Your Questions Answered

Here you will find the answers to the most commonly asked questions about Wirral loop line track renewal. If your question isn't answered below, please email our Customer Relations team on comment@merseyrail.org or call 0151 555 1111 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday.

Will Merseyrail provide enough replacement buses to deal with the volume of passengers?

Merseyrail have entered into a contract for the supply of rail replacement buses that will provide the capacity required to support all passengers wanting to travel cross river or to cross Birkenhead to access services on other parts of the Wirral line. 

Do the rail replacement buses follow the same timetable as the trains would/what does Express Bus actually mean?

We have a detailed bus plan in place to make sure that express buses are ready to meet incoming trains at interchange stations to carry passengers cross river. As part of this we have scheduled bus services to run to timetable in order to connect with all rail services at Birkenhead Central and Birkenhead North stations. These scheduled buses are advertised as express buses as after Moorfields and then Lime Street they travel direct to Birkenhead North or Birkenhead Central Station. Anyone requiring Hamilton Square, Conway Park or Birkenhead Park Stations can pick up the circular bus from either of those stations.

During busy periods, we may also run additional bus services. These services are not designed to match the rail timetable but to help meet the additional numbers of customers travelling but whilst still minimising the number of vehicles to prevent unnecessary congestion and disruption to the road network.

We would encourage customers to plan their journey ahead of time using the journey planner which will help customers match which train or bus to catch to best meet their onward travel needs.

Unless advised by our staff on the ground otherwise, all rail replacement bus services call at Moorfields and Lime Street Station (St George’s Plateau) before travelling to Birkenhead Stations. This remains the case on return journeys.

Anyone with any queries should speak to a member of our team for further help or contact us on twitter using the #trackrenewal.

Why has the frequency of services on the West Kirby, New Brighton and Ellesmere Port lines been reduced?

Train services on the North Wirral and Ellesmere Port lines are running less frequently than normal. This is because the layout and capacity of the platforms and track is limited at Birkenhead Central and Birkenhead North, where trains are terminating. We have worked hard to make sure that despite this reduction in frequency, we are able to transport the same number of customers per hour by increasing capacity on the trains provided. In making this decision we looked at a number of options and chose the one that sought to adversely affect the least number of customers possible during the work.

Our rail replacement bus service has been designed to match the train service, delivering the best possible journey cross river, but minimising the number of vehicles to prevent unnecessary congestion and disruption to the road network. We would encourage customers to plan their journey ahead of time using the journey planner which will help customers plan which train or bus to catch to best meet their onward travel needs.

How will the number of customers on each rail replacement bus be managed?

We have staff monitoring the numbers of customers boarding and alighting rail replacement buses to ensure they are not overcrowded. There may be times when customers are required to stand, although this is not permitted on the stairs or upper deck. Customers can support the smooth operation of the bus by ensuring they quickly find a seat and ensure they do not obstruct seating with bags, coats or other personal possessions. Anyone with any concerns should speak to a member of staff at the point of boarding.

Why have fares increased?

Fares increased in line with RPI (The Government published national inflation rate) on the 2nd January 2017. Merseyrail fares are reviewed annually in line with other train operators nationally.

Merseyrail's fares remain some of the best value in the UK and we will continue to work hard during the Wirral loop line track renewal period to ensure that we deliver great customer service. 

Will passes be valid on Mersey Ferries during track renewal?

Throughout the work, valid cross-river rail tickets will be accepted on all Mersey Ferries. This includes all relevant rail season ticket products, Railpass and valid Merseyside issued Concessionary travel passes (only valid travelling after 9,30am).

Can Railcards be used on the rail replacement buses?

Yes they can but you will need to be in possession of a valid rail ticket, Trio or Railpass in order to travel. If you currently use a Railcard to purchase your ticket, you should continue to do so and make sure you have it with you when you travel otherwise your ticket won’t be valid.

Will buses run from directly outside James Street during Phases 1 & Phase 3 or from an alternative location?

No, our high quality rail buses will call at Moorfields and Lime Street only during Phase 1 and Phase 3 (and weekends of Phase 2). Customers requiring James Street will then be able to board the 10a bus using their rail ticket to complete their journey.

