||This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)|
20 July 2003–2028
|Other Region(s):||North West Cheshire, South West Lancashire|
|Stations called at:||67|
|Stations operated:||66 (all except Chester)|
|Route km operated:||120.7|
|National Rail abbreviation:||ME|
|Track length:||75 miles|
Merseyrail is both a British train operating company (TOC) and also the name of a commuter rail network, in Merseyside, England. It is part of the National Rail network. The central section of the network is underground, with the remainder being mainly overground. The network covers Merseyside and communities just outside it. It is formed of two lines electrified on the 750v DC third rail system known as the Northern Line and the Wirral Line, which run underground and interconnect in central Liverpool. A third line, run by Northern Rail, the City Line, is sponsored by governing body Merseytravel and has Merseyrail branding. The City Line consists of commuter services terminating at Liverpool Lime Street including the 25,000V AC electrified line to Crewe via Runcorn and some diesel worked branches. Two of these City Line branches are currently being electrified on the overhead AC system with completion planned for 2014.1
The Northern and Wirral Lines together have 67 stations and 75 miles of route, of which 6.5 miles are underground. Carrying over 100,000 passengers each day,2 they form one of the most heavily used railway networks in the UK outside London.3
Separate rail lines were physically integrated into one network in 1977 with the construction of new tunnels under Liverpool City Centre and Birkenhead, connecting previously separate routes. This created a large, comprehensive urban railway network.2 Although financial constraints have prevented some of the 1970s plans for the network being realised, the network has been extended, with additional extensions proposed.
The core of Merseyrail incorporates the original Mersey Railway, which was opened in 1886, giving Merseyrail the distinction of being the second oldest underground urban railway in the world and the first with lift access to its stations.4
The Merseyrail name became the official brand for the network in the days of British Rail, surviving several franchise holders, although the name was not used by Arriva when holding the franchise. Despite this, Merseytravel continued the Merseyrail branding at stations, allowing the name to be adopted colloquially. Merseyrail is referred to as "Merseyrail Electrics" by National Rail Enquiries, and as "Serco/Abellio Merseyrail" by Merseytravel.
The Merseyrail Network
Two of the three Merseyrail lines are electrified, the Northern Line (marked blue on the Merseyrail map) and the Wirral Line (green on the map). The electrified lines are operated by the Merseyrail train operating company using the third-rail DC system. The third line, the City Line (marked red on the map) is currently diesel-operated and is run by Northern Rail with Merseytravel funding. However, the City Line is currently being electrified, with completion scheduled for 2016 using overhead wires to bring it into line with the rest of Merseyrail, using dual-voltage, third-rail and overhead-wire trains.51
Trains on the electrified Northern Line and Wirral Line cover the Liverpool suburban area and Merseyside. The total electrified track length is 75 miles (121 km), with 67 stations. They connect Liverpool city centre with cities and towns on the outer reaches of the city region, such as Southport and Chester. Frequent intermediate stops serve other sections of the urban area. Trains run at a maximum off-peak interval of fifteen minutes on most branches, with lines converging to provide a metro-style frequency within central Liverpool, and to Birkenhead, of at least every five minutes. This form of operation, with surface running in the suburbs and underground in the city centre, is very similar to the German S-Bahn, meaning "city rapid railway", and Danish S-tog systems.
The Northern Line links Liverpool city centre with Southport, Ormskirk and Kirkby to the north, and Hunts Cross to the south. The Wirral Line, extending under the River Mersey, links Liverpool city centre with Birkenhead, with branches continuing to New Brighton, West Kirby, Chester and Ellesmere Port.6
The third line, the currently diesel-operated City Line, is not an integral part of the dedicated Merseyrail electrified system. Parts of regional lines, operated by other rail companies, that run through Merseyside are branded the City Line, receiving funding from Merseytravel, with integrated ticketing arrangements within Merseyrail. Services on the City Line are less frequent than the trains on the electric Northern and Wirral Lines. Many of the existing constraints of the diesel line services will be eliminated when the whole of the City Line is electrified. The scheduled completion of the electrification is 2014.1
The three lines of the Merseyrail network interchange as follows:
- Northern and City Line services interchange at Liverpool South Parkway and Hunts Cross in the south of the city.
