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Trailblazing role of passengers in designing the Liverpool City Region's new fleet of trains sets a new standard

TRANSPORT Focus asked local people in the Liverpool City Region just that as part of a research exercise, commissioned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, that placed passengers at the heart of the decision making process.

Rail users were invited to take part in the research to inform the design process for the new, state of the art trains, in a move that's been hailed as trailblazing for the UK rail industry.

The full report on passenger consultation, published on Thursday, 25 February 2021, and available online, shows that the innovative approach ensured the new trains would be designed and built with the needs of local people in mind.

A diverse group of 40 passengers from across the City Region, supported by Merseytravel, operator Merseyrail and train manufacturer Stadler, took part in a series of focus groups to consider a wide variety of design options and features for the new trains.

Recruited to be the 'passenger voice' the group provided feedback on over 20 design aspects that made it into production, from the innovative sliding step technology; which provides level access for all customers; to the train's livery and layout of the seats.

The 18 month research project was conducted both online and face to face with interactive engagement sessions on board two life size mock ups of a carriage.

The 2nd full size mock up showcased many aspects of this work and went on public display at venues across the City Region, which was visited by over 10,000 people and attracted hugely positive feedback.

Here is what some of the focus group members had to say about their experience of co-designing the trains:-

"I thought this was a fantastic project and I was very proud to be part of it." Female, 55+, Commuter, user of the Wirral and Northern lines.

"It was a great chance to be involved in something that impacts our daily lives."
Male, 26 to 34, Leisure, user of the Wirral and Northern lines.

"The community aspect, the balance of online and face to face workshops worked well. Having the opportunity to be part of the process was fantastic."
Female, 35 to 54, Commuter, user of the Northern line.

"Looking forward to stepping on the new trains!"
Male, 26 to 34, Leisure, user of the Wirral and Northern lines.

Cllr Liam Robinson, Transport Portfolio Holder for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said:- "This publicly owned fleet has a wide range of state of the art, customer focussed facilities and features, including pioneering sliding step technology and on board wi-fi, so passengers' experience will be safe, inclusive, comfortable and smart. We asked Transport Focus to work with us on this research to seize the opportunity to directly involve our passengers and the results speak for themselves. I want to take this opportunity to thank our 40 passengers as their valuable insight directly influenced our customer focussed approach which is something we were committed to right from the start of this process. The fleet has been designed for passengers by passengers and we are immensely proud of this."

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of the Independent Watchdog Transport Focus, said:- "There is no better way of getting a service that works for passengers than to ask them what they want. Merseyrail passengers can take pride in knowing that these trains were created by and for them. More operators should look to include passengers throughout the design process of new trains."

Greg Suligowski, Head of Customer and Stakeholder Experience, at Merseyrail, said:- "It was a pleasure to work with our passengers on the design of the train that will serve the needs of the people of the Liverpool City Region for years to come. Working with our partners at the Liverpool City Region, Transport Focus and Stadler we believe this innovative approach was incredibly useful in understanding what features our passengers wanted on board the new trains. From seating, to the design of the interior, to the livery of the train itself, the end product is a train that really reflects the needs and preferences of Merseyrail passengers."

See our coverage of the 1st of the new trains arriving on the Merseyrail Network by clicking here.

Green light for improvement works to enhance Ainsdale Beach facilities

FOLLOWING approval at January's full Council meeting, plans are now progressing for improved access and facilities at Sefton's Ainsdale Beach. In 2020, the Council saw huge numbers of visitors flocking to the coast. This highlighted the need for further investment to maintain the best possible experience for all beach users, while factoring in important conservation and environmental needs. As part of the investment, designs are now being drawn up for an off beach car park that will help to reduce the impact on local communities who have been affected by irresponsible parking in the past. A new, cashless payment system will also be introduced at the beginning of April when beach car parks reopen.

The Council's Green Sefton team is set to recruit more than 30 Seasonal Rangers for the 2021 summer months, an increase in the number of posts usually recruited for the busy visitor period. Some of the new rangers will help to manage car parking and access at Ainsdale as well as ensuring that visitors keep the coastline clean and tidy. Options for new toilet facilities are being explored alongside a trial for new off beach food and drink vendors, all with a view to enhancing visitors' experiences at Ainsdale.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:- "I am pleased to see plans progressing for the much-needed investment at Ainsdale beach and I am very much looking forward to welcoming more Seasonal Rangers to the Green Sefton team. Not only will the additional rangers help to support our management of the existing car parks, they will also play a vital role in ensuring that our coastline remains clean and beautiful."

This week, Cllr Moncur approved a freeze on the car parking season ticket for all Sefton residents, which was introduced last year, meaning they can continue to enjoy the beach and save money after just three visits.

The specially reduced ticket costing just ₤30, also remains available to anyone driving an electric or hybrid car, as part of measures to encourage the use of more environmentally friendly transport.

Meanwhile, the standard day visitor rate for the car park will increase by ₤2, to ₤10 per day to cover the costs of the latest improvements and generate income for the long term care of Sefton's unique 22 mile coastline.

Cllr Moncur added:- "Further improvement of facilities will provide a better environment for people to enjoy this beautiful space, while protecting our special wildlife and landscape, and tackling car parking concerns. I am particularly pleased that the Council can continue to offer a favourable car parking rate for Sefton residents, and electric and hybrid car drivers. We often say we want visitors to our beaches to leave nothing but their footprints, but we can now help them think about their carbon footprint too as well as encouraging them to enjoy these special sites."

Residents and visitors alike will continue to be encouraged to travel by other means to the beach too, as part of the Council's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and tackling the Climate Change Emergency. People can access the coast via local walking and cycling routes, as well as wheelchair and pram friendly access through Ainsdale Station and Village.

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