These locations have been chosen to ensure that the buses are able to run to an efficient timetable.

Support will be available to customers at both Moorfields and Lime Street Low Level station to support passengers to get to James Street and complete their journey.

Which stations are accessible for passengers with lift phobias during track renewal?

All of our stations have stairs where needed in addition to any lifts that may be installed. If you suffer from such a phobia, speak to one of our team on the ground and they will be able to help. More information about facilities at stations can be found on here or by calling customer services on 0151 555 1111.

Can you provide more detail for Phase 2 of the track renewal?

Of course, please click here for more details.

Also see Passenger Information Booklet which is available to pick up at all stations across the network and to download here. 

Will trains run between Wirral stations during Phase 2?

Yes, from Monday - Friday Wirral line trains will start and terminate at James Street station. Small timetable alterations will be made on Wirral line services throughout the work. Further details can be found here or you can pick up a Wirral Line timetable from any staffed Merseyrail station from mid-December.

At the weekends of Phase 2, as in Phase 1, replacement buses will run between Birkenhead North and Birkenhead Central and Liverpool to allow customers to complete journeys. Train services between other Wirral stations will run to an amended timetable. Shuttle buses will also be available to support customers to get across Birkenhead, connecting passengers to other Wirral line services.

Will compensation be provided to annual pass holders for the inconvenience?

We realise this work is going to add time onto journeys for our customers and that this will inevitably cause some inconvenience, which is why we have worked hard with Merseytravel and Network Rail to develop a robust plan to minimise the impact of the works. We are confident that our rail replacement plans will provide a high quality service during the works and will keep people moving, therefore we won’t be offering compensation to annual pass holders. 

Will replacement buses carry mobility scooters or wheelchairs?

This depends on the size of the scooter or wheelchair. If your chair is within the set limit of 1m x 60cm then you will be able to take it on board the bus. One scooter or wheelchair will be able to travel per bus, and plenty of buses will be available.

For customers with larger scooters or wheelchairs, our dedicated assisted travel service will be able to make arrangements to ensure customers are able to travel when they need to. We would advise customers to contact the team on 0800 0277 347 or 0151 555 1111 (Monday-Friday 7am-7pm) or comment@merseyrail.org. Outside of these hours customers should call 0151 702 2704.

Unfortunately, as is the case when trains are operating normally, we are unable to transport any chair or scooter larger than 120cm x 70cm.

I will be travelling with a buggie/pram, can I still use the rail replacement services?

Yes, buggies and prams will need to be folded down in order to travel during all phases of the work. The number which can be carried on each is limited but there will be enough buses on hand to ensure that waiting times for customers travelling with buggies and prams are kept to a minimum.

During Phase 2 James Street station will be very busy and parents will need to ensure that their buggies are folded down when passing through this station.

Will Sooccerbus be affected and will extra Soccerbuses run from other stations during track renewal?

During the football season, Soccerbus will continue to run between Sandhills station and Anfield and Goodison Park on match days.

During Phase 1, Phase 3 and the weekends of Phase 2 (excluding Bank Holiday weekends), if you travel to the match you can take the rail replacement bus to Moorfields station, catch any Northern line train to Sandhills and then board a Soccerbus. When returning, you can take a Soccerbus to Sandhills, catch any Northern line train to Moorfields and return to Wirral on a rail replacement bus from Moorfields.

During Phase 2, between Monday to Friday (and Bank Holiday weekends), all Wirral line trains will run to James Street station. From James Street, you can make the short walk to Moorfields and catch any Northern line train to Sandhills to access Soccerbus. On the return journey, take a Soccerbus to Sandhills, catch any Northern line train to Moorfields and make the short walk to James Street to return to Wirral. Instead of walking between James Street and Moorfields, you can catch the 10A bus as shown in the map.

How do cyclists travel between stations during track renewal?

The Mersey Ferries remain the best option for cyclists and many others who would like to cross the river. Valid cross-river rail tickets can be used on these services throughout the work.

