more than 2,200 miles before they come into service in 2021.
The new fleet of 52 trains are costing £460m and, in the past few weeks, Swiss manufacturer Stadler has started the manufacturing process at its Szolnok plant in Hungary.
There, the car-body production is under way with the units being machined, welded, sandblasted and coated in special protection and premium quality paint to combat corrosion, caused by the contact with sea-water.
Once that stage is complete, around half of them will be transported to Altenrhein in Switzerland and the rest to Siedlce in Poland. Final assembly will be carried out at both of these locations and is due to start this autumn.
Manufacturing of the first train is expected to be complete by early 2019, ahead of extensive static testing (when trains are not moving). The first train will then be taken to the Liverpool city region for dynamic type-testing (ie when trains are moving) on the Merseyrail network, scheduled to take place in the summer of 2019.
Stadler is not using an ‘off-the-shelf’ design for the Merseyrail fleet. The units are bespoke and the company’s project director for the Merseyrail contract and deputy UK managing director, told LBN: “This is our flagship project in the UK.”
The new trains will be an articulated four-car design and will offer 50% more capacity than the current fleet with some of the trains coming into service as long ago as 1978. Currently a three-carriage Merseyrail train has a maximum capacity for 303 people.
Each train will weigh 99 tonnes, 5.5 tonne weight reduction on the existing fleet, and will use 20% less energy. Faster acceleration and deceleration, which will allow for reduced journey times.
More than 150 Merseyrail maintenance workers and the maintenance depot at Kirkdale in north Liverpool are now under the control of Stadler and modernisation work is under way to prepare for the arrival of the new trains.
The steel frame, cladding and roof for the new office building have now gone up, and work on the internal walls and fittings are well under way. Primary runs have been installed within the drainage system around the office and maintenance buildings.
The temporary carriage-wash and work to improve the sight lines on the road by the car-ramp is now ready. Syphonic drainage gutters have been installed in the existing wheel-lathe building and the floor strengthening work in the wheel-lathe is nearing completion.
Piling of the new maintenance-shed started in the middle of August, with foundation-work set to begin in September. After that, the steel frame will go up and the track-bed, close to the shed, will be prepared. This will include traction power equipment upgrades.
As part of the deal, Merseyrail has the option on a further 15 units. The trains will operate beyond the third rail offering the potential to expand the network to Skelmersdale, Warrington and North Wales and may mean more units are needed.
Most train operators in the UK lease their rolling stock from other companies but the new Merseyrail fleet will be purchased direct by transport authority Merseytravel on behalf of he Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. They will, in turn, be leased to Merseyrail.