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Liverpool leaders give green light to new Merseyrail fleet

The Merseyrail network will be getting brand new publicly-owned trains after Liverpool city-region leaders authorised the £460m project today (Friday 16th December).

The state-of-the-art trains, which will be publicly-owned by Merseytravel, are set to replace Merseyrail’s nearly 40-year old fleet of current trains starting from the end of 2020.

The new trains will be safer and faster than their predecessors as they will be able to carry 60% more passengers, cut journey times by up to nine minutes on some routes, and have the capabilities to travel to locations further afield if the Merseyrail network is expanded.

Joe Anderson, Liverpool mayor and chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA), said: “Merseyrail is one of the top performing networks in the country and we want to keep it that way. This is a once in a generation opportunity for custom built trains that will be safer and carry more people, more quickly.

“A better rail service will bring a boost to the regional economy of £70m every year, plus 1000 new jobs. It’s also one of our first ‘devo deal’ successes for the city-region as we’ve got commitment for funding that will help make this project happen.”

Although the trains will be owned by Merseytravel, they will be built and maintained by Swiss manufacturer Stadler after they successfully beat off the likes of Mitsui and Siemens in the race to provide the trains. Key features of the trains will include intelligent air conditioning and an airy, one room saloon with no dividing doors.

The combined authority’s approval of the deal marks the end of an extensive procurement process which started in October 2015 when the Merseytravel committee put the project out to tender for new rolling stock.

New trains were seen as necessary for Merseyrail due to the increasing costs of maintaining the four-decade old fleet and capacity issues caused by a gradual rise in passenger journeys.

The new trains’ project also includes infrastructure upgrades to power supplies, platforms and track, refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North and the ongoing maintenance of the trains, building into Merseytravel’s long-term plans to expand.

Cllr Rob Polhill, leader of Halton and lead member for transport on the LCRCA, said that the decision does not just concern the trains themselves but the fact that they will be able to operate beyond the current Merseyrail boundaries in future years, fitting the authority’s long-term rail strategy.

“The new trains will help us improve links within and beyond our area, linking in to the wider Northern Powerhouse Rail agenda,” Cllr Polhill said.

Controversially, the trains will be driver-only operated, a sticking point at the moment given the strikes currently taking place on the Southern rail network, with reductions in paid posts necessary over the next four years in order for Merseyrail to be able to fund the ‘must-do’ project.

Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of the Merseytravel Committee, said of the decision: “In an ideal world we’d like to have a second member of staff on every train to ensure the highest level of customer service, but there aren’t the resources to do that.”

However, the Merseytravel committee has agreed to guarantee continued employment for all current Merseyrail guards, with a number of guards set to be converted into new on-board customer services roles. It is hoped that all necessary reductions in posts will be reached through redeployment, voluntary redundancies and retirement by the time the new fleet comes into service in 2020.

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LTR1980   16/12/2016 at 16:57

Interesting note that the new fleet are to be owned by the PTE when in fact the PTE are not allowed to own any vehicles bus, rail or operate directly any services - something doesn;t quite add up there. I suspect a leasing company will be used or formed to facilitate this. Reading the full transcript of this on the Merseytravel website in regards to the DOO of the units is alarming as it mentions the 2011 incident - of which again has been misrepresented of the fact what happened - with the following quote: "This mode of operation, Driver Controlled Operation (DCO), was put forward by all bidders in meeting the recommendations of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into the fatal incident at James St in 2011." I’m not going to start a incident in regards ti the whole thing as what has been said in regards to the 2011 incident has been said, but having just looked over the recommendations again from the incident - there is no such recommendation to look to implement DOO – only to look at dispatch methods and ways to reduce falls through the platform edge gap

Jimbo   16/12/2016 at 18:34

How long before RMT announce strikes on the Merseyrail network ? It seems inconceivable that they can let this go when they are making such a fuss on Southern.

Lutz   16/12/2016 at 21:56

Pretty much as expected: DOO - the guard nolonger being required, dual-voltage (or implied - article does not specifically state that this is the case), reduction in fleet size, and a product from one of the cheaper European manufactures. What is surprising is that there appears to been no consideration given to winding up the separate operation for Merseyside, and instead transfer the services into the existing Northern and TPE franchises. As it is, this leaves Merseyside an isolated area within the broader Northern uplift.

Andrew Gwilt   17/12/2016 at 03:05

The new Merseyrail trains that are to be manufactured by Stadler could be classified in the Class 5xx or Class 7xx.

Jerry Alderson   17/12/2016 at 18:24

Gosh, implementing a mixture of DOO+1 (DCO) and DOO is really adding fuel to the fire of the current industrial dispute at Southern. One interesting aspect is that with Southern the union has presented it - and the public have come to see it - as a greedy profiteering TOC eager to increase profits (actually GTR makes no profit) by cutting costs by "abolishing the guard" (actually replacing the conductor/guard role with an on-board supervisor and not cutting any staff whatsoever, and giving above-inflation pay rises for the next two years). If I understand the situation correctly, this announcement is about a Labour-led combined authority through its MerseyTravel subsidiary choosing to implement DCO/DOO to provide "increased safety" (!!!) and also cut costs (to make the new trains affordable) whilst the TOC (MerseyRail has a concession to run the trains for MerseyTravel) has no part in this decision or its consequences. This is going to set the cat amongst the pigeons, and rather confuses the message that RMT has been putting across. I think the DfT could not have wished for a better Christmas present (perhaps they have been playing Santa behind the scenes). Given that the new trains will not be introduced before 2020 it would be sensible for the RMT to delay any industrial action (assuming it gets a positive vote from a ballot) rather than open up two fronts concurrently, and having to fund two lots of strike payments at the same time. However, prudence is not their mantra.

David Faircloth   18/12/2016 at 02:02

Interesting that Stadler should be selected as preferred bidder. Firstly, they are Swiss, and therefore - even if built in another European - expected exchange rate volatility and the reduction in value of the £ Sterling SHOULD have a negative effect upon a comparison between them and Bombardier, who's offer would have had a greater British element and therefore be less subject to fluctuations in exchange rates. Secondly, these are metro type trains, and Stadler hasn't got an existing product which could have been offered; the only British tenders recently won by Stadler couldn't be used to meet the Merseytravel requirement, and therefore the tendered price must have included a significant amount to cover design, tooling, etc. This doesn't augur well for Bombardier and Siemens in particular, who already have metro trains in production which, on the face of it, would seem to meet Merseytravel's requirements (ie., inner suburban emus comprised of 20m long vehicles).

Jerry Alderson   18/12/2016 at 13:48

@David Faircloth. It is not stated but my guess is that Bombardier could not meet the 2020 deadline. GA wanted all of its new trains in service by the end of 2019 but have had to wait for 2020 because Bombardier has to build the Crossrail trains first before GA's. GA is also having to wait for Stadler to build trains for Dutch railways first, but given that Stadler will deliver all of GA's trains by the end of 2019 there would be time to deliver MerseyRail's trains in 2020. I also suspect that Stadler have greater capacity than Bombardier, where it would clearly look very bad politically if the trains were built outside Britain - worse than losing out to a foreign supplier in my opinion.

Andrew Gwilt   19/12/2016 at 00:47

Not forgetting London Overground that are also ordering the Bombardier Class 710's for the Lea Valley lines (Liverpool St-Cheshunt, Liverpool St-Chingford & Liverpool St-Enfield Town routes), Romford-Upminster line, Euston-Watford DC line and Gospel Oak-Barking line (once the electrification is completed).

Lutz   19/12/2016 at 10:58

@David Faircloth, @Jerry Alderson Stadler won a against a competitive tender against Bombardier, Siemens, and CAF amongst others; Stadler made the better offer. Stadler has an existing product - see their website. @Jerry Alderson "the public have come to see it" Sorry, no that is definitely not the case. The RMT's activist supporters and college twitterarte may aim to give that impression, but the commuters know exactly what this cynical strikes is all about.

John Burns   19/12/2016 at 13:23

I looked at web sites around the country about this announcement. Some of the comments in the Derby Telegraph (Bombardier) indicate why Liverpool went to the Swiss. A contributing tipping point to go with the Swiss. The city of Liverpool was the world's first world city. It was the 1st to trade with all of the world, so has no problem dealing with anyone, anywhere. The derogatory sneers from other parts of the country towards the city are constant - instigated by the London media. These trains will be bought & owned by the people of the city. Why should Liverpool give multi-millions to people who don't like them. If they want Liverpool's money maybe they should be civil towards the people of Liverpool. Liverpool owes nothing to other people in the UK. The Swiss are nice to Liverpool and love the tourist city. The city has no problems with the Swiss. The comments on newspaper sites says it all. These train cars are shorter for the tight Liverpool tunnels, the optimum platform height for Merseyrail trains and easily converted to overhead wires for future extensions and to run on the Merseyrail City Line - custom made 'exactly' to what Merseyrail needs.

Simon Wood   19/12/2016 at 21:38

@David Fairclough Stadler have supplied 40 metro trains to the Berlin U Bahn so I imagine the Design of the MerseyRail trains will draw from these vehicles

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