Cyclists can also leave bikes at stations with secure cycle shelters, which have been installed at the majority of our stations. To register for a secure key fob click here. To complement this Bike & Go, Merseyrail’s cycle hire scheme, will be offering half price annual subscriptions and free rentals from Moorfields station during Phase 1 and Phase 3 of the track renewal work.

We will also be running an hourly dedicated Bike Bus between Birkenhead and Liverpool. The Bike Bus will be available for customers travelling with a bike, it will operate when required during all three phases of the work from early in the morning till late at night. Capacity will be limited and operate on a first come first served basis.

More details on options for customers travelling with their bikes during the track renewal work can be found here.

How do I get a refund on my annual Railpass?

You can get a refund if required, however, this is subject to a £10 administrative fee. Please click here or pop into your nearest staffed station for more details. 

Are there opportunities for the public to visit the tunnel/old train lines?

Sadly not, the tunnels are small and enclosed and due to the work that will be going on within them they won’t be open for visits. We do intend however to have screens at key points around the network, showing what is going on down in the tunnels to keep those interested up to date. Time lapse photography of the work will also be undertaken, similar to the video showing previous phases of the work.

Why does the work need to be undertaken?

A total 1.2km length of concrete track slab – the seven most challenging sections on the ‘loop’ – needs to be replaced for the first time since the loop was opened in the 1970s to ensure that the network remains reliable and safe. Meanwhile, other work is taking place to make the most of the closure. 1100 yards of traditional ballasted track is being replaced under the riverbed as well as other maintenance jobs being carried out, such as the repair of broken sleepers and work to realign track as well as renewal work to switches and crossings which the Merseyrail trains use to switch lines. Doing all this work in one go means that passengers are less likely to be inconvenienced in future. The new track slab expected to last for up to 60 years.

Why will the work take such a long time to complete?

It’s all relative. If the work was done over weekends it would take Network Rail five years to complete which would be significantly more disruptive. The work is being undertaken 40 metres underground and presents many safety and logistical challenges such as access only being possible from Birkenhead (meaning all plant and materials have a six mile round trip) and the work having to take place in a single bore tunnel less than five metres wide. These challenges mean that the removal of large amounts of waste and the installation of such things as ventilation, power supply and communications systems need to be carefully managed.

This is a unique project. The Liverpool City Region is one of only four in Britain that has an underground rail network. This means the work is highly specialised and needs the right equipment and people. Engineers will be working day and night to get it done as quickly as possible.

Why can’t the work be done overnight like on the London Underground?

It is true that work to track on the London Underground can be delivered across regular overnight works, typically three to four metres per night leaving the track in place. However our work on the Wirral line is a different kind of renewal project. Work involves the complete removal and replacement of the track and the breakout and installation of a new concrete slab. Logistical challenges on the Wirral line require an extended closure so work can be completed to the required standard. It would therefore be impossible to undertake this work and bring the railway back into use by 6am.

Should you want more detailed information about what the engineering works being undertaken by Network Rail and the challenges involved contact Jill Partington, Jill.Partington@networkrail.co.uk

How is disruption being kept to a minimum?

The programme of works follows extensive discussions between Network Rail, Merseyrail and Merseytravel and the three phase approach has been agreed as the best option to balance the needs of Merseyrail customers with the needs to get essential work done.

The six month programme between January and June will see only around eight weeks of full closure. From mid-February until the end of May passengers will have train access to the city via James St on weekdays. There will also be weekend access to James St over Easter, the early May and Spring bank holidays and for the Grand National at Aintree.

How will people travel during the work?

Network Rail, Merseyrail and Merseytravel are working together to ensure a robust alternative transport plan is in place, using demand forecasting to model anticipated travel patterns. While the work will mean changes to how people will make their journeys, they will still be able to get to where they want to go. There will be high quality ‘express’ rail replacement buses with WiFi as well as the options to use the Mersey Ferries or existing commercial cross-river bus services. Customer information will give people all their travel options so they can make an informed choice at www.merseyrail.org/trackrenewal

A key focus will be encouraging people to take public transport and not the car to avoid congestion and longer journey times through the Mersey Tunnels and on surrounding roads. People will also be advised to allow more time for their journey and to avoid travelling at peak times where possible.

What if something goes wrong on the transport network?

Key risks have been identified and plans will be in place to best respond to them, such as the impacts of incidents in the tunnels and on surrounding routes and the effects bad weather may have. Issues like these will challenge us, but it’s about ensuring Merseyrail, Merseytravel, Network Rail and local authorities, bus operators, Merseyside Police and organisations like Highways England are all working together to respond. We’ll be using processes and structures similar to those used for The Olympics and Commonwealth Games, and the Three Queens, to ensure co-ordinated responses to any issues, both operationally and in the travel advice and information given to keep the network moving.

What can we do to be prepared for the works?

If you’re a commuter or leisure traveller you’ll have several months to plan. Consider your options; different ways of travelling may suit you depending on where you need to go and what time. Speak to your employer about whether there is any flexibility in working times or times you could avoid travelling altogether. It may help to give this letter to your employer when discussing flexible working. 

Wirral Track Renewal Employer Letter.

If you are a business or organisation consider how the works may impact on your staff and customers and what you may need to do to mitigate this. Keep up to date by attending one of the monthly stakeholder forums. You can register your interest at railimprovements@merseytravel.gov.uk

A toolkit developed by Merseyrail to help you communicate details of the works to your staff and customers is available. The toolkit includes posters, adverts, digital banners and e-newsletter content and will be available at www.merseyrail.org/toolkit.

How often does the 10A bus run?

Valid rail tickets will be accepted on the 10A bus service, linking James Street, Moorifelds and Lime Street stations. Rail tickets will be valid for journeys between Lime Street and Liverpool ONE. The frequency of the 10A bus is:

  • Monday to Saturday daytime - 10 per hour
  • Sunday daytime - 6 buses per hour
  • Evenings - 4 buses per hour

Sunday mornings start at 4 buses an hour and work up to 6 and evenings step down from 10 to 4 gradually.

Further Travel Advice

Allow extra time, plan your journey and check last train times if you are travelling early in the morning or late at night.

Leave your car at home and use public transport, particularly at peak times, to keep cross-river routes running as smoothly as possible.

Download the Merseyrail app from The App Store or Google Play for up to the minute train and live departure information.

Follow us on twitter @Merseyrail #trackrenewal

Call the Merseyrail Customer Relations Team on 0151 555 1111 (open 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday) or Merseytravel on 0151 236 7676 (open 08:00 to 20:00 seven days a week)

Speak to a member of Merseyrail staff or use the station help point.

Why do some buses travel direct from Moorfields to Birkenhead stations and others call at Lime Street?

Our rail replacement bus service has been designed to match the train service, delivering the best possible journey cross river, but minimising the number of vehicles to prevent unnecessary congestion on the road network. This means that normally services call at both Moorfields and Liverpool Lime Street Station (St George's Plateau).

Our staff on the ground monitor the number of passengers boarding buses in Central Liverpool and where a bus is at full capacity when leaving Moorfields Station, our team may authorise it to travel directly to Birkenhead stations. Where this happens staff will ensure customers travelling on the bus are aware. If customers have any concerns, they should speak to a member of staff when boarding the bus.

I have a disability and may need assistance travelling during the works, can you help?

Yes, we have a dedicated section of the website with all the information you need to help you travel during the works, click here for more details.

Phase 1 Travel Information

Phase 1 Travel Information

Tuesday 3 January to Sunday 12 February 2017

Read more Phase 1 Travel Information

Travelling on the New Brighton & West Kirby Lines

Travelling on the New Brighton & West Kirby Lines

If you travel on the New Brighton and West Kirby lines, there will be timetable alterations and a 30 minute service will run.

Read more Travelling on the New Brighton & West Kirby Lines

Travelling on the Chester & Ellesmere Port Lines

Travelling on the Chester & Ellesmere Port Lines

Ellesmere Port trains will start and terminate at Hooton at certain times.

Read more Travelling on the Chester & Ellesmere Port Lines

Assisted Travel

Assisted Travel

Travel information for passengers who require assisted travel

Read more Assisted Travel