New state-of-the-art trains will be introduced on to the Merseyrail network from 2020 replacing the current fleet which is approaching 40 years old. The trains will be owned locally, and publically, with the £460 million project managed by Merseytravel on behalf of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Buil and maintained by Swiss manufacturer, Stadler, the trains will be modern, safe, fast and comfortable. The new trains will be able to carry more people, more quickly, helping support the growth of the City Region and with the potential to run on an extended network to places like Wrexham, Skelmersdale and Warrington.
The trains will be safer than the ones they replace in a whole host of ways, most notably through a sliding step that will allow unassisted access.
Following successful static testing at Stadler’s factory, the first of the new trains made its way to a test track in Germany in October 2019 for dynamic testing.
This will see the train travel up to speeds of 75mph, with all dynamic aspects such as braking point and electromagnetic radiation thoroughly tested.
Most of the testing is being undertaken at an established railway testing centre in Wildenrath, Germany to minimise the need for testing and any associated disruption on the Merseyrail network.
The test track focus is on train on-track performance which requires the operational and mechanical elements of the train to be fully functional, while some on-board cosmetic elements are yet to be completed.
The first train should arrive in the Liverpool later this year to complete testing and allow for driver training.
The re-build of the Kirkdale depot is nearing completion and platform and track works to ensure level access at all stations on the train are entering their final phase.
Questions and Answers
Why do we need new trains?
The current fleet has been running on the Merseyrail network since the late 1970s and is the oldest in the UK. It’s performing well for its age, but this will become increasingly challenging and costs to maintain it will start going up. Some train parts even have to be specially made now, as they are no longer available.
The existing trains aren’t built to accommodate growing demand on the network. Passenger journeys are increasing by 2.5 per cent every year and if something isn’t done, most of the Merseyrail network will be at least 160 per cent over capacity by 2043.
New trains will also have the potential to run on an extended network beyond the current Merseyrail boundaries to places like Wrexham, Skelmersdale and Warrington, helping deliver the City Region’s rail ambitions.
What will the new trains be like?
They will be a real transformation – state-of-the-art, safe, faster and comfortable and will be able to carry more people, more quickly, supporting the economic growth of the City Region.
The trains will be easier to get on and off, as we introduce unassisted access across the entirety of the new fleet. Journeys will be quicker, with up to nine minutes off the journey between Hunts Cross and Southport. The trains will be more reliable, easier to keep clean and will have the latest technology such as intelligent air conditioning.
There will be more space for disabled passengers, bikes, pushchairs and luggage and the train will be bright and open with no doors separating carriages. The trains will be slightly longer and made up of four carriages, rather than three and slightly more seats than now.
How much time will the new trains save on my journey?
The new trains will be faster than the ones they will replace and journey times will reduce on all lines on the Merseyrail network. The time saved is shown per line below:
|Route||Saving Proposed: New Trains vs 507/508 (hh:mm)|
|Chester - Liverpool Central||00:05|
|West Kirby - Liverpool Central||00:05|
|Ellesmere Port - Liverpool Central||00:04|
|New Brighton - Liverpool Central||00:04|
|Ormskirk - Liverpool Central||00:03|
|Kirkby - Liverpool Central||00:02|
|Southport - Liverpool Central||00:05|
|Southport – Hunts Cross||00:08|
How accessible will the new trains be?
Merseyrail will be one of the most accessible networks in the UK with the introduction of unassisted access at stations and will also be fully compliant with all regulations. There will be a lot more information screens and clear public addresses to assist passengers with learning difficulties or visual impairments. Merseyrail will remain one of the most staffed networks in the UK and help will still be available from staff at stations.
When will the new trains be introduced?
The new trains will come onto the Merseyrail network from 2020. There will be a gradual rollout with the new trains introduced line by line. Once the final trains in the new fleet are introduced, the new, faster timetable can be implemented.
Who will be building the new trains?
Swiss-based Stadler, who, unlike other manufacturers, will be building trains, from scratch, specifically to suit our network and taking into account what passengers would like to see. They are already a major manufacturer of regional, intercity and metro trains in Europe, Africa and the USA and in the UK they are building trains for East Anglia and the Glasgow subway.
Who will own the new trains?