- Wirral and City Lines interchange at Lime Street in the city centre.
- Northern and Wirral lines interchange at Liverpool Central and Moorfields in the city centre.
Services on the Northern Line operate from Hunts Cross in the south of Liverpool, via a tunnel from Brunswick Station through Liverpool Central and Moorfields, to Southport. Services also run from Liverpool Central to Ormskirk and Kirkby. Each route operates a train every 15 minutes from Monday to Saturday, giving a frequent interval between trains on the central section. Some additional trains run at peak hours on the Southport line. Connections are available at Southport to Wigan Wallgate, at Hunts Cross to Warrington Central and Manchester Oxford Road, at Ormskirk to Preston, and at Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria.2
On matchdays at the stadiums of Liverpool F.C.'s Anfield and Everton F.C.'s Goodison Park, Northern Line services connect with the Soccer Bus service at Sandhills to transport fans from near central Liverpool to the stadiums. The buses depart from Sandhills station and a ticket combining both methods of travel is available. Kirkdale station is within walking distance of Goodison Park.
Services on the Wirral Line operate from the four terminus stations of: Chester, Ellesmere Port, New Brighton and West Kirby. Each line from the terminus stations run to Hamilton Square underground station in Birkenhead and through the Mersey Railway Tunnel, continuing around the single track underground loop tunnel in Liverpool's city centre. Trains head back into the Mersey Railway Tunnel back to one of the Wirral's terminus stations.
Monday-Saturday services are every 15 minutes from Liverpool to Chester, New Brighton and West Kirby, and every 30 minutes to Ellesmere Port (Monday - Sunday). These combine to give a service at least every five minutes from Birkenhead Hamilton Square and around the loop under Liverpool's city centre.2
Connections are provided at Bidston on the West Kirby branch for the Borderlands Line to Wrexham, operated by Arriva Trains Wales, and at Chester to Crewe and London Euston, Wrexham and Shrewsbury, the North Wales Coast line to Llandudno and Holyhead, and to Manchester either via Warrington or via Northwich and Knutsford. At Ellesmere Port there is a minimal service to and from Warrington.2
The City Line is an informal term used by local transport authority Merseytravel to describe the suburban services which depart from Liverpool Lime Street on the Liverpool to Wigan and Liverpool to Manchester Lines. It is not operated by Merseyrail trains and is not an official line in its own right.
It consists of three branches with services to Wigan North Western, Manchester via Newton le Willows and Crewe via Runcorn respectively. Of these three, only the latter is currently electrified. Services are provided by the Northern Rail and London Midland train operating companies. Stopping services running through Merseyside are sponsored by Merseytravel and stations are given Merseyrail branding.
Work is currently in progress on the electrification of the two remaining branches of the City Line on the 25kV overhead system with completion due in 2014.1 In February 2010 Network Rail announced that four electrified tracks will be provided from Broad Green Station to Huyton Station. This is to enable segregation of the longer distance limited stop train services to Manchester and beyond from the stopping services of the City Line.7
Class 319 dual-voltage (third-rail and overhead line) Electric multiple units will be fully refurbished and transferred from the Thameslink route to operate on the newly electrified lines between Liverpool, Wigan and Manchester, which incorporate the City Line.1
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Unit numbers||Routes operated||Built|
|Class 507||electric multiple unit||
||507001-021, 023-033||Northern Line
|Class 508/1||electric multiple unit||
||508103-4, 108, 110-112, 114-5, 117, 120, 122-8, 130-1, 134, 136-141, 143||Northern Line
Services on the electrified Merseyrail network are operated exclusively by Class 507 and Class 508 electric multiple-unit trains (EMUs). These replaced pre-war Class 502 (originally constructed by the LMS) and almost identical Class 503 EMUs. There are 59 trains in service on the network. This is down from an initial 76: twelve 508s were transferred to Connex South Eastern in 1996, and a further three were transferred to Silverlink to supplement its fleet of Class 313 EMUs in North London. These train sets had been left in storage from the early 1990s.
