Posted 17th December 2016 | 11 Comments

Stadler wins contract to build new Merseyrail trains

NEW trains are to be built for the Merseyrail network by Stadler of Switzerland, as part of a programme costing £460 million. This headline figure also covers upgrades to the power supply, platforms and track, as well as refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North and future maintenance of the new trains.

Stadler had been shortlisted in January, along with Bombardier, CAF, Mitsui and Siemens, after the tender process was launched in October 2015. At the time the cost of replacing the fleet had been put at £400 million.

The trains, designed specifically for the network, will have no conductors or guards and drivers will control the doors, a feature which has angered the RMT. However, there will be staff on board some trains to help and advise passengers.

The first train is due to be delivered in mid-2019, and the whole fleet is intended to be in service by the end of 2020, replacing a fleet which is almost 40 years old and was becoming increasingly expensive to maintain.

Merseytravel said it had considered what should be done with its ageing fleet, and its preparation of a business case had included the possibility of further refurbishment.
However, it concluded that new trains were the best option to meet demand, which is growing by 2.5 per cent annually. It had been calculated that parts of the network could be significantly over capacity -- by as much as 60 per cent -- by 2043. It said the improvements could boost the region by £70 million a year, and create 1,000 jobs.

The 52 four-car trains will be publicly owned rather than leased from a ROSCo, and the finance needed will be raised in various ways, including by using a rail reserve that has already been established for this purpose, plus loans at 'favourable interest rates'. Merseytravel said 'such opportunities are currently being explored, such as a loan from the European Investment Bank'.

Although details of the financing are still to be confirmed, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will borrow the money on behalf of Merseytravel, who will be purchasing the new trains. In turn, they will be leased at cost to the operator Merseyrail Electrics.

Merseytravel will make lower concession payments to Merseyrail Electrics to account for the greater revenue which is expected from an increase in ridership. Cost savings are also predicted from reductions in maintenance costs and energy consumption.

Councillor Rob Polhill, who is lead member for transport on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said: "The decision today is not just about the new trains themselves but what they will enable us to do.

“These trains will have the capability to operate beyond the current Merseyrail boundaries, potentially bringing the benefits of the high performing network to people in places like Skelmersdale and along the Borderlands line into Wrexham within the next 30 years – helping us deliver our 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.”

Each train will have four rather than the present three cars and capacity will be 60 per cent greater. This will be achieved by providing more room for standing passengers, wheelchairs and luggage, because the number of seats will be the same as now.

As with several other new fleets, such as the Thameslink Class 700 trains and London Underground S-stock, the interior will be continuous, with no divisions between cars.

The decision to transfer door control to drivers will be accompanied by 'traffic light' indicators to tell passengers when it is safe to board or alight, and sensitive edges on the doors will react to small obstructions, such as a tie or finger.

These precautions have not reassured the RMT, which issued a protest shortly after the new deal was announced.

The union's ‎general secretary Mick Cash said: "Merseytravel has today decided that it can’t afford to run safe trains with guards, so it intends to run unsafe ones. They are ramming DOO down our throats.

"If ScotRail can introduce new trains and retain guards, then so can Merseyrail. We will now be seeking assurances from Merseyrail that it has no intention of removing safety-trained guards from any of its trains."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Sonning Cutting, Andover

    All the arguments about a second man on board trains would be more valid if he/she was more accessible. Apart from SWT, who have a good record - in my experience - most of these "extras" are conspicuous by their absence on most other lines, and are unlikely to check tickets etc. They would certainly qualify for the most- read daily newspaper competition. And I've never heard of them being first on the scene when there is an incident of any kind.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    Are the new trains indeed to be AC as well as DC? It doesn''t seem clear, sensible though it would be.

  • jak jaye, surrey

    Once again lets keep a European Train maker in business! all new stock for Britain's Railways should be built here whats wrong with opening another factory,and as for the puerile remarks regarding DOO on London's tube network,all sub surface stations are close together and have are staffed as opposed to the Mersey Rail network any guesses as to how long it will be before trains are vandalised and put out of use?

  • THOMAS ALLEN, Albufeira

    Why is Merseyrail different from London Underground where you can get on a big train and travel for say 90 minutes (Ealing Broadway to Upminster) through long tunnels and with only a driver on board?

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    The real question is whether these trains will only have a driver on board or have a 2nd person who could be trained in safety issues and also check tickets in the same way as Conductors do on the London DLR which is often mis-represented as not having drivers yet all trains have a train captain who regularly drives the trains .

    There is also the increasing need to help passengers using wheelchairs to board and alight trains a task that is growing as more stations become accessible.

    As for the new trains I take it they will be able to operate on both AC/DC unlike present trains which are DC only ?

    The switch to trains able to use AC will allow services to be expanded beyond the present network and raises the possibility of converting DC to AC as part of modernisation plan which could also reduce problems caused by ice and snow in winter.

    [A small point. The title 'train captain' has not been used on the DLR since the 1990s. The staff member on board then became a 'passenger service agent', but that may not be the current title, because they are often described by TfL now as members of the 'customer service team'.--Editor.]

  • Mark, Liverpool

    It was nearly 12 years ago in 2005 when a train popped off the tracks near Central station. As the slab track is being relaid next year and these trains are being built specifically for the network, it is highly unlikely anything like it will occur again. There is also nothing about the incident that suggests having 2 staff rather than 1 had any beneficial effect.

  • John Burns, London

    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.

  • Roger Capel, Sheffield & Glossop

    If DOO works on the Metropolitan & District Lines' S stock on London Underground, both of which, like Merseyrail, have a mix of Underground & traditional surface heavy rail running, with no screaming from the unions, why not here?

  • James Dawkins, Sheffield

    I guess passengers on the Tube must be at constant risk of death without guards on board!

  • Steve Collins, London

    RMT "be seeking assurances from Merseyrail that it has no intention of removing safety-trained guards from any of its trains."

    Some chance. This is going to run and run like Southern. It will not surprise me if the DfT has its fingers in the pie. If so DfT will back the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to the hilt even though it is Labour dominated.

    The difference is that any industrial action will take place in Labour's heartland rather than a Tory one.

  • Alwyn, Liverpool

    It seems Merseytravel is putting money before safety with the introduction of these new sets.

    It wasn't so long ago that a train derailed in the loop line at Liverpool central, so it is likely that this will happen again.

    The new trains look fantastic and will be welcomed, however two staff on each and every journey is safer and it's just a pity that the price we pay to have modern trains, at last, is the removal of the guards.

    No matter which way this is spun, people feel safer with permanent guards on the train.