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Ask the Manager

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In September we ran a digital Ask the Manager session alongside Network Rail to give you the chance to ask us anything about the service we provide.

Thank you for all the questions you submitted, below you will find answers from various Merseyrail and Network Rail Managers.

Why are there no guards on trains anymore?

When are more trains going to skip stop stations that have so few passengers alighting and boarding?

Response from Pete Glass - Head of Performance Planning

The stopping pattern is specified by Merseytravel as part of the concession which Merseyrail operate to. There is also a requirement to operate a regular pattern timetable as part of the concession, which running semi-fast trains would make difficult. The infrastructure and train planning rules, which are managed by Network Rail, also limit the ability to speed trains up significantly to give enough of a journey time saving to make this viable.

How have Network Rail helped to keep the railway moving during these difficult times?

Is there any chance of early morning trains from Hunts Cross to Southport for people who need get onto work before 6am?

Response from Pete Glass - Head of Performance Planning

The times we operate is governed by Network Rail. This is due to them requiring around 5 hours per night to safely maintain the infrastructure in the Underground section of our network. They also require access on various nights to other lines to undertake maintenance which cannot take place when trains are operating. As a result we are prevented from operating earlier or later unfortunately.

What are you doing to keep me safe when I travel with you?

Response fron Stephen Bradley - Head of Stations

There are a few new things you can expect that have been put in place to keep both our passengers and staff safe, including:

  • Social distancing signage at our stations on floors, escalators and lifts
  • Queuing systems at busier stations
  • Increased cleaning regimes using specialist microbial cleaners that kill pathogens on surfaces
  • Staff and other passengers wearing face coverings unless exempt.

The safety of our passengers and staff is our number one priority and we are doing all we can following government guidance to ensure your safety.

When will we be able to buy tickets online?

Why do the stations past Hooton seem to be so disposable to Merseyrail?

Response from Pete Glass - Head of Performance Planning

Over the last few years, we have put a real focus on protecting the day-to-day operation of serving stations between Hooton and Chester. We introduced the Autumn timetable to minimise skip stopping trains. During special events we sometimes have to consider skipping stations to improve the capacity of the overall network, which has affected Capenhurst in the past. We are also working with Network Rail to improve the reliability on the line, as this has often been a problem. Network Rail are investing in improved drainage to prevent flooding, a new electrical substation at Capenhurst to ensure reliable power supply and additional works to improve reliability of signalling around Chester.

How is Network Rail working with Merseyrail to keep everyone safe whilst travelling?

When will Wirral services return to every 15 minutes?

Response from Pete Glass - Head of Performance Planning

Throughout this pandemic, we have worked hard to ensure that we provide a safe and reliable service to the people of the Liverpool City Region, adapting and changing based on resource availability and changes in government guidance.

Whilst our aim remains to return to the full timetable our Wirral passengers know and value, the current Government guidance covering workplaces means that staff at our Wirral depot will not be able to sufficiently socially distance if we further increase the frequency of services on these lines.

Instead, we have focused on increasing the number of seats through providing longer trains. This not only requires fewer traincrew to operate, but also provides 7% more seats for passengers than our pre-COVID normal timetable and helps with socially distancing on-board.

Do your staff have any autism awareness training?

Response from Daniel Dale - Competency Training Manager

We currently train all of our frontline staff on disability awareness which includes recognising a passenger with hidden disabilities and supporting them with their journey.

Merseyrail is consistently looking at ways to improve customer experience for passengers using our network and we have set up our first Merseyrail Accessibility Forum which takes place in September.

The Merseyrail Accessibility Forum includes disabled passengers or groups that represent them. The forum exists to:

  • Provide an opportunity to engage with customers with accessibility needs and organisations that represent them
  • Provide an opportunity to listen and learn from their experiences whilst using the Merseyrail network
  • Consult on significant changes on the Merseyrail network that may impact on accessibility issues
  • Review and comment on all aspect of Merseyrail’s Accessible Travel Policy and any supporting documents/training.

Response from Laura Turnbull - Community Involvement Advisor

One of our multiple partnerships is with charity organisation Autism Initiatives. We have had a close relationship with them for many years and have carried out many successful projects on the network with passengers to engage and communicate in a friendly and open environment. We have also incorporated travel training instilling confidence in their service users when travelling. We also work with Mencap, Sefton Council and Southport and Thornton colleges on similar travel training programmes.

Why, if we are supposed to be socially distancing, are the escalators not all working at Moorfields?

Response from Paul Draper - Moorfields Station Manager

During lockdown, footfall was hugely reduced across our network meaning that Moorfields station was very quiet at times. As part of ensuring our escalators operate safely, we have a maintenance contract in place which includes any faults that need rectifying.

The company that provides this had reduced their service to a minimum following government advice to ensure staff safety. This, coupled with a hugely reduced footfall, resulted in us rotating operational escalators and only using what was required reduce the likelihood of a fault occurring by using all the escalators at once. This was continually reviewed by our Safety team in line with government advice, social distancing guidelines and our own internal policies and procedures.

This process has been reviewed and staff now assess the use of escalators based on footfall. There can be other reasons an escalator is taken out of service which include faults and accidents occurring on an escalator, which require an engineer to attend before they are put back in service.

Merseyrail has put various measures in place to assist passengers with social distancing across the network as follows:

  • Social distancing signage is in place on our floors, escalators and lifts to aid in keeping our passengers and staff apart.
  • Travel advice and information is displayed across the network.
  • We have also displayed posters across our network reminding passengers that they must wear a face covering unless exempt as social distancing won't be possible at all times on our network.