New Merseyrail Trains by 2020 after City
Region leaders give green light
THE Merseyrail network is set to get
brand new trains after Liverpool City Region leaders gave the green light to the
?460m project, on Friday, 16 December 2016.
The state of the art trains that will come into service by the end of 2020 and
will replace the near 40 year old fleet that currently runs on the network; the
oldest in the UK.
The trains will be built and maintained by Swiss manufacturer, Stadler, subject
to a final legal process and the signing of the contracts in the New Year.
The new trains will be safer; most notably in the ease in which everyone can get
on and off, and will also make Merseyrail the most accessible traditional
network in the country.
The trains will be able to carry 60% more passengers while retaining the same
number of seats, will cut journey times by 10% equivalent of up to nine minutes
on some end to end routes, and will have the capabilities to eventually run
beyond the current Merseyrail boundaries to places like Skelmersdale, Wrexham
The trains, which will not result in any additional fare increases or Council
Tax rises, will be publically owned by Merseytravel, meaning that they can be
designed specifically to suit our network, with features local people have said
they want to see.
The approval by the Combined Authority marks the end of an extensive procurement
process which formally began in October 2015 when the Merseytravel Committee
gave permission for the project to go to tender after approving the business
case for new trains, recognising that it represented best value for money long
It took into account a number of factors including the increasing costs in
maintaining a near 40 year old fleet and the capacity pressures of a 2.5% rise
in passenger journeys every year.
The new trains' project also includes infrastructure upgrades to power supplies,
platforms and track, as well as refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and
Birkenhead North and the ongoing maintenance of the trains.
Key features of the new trains:-
► More space for bikes, buggies, disabled passengers
and luggage; intelligent air conditioning; a bright, open and airy saloon, and a
mix of seating types, keeping some of the 'sociable' facing seats,
all these points came out of a Transport Focus survey of local users in 2013.
► Easier to get on and off; the most common request in
the Transport Focus survey. This will be achieved through reducing the
'gap' between the train and platform through: a train body configured
specifically for our network; lower train floors; platform and track
improvements and a 'sliding step' from the train; this combination
gives almost 'level access' in a first for the UK.
► On board safety; the train will be a 'safe
space' forming one continuous space with no dividing doors; CCTV with
images broadcast within the train saloon and to the driver and control room; a
direct link to the driver and control room; the driver visible through a
transparent cab door; on board customer service staff, supplementing other on
board staff and staffed stations.
► Door safety; there will be traffic light system door
illuminations indicating when it's safe to get on and off; sensitive door edges
that will detect 'the pull' from something as narrow as a tie or
finger, stopping the train from moving or bringing it to a stop.
► Wider aisles, larger areas at the doorways and many
more grab handles, making the train much easier to move around and safer for
Said Mayor of Liverpool and Chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined
Authority, Joe Anderson:- "The people of our City Region, and Merseyside,
need and deserve new trains. Merseyrail is one of the top performing networks in
the country and we want to keep it that way. This is a once in a generation
opportunity for custom built trains that will be safer and carry more people,
more quickly. A better rail service will bring a boost to the regional economy
of ?70m every year, plus a1000 new jobs. It's also one our first Devo Deal
successes for the City Region as we've got commitment for funding that will help
make this project happen. Unusually, these trains will be owned by us locally,
meaning we can make sure the trains are exactly what passengers want and that
they are ready for our future plans."
Added Cllr Rob Polhill, leader of Halton and lead member for transport on the
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority:- "The decision today is not just
about the new trains themselves, but what they will enable us to do. These
trains will have the capability to operate beyond the current Merseyrail
boundaries, potentially bringing the benefits of the high performing network to
people in places like Skelmersdale and along the Borderlands line into Wrexham
within the next 30 years; helping us deliver our long term rail strategy. The
new trains will help us improve links within and beyond our area, linking in to
the wider 'Northern Powerhouse Rail' agenda."
The new trains will be operated differently, with the driver; assisted by
cameras along the length of the train; responsible for the opening and closing
of the doors and the dispatch, rather than the guard.
This mode of operation, Driver Controlled Operation (DCO), was put forward by
all bidders in meeting the recommendations of the Rail Accident Investigation
Branch (RAIB) report into the fatal incident, at James Street, in 2011.
Many suburban 'commuter' networks and all Metro networks in the UK
are DCO, including the Tyne and Wear Metro and London Underground; which has
been DCO for 30 years. In terms of 'light rail' the Manchester
Metrolink is also DCO. Between 60% and 70% of all rail passenger journeys in the
UK are on DCO networks. It is also used extensively across Europe.
While this method of dispatch doesn't require a 2nd person to operate the train,
it is recognised that local people value on board staff. As a result, new
customer service roles, based in the train saloon will be created. It will mean
staff are on hand to assist and advise passengers, targeted at key locations and
times. While the customer service roles will be smaller in number than the
current guard complement, it is expected that a number of guards will take up
At their meeting earlier on Friday, 16 December 2016, the Merseytravel Committee
put forward a motion for guaranteed continued employment for those guards who
are currently permanently employed at Merseyrail and wish to remain so. On
consideration of the business case, Merseytravel officers confirmed that these
costs can be accommodated as part of the project. The motion was then endorsed
by the Combined Authority.
Reductions in posts, required to make the project affordable, are expected to be
accommodated through redeployment, voluntary redundancies and retirements over
the next 4 years, until the new trains are fully operational on the network.
Said Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of the Merseytravel Committee:- "These new
trains will be fit for the future, safer and faster and at no additional cost to
passengers or Council tax payers. It is a 'must do' project; the benefits are
clear. That is not to say that we're not sensitive to the staffing implications
of such a decision. In an ideal world we'd like to have a 2nd member of staff on
every train to ensure the highest level of customer service, but there aren't
the resources to do that. That is why, as the Merseytravel Committee, endorsed
by the Combined Authority, we have sought guaranteed continued employment for
all permanently employed guards and their managers who wish to stay at
Merseyrail; something that we have had reassurance can be accommodated. Some
guards will have the opportunity to be employed in a new on board customer
service role and others will be able to take advantage of other redeployment
opportunities, all on the same terms and conditions as now."
But RMT guards, train maintenance workers and have lobby a crunch meeting of the
Merseytravel Committee to demand that the authority retain guards and in house
train maintenance on the Merseyrail network. They say that they will:-
"resist any attempt to extend driver only train operation."
What are your views on the new Trains? Do you think Merseyrail will be better
with this new plan? Send us your views via emailing us to:-
News24@SouthportReporter.com and let us know what you really think!