Merseytravel oversees the operation of the Merseyrail network, and they will own the new trains on behalf of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. This is different to most fleets of trains in the UK, which are leased from a private sector company.
Local ownership is cost-effective and so helps make the project affordable, significantly reducing the financing costs. It also means the trains can be built bespoke to the network and take account of what local people want. In 2013, Merseytravel commissioned Transport Focus to carry out a survey with local passengers, and their ideas helped shape the design specifications for the new trains.
How will they be funded?
The £460m project will be self-financing, meaning that there will be no additional costs to passengers through fare increases or council tax rises. Merseytravel, as a public sector organisation, can access competitive finance opportunities, and there is already a rail reserve set aside by the Combined Authority to help fund the project.
The trains will be leased at cost to Merseyrail and, in addition, over time, Merseytravel will make lower concession payments to Merseyrail to account for greater revenue from an increase in passenger journeys and cost savings through efficiencies, such as lower maintenance costs and more efficient energy consumption.
What else does the new trains’ project involve?
New trains will be the most visible element of the project, but there will be a lot of work going on behind the scenes to realise the full benefits of the new fleet. This includes power upgrades to the network to allow faster journeys, to work to platforms and track to help reduce the gap between the train and platform. There will also be major refurbishment of the depots so they can be adapted to maintain modern trains, moving to more computer-based diagnostics.
Is Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) safe?
Yes, it is. DCO means that all operational train functions will be managed and monitored by the driver, including the opening and closing of train doors via cameras along the outside of the train. If it wasn’t safe, trains that use that method of operation would not be allowed to run. The regulator, the Office for Rail and Road (ORR), considers it a safe method of working with the right systems and processes in place and so does the Rail Safety Standards Board (the RSSB). Importantly, DCO is not about removing the guards, (who are currently responsible for opening and closing doors) and keeping everything else the same, but using modern technologies and new processes to transform how the train operates.
Many suburban commuter networks and all Metro networks in the UK are DCO, including Metrolink in Manchester, the Tyne & Wear Metro and London Underground – which has been DCO for 30 years. Around 60- 70 per cent of all rail passenger journeys in the UK are on DCO networks. It is also used extensively across Europe.
In adopting DCO on our network, we are also responding to the report made by the Rail Investigation Accident Branch (RAIB) into a fatal incident at James St in 2011. DCO was the mode of operation all bidders put forward as the solution in meeting the recommendations.
The new trains are being built abroad. Will there be any benefits and opportunities locally?
The new trains will bring a significant boost to the local economy of around £70m a year and will lead to the creation of 1,000 jobs as existing and new businesses and organisations take advantage of trains that can carry more people more quickly.
While procurement laws mean that we can’t stipulate what can be built or made locally in relation to the project itself, we are doing all we can to encourage the use of local suppliers and other expertise. There will be the opportunities to bid for work, for example in the construction of the new maintenance depots and in servicing support. Bam Nuttall’s Warrington office has won this contract.
In spring 2016, close to 40 suppliers, over half of which were from the Liverpool City Region, got to ‘speed date’ with bidders to explore the potential for them to do business together.
How will the increased CCTV on the network be monitored?
CCTV will be in place inside the train and will be visible to passengers on board, the driver and the Merseyrail control room. Images will be seen live and also recorded. Passengers will be able to communicate directly with the driver or control in the event of an emergency using the help points located throughout the train.
Can I charge my phone or access the internet on the new trains?
The Merseyrail network has a number of tunnels which makes delivering reliable wifi more challenging. This is currently being explored and any updates will be communicated as soon as possible. There will be plug sockets and USB charging points available at every seat.
Will there be more or less seats on the new trains?
The number of seats will be the same as there are now however the new trains will be able to carry 50% more passengers due to the spacious areas around the doors and wider aisles which create more standing room. Plenty of handrails and grab poles will be available for passengers and there will also be perch seats.
It is proposed that there will be a glass screen between the driver’s cab and the rest of the train, meaning passengers could see the route ahead. Will the driver become distracted by the glass screen in their cab?
The glass will be tinted to prevent any distracting reflections and the driver will also be able to turn the glass opaque at the touch of a button if required.
Images of the new trains: