Posted: Mon 23rd Jan 2023

Merseyrail’s long-awaited new trains look set to begin entering service from this week

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jan 23rd, 2023

The first of the state-of-the-art, fully accessible new trains for the Liverpool City Region are set to enter service in the coming days in a phased introduction.

The fleet of 53 new high-spec trains, costing £500 million have been a long time coming, they were purchased from Swiss manufacturer Stadler in 2016.

However, the plans to introduce the class 777 trains hit the buffers almost immediately, as it was revealed that the new fleet would have no conductors or guards on board, with drivers controlling the opening and closing of the train doors at stations.

This move greatly angered and concerned the RMT union and its members, triggering a long and bitter dispute between the union, Merseyrail, and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, resulting in strike action over a number of years.

An agreement was reached in principle in 2018, which guaranteed to protect the role of the guard, but it wasn’t until 2022 that a full deal was finally voted through to establish a new permanent position of train manager on the new fleet.

The pandemic also caused delays in testing and travel restrictions prevented Stadler engineers from getting to Merseyside to work on the new fleet. Additionally, flooding in the Spanish factory where the trains were built held things up further.

The new trains will be phased in, starting with the Kirkby line and followed by the Ormskirk line, with the rest of the network across both the Northern and Wirral lines later in the year.

After years of delays and setbacks, the new fleet of trains for the Liverpool City Region’s Merseyrail network is finally set to arrive on the local rail network.

However, passengers shouldn’t expect to see all of the ageing yellow rolling stock replaced with sleek, new vehicles overnight. Instead, the rollout of the new trains will be a phased approach that will take time.

According to Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, the Kirkby line will be the first to see the new trains, with the Ormskirk line next in line for the upgrade. The rest of the network across both the Northern and Wirral lines will follow later in the year.

Seven of the new fleet of trains have been fitted with batteries which enable them to operate on tracks without a third electrified rail. The Class 777 IPEMU (Independent Powered Electrical Multiple Unit) will operate on non-electrified lines, connecting Liverpool to its surroundings and eliminating the need for passengers to change to diesel units.

Stadler Rail, who built the trains, announced that the new fleet had successfully run 135km on battery power alone which offers the possibility of the new trains running on the Borderlands Line from Bidston to Shotton and Wrexham.

Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said:

“Our passengers have all been waiting patiently and the time has finally arrived – our new trains are now just days away! This is a massive moment not just for our region, but for the entire country, as we prepare to launch the UK’s first publicly owned trains in decades into service, putting the ‘public’ back into public transport.”

“We’ve invested half a billion pounds in our new fleet, which are packed with great new features like sliding step technology, free phone charging and Wi-Fi and more room for bikes and wheelchairs – and I cannot wait to see people’s reactions as they step on board for the first time in just a few days.”

“Designed in consultation with local people, they’re some of the most accessible and sophisticated in the entire country. But more than that, they’re a big part of my vision to build a network that’s faster, cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable, and a region where no one is left behind. This is just the beginning of a local transport revolution.”

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