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Wirral loop line track renewal is entering the final phase

Station & Service Updates

19 May 2017

Follow the travel advice, plan journeys, stick to public transport and help keep everyone on the move.

With light literally at the end of the tunnel, Phase 3 is the final furlong to upgrade track in the tunnel and under the riverbed. Like Phase 1, these few weeks are likely to be disruptive, but there will be plenty of rail replacement buses in service.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde

Managing Director of Merseyrail

Follow the travel advice, plan journeys, stick to public transport and help keep everyone on the move.

This is the latest message from City Region transport leaders to all those travelling around the City Region for work or for leisure ahead of  a three-week full cross river rail closure, during the week and at weekends, – the final phase of the Wirral Loop Line Track Renewal works (Tuesday 30th May – Sunday 18th June  2017).

Businesses and organisations are also advised to think about putting flexible arrangements back in place to support staff, customers and contractors. Information is available from the stakeholder toolkit on the Merseyrail website.

Customers are reminded that the alternative transport services will also continue to run at the weekends during Phase 3 and the Mersey Tunnels are proving to be flowing freely at weekends, meaning that driving may be an option on Saturdays and Sundays without creating congestion in the tunnels.

It’s hoped that people will adapt well to the alternative travel arrangements that mirror those in Phase 1.

Headline results from a Phase 1 customer survey show that people followed the advice with 85% opting for one of the following public transport options - rail replacement buses, commercial buses, Mersey Ferries, cycle bus/ferry.

The results also show that customers’ experience of these alternative modes of transport was overall a positive one with the majority rating them as very good/good.

For Phase 3, travellers also need to take into account the following information:

Wirral Dock bridges: Current works to replace two of the old ‘four bridges’ along the A554 Tower Road in Wirral means there is no through-route along this road until the end of 2017. Seacombe ferry terminal,  the Mersey Ferries and the 12 Quays Terminal can still be accessed by following the well-marked diversion routes, but be prepared to allow longer for your journey. More information is available on Wirral Borough Council website.

Mersey Tunnels: Tunnel flows have changed recently with an increase in traffic and longer peak periods, due to a combination of various roadworks on major routes in Liverpool City Centre, Tower Road, Wirral and the Runcorn/ Widnes area, impacting on traffic using the Silver Jubilee Bridge. This potentially puts the tunnels at risk of even greater congestion during the final phase of track renewal. Where possible don’t use the car, use public transport.

Everyone who travels in the city region, either on the train, bus, ferry or in a car, is encouraged to plan their journey.

Key advice:

  • Don’t take the car, use public transport: The Mersey Tunnels and surrounding routes can accommodate additional buses but they will not be able to cope with an increase in cars at peak times. Congestion will increase journey times for everyone. 
  • Avoid travelling at peak times where possible: If you work, speak to your employer about whether there is any flexibility in working times or times you could avoid travelling altogether. If you can, you may want to leave work later and make the most of restaurants, shops and other leisure activities on whatever side of the river you’re travelling home from.
  • Leave more time for your journey: Whether you travel cross-river, within the rail network in Wirral, or usually make use of the underground rail ‘loop’ to get around the city centre, you will need more time for your journey to take account of the changes.
  • Consider your options: Different ways of travelling may suit your needs depending on where you need to go and at what time.
  • Details on the transport offer are available at and from rail stations.
  • Rail replacement buses: High quality ‘express’ buses ready to ‘fill and go’ at peak times will run directly from Birkenhead Central and Birkenhead North to Moorfields and St George’s Hall, with return buses at least every 15 minutes. There will be additional services to ensure people can still catch early morning mainline trains. People who would normally use loop services (trains between James St, Moorfields, Lime St and Central) can use their rail tickets on the 10A bus to travel around the ‘loop’.
  • Buses:  There are 14 existing cross-river bus services that run between Wirral/Chester and Liverpool. Services will be strengthened to accommodate existing and new customers.
  • Mersey Ferries:  Offer a frequent cross-river service between Seacombe and Pier Head in peak times, (7.20am to 10.00am and 5pm to 7pm Monday to Friday), with three services an hour, a journey time of 10 mins each way and free parking for 370 cars at Seacombe. Cross-river Merseyrail tickets/passes can be used on the ferries.
  • Cyclists: Ferries will be an option for cyclists as cycles can’t be carried on rail replacement buses. A special bike bus will also be in operation
  • Special arrangements will be in place for those with disabilities with staff on hand to help. There is more information online at 

Network Rail, Merseyrail and Merseytravel, have been working over many months, with local authorities, operators and other partners, to come up with a plan that balances the need to get essential and complex work done with the need to keep people moving and the city region ‘open for business’.

Network Rail has been replacing the most challenging sections of concrete based track in the ‘loop’ – originally laid in the 1970s, while making the most of the opportunity to carry out other work, including replacing conventional track under the riverbed.

The work, which also supports a new set of Merseyrail trains on the network from the early 2020s, is part of a £340m investment in the Liverpool City Region (LCR)’s rail network over the next three years.

Merseytravel Chief Executive Frank Rogers said:

“The response of our City Region travellers during these works, particularly in phase 1, has been exceptional and we are asking for their support for this final leg of the investment journey. We can’t afford to be complacent for Phase 3 so if people continue to follow the travel advice, as they have been doing, we will continue to monitor services and do everything we can to keep people moving.”

Said Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, MD of Merseyrail:

“With light literally at the end of the tunnel, Phase 3 is the final furlong to upgrade track in the tunnel and under the riverbed. Like Phase 1, these few weeks are likely to be disruptive, but there will be plenty of rail replacement buses in service. We ask passengers to bear with us over this relatively short period before the Wirral line is once again running as normal.”

Martin Bell Network Rail Project Manager said:

“We are now entering the third and final phase of the work to refurbish the track under the river bed.  The work to renew the track on the Wirral loop is now complete.  This final phase involves replacing traditional ballasted railway track that runs beneath the River Mersey that is getting a new lease of life.  We thank passengers for their patience during this renewal programme and look forward to completing the project in June.”

Customers can also find out more about travel options by watching the Mersey Ferry and rail replacement bus videos.

Please note that in light of the RMT’s announcement about strike action on Tuesday 30th May information about rail services will be made available as soon as possible.