Two sets have been written-off and scrapped. These are unit 507022 in 1991, after a collision, and unit 508118, which had been gutted by fire in an arson attack in Birkenhead in 2001.
The electric fleet is maintained and stabled at Kirkdale TMD and Birkenhead North TMD, the two depots on the network. Minor repair work and stock cleaning takes place at Kirkdale, while overhauls are completed at Birkenhead.8 Other depots at Hall Road and Birkenhead Central were closed in 1997, and the former was demolished in April 2009.9
An assessment is currently taking place as to whether it would be viable to reopen the Birkenhead Central depot, which would increase the efficiency of Merseyrail services and allow additional trainsets to be transferred back to Merseyside. The Merseyrail fleet is due for renewal in 2013.10
To celebrate Liverpool's successful 2008 European Capital of Culture bid, Merseyrail named one of its train sets (508136) Capital of Culture. A press ceremony took place at Kirkdale TMD where Cherie Blair, the wife of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, named 508143 Capital of Culture. This nameplate was removed in mid-2009. In February 2008 the first of four sets in a special Capital of Culture promotional livery was released. Set no. 508134 was emblazoned in a purple livery showcasing the "creative" element of the city.11 Three more followed in blue "maritime", green "heritage" and red "sport" colours, but these liveries were removed in November 2009. On 11 October 2011, set 508111 was unveiled in a blue advertising livery for The Beatles Story, a museum for The Beatles in Liverpool.12 A second advertising train, 507002, appeared in September 2012; it promotes Liverpool Hope University.13
From July 2008, four trains were named after Merseyside icons following a poll in the Liverpool Echo. The first, Red Rum, was unveiled at Southport on 14 July 2008 by Ginger McCain. Three more have followed, named Bob Paisley, Dixie Dean, and John Peel.14 Further trains were named Councillor Jack Spriggs, Operations Inspector Stuart Mason and Harold Wilson.151617
A number of Northern Rail Class 142 diesel multiple units and Class 150 sets wore the Merseytravel yellow livery for several years operating on the City Line, although they were not directly operated by Merseyrail. These have since been repainted into other liveries.
Merseyrail formerly had four Class 73 electro-diesel locomotives for shunting, sandite trains, engineering works and other departmental duties; two of these had been repainted in the yellow livery of the previous franchise holder. These locomotives were sold to a preservation company in 2002.citation needed
All Merseyrail trains have automated on-board announcements voiced by Julie Berry, who also voices for Southern, Heathrow Connect and the London Underground Piccadilly line.citation needed A catalogue of announcements may be played by the driver or guard. Announcements in the same style are also activated automatically by the emergency systems on the train, playing on a continuous loop until deactivated. There is also a series of automated station announcements, voiced by Brian Coby,citation needed which announce when trains are terminating at a particular station outside of the regular timetable (for example in the case of severe delay). The only other pre-recorded station announcements are in the case of emergency, and all other announcements are made live by the duty station announcer.citation needed
Following the privatisation of the Great Britain rail network, the Merseyrail service was run first by MTL under the name Merseyrail Electrics, then Arriva Trains Merseyside, before its award to a Serco-Abellio consortium of Serco and Abellio (a division of Nederlandse Spoorwegen) in 2003. The current franchise is contracted to the consortium for an initial 25-year period. The Merseyrail franchise, referred to officially as a "contract", is awarded by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive rather than the Department for Transport which issues all other rail franchises in England and Wales. The only other exception is the franchise for the London Overground network, awarded by Transport for London in 2007. Merseyrail is given this exceptional treatment because its tracks are self-contained and separate from the rest of the railway network – no other services normally run over the third-rail network. As a result of this isolation, the franchise-holder is keen to adopt vertical integration – taking responsibility for maintenance of the track from Network Rail. The current Franchise Manager is Dave Davenport.18
Operating as a self-contained network means there are relatively few problems because there is little conflict with other train operating companies. Merseyrail has publicly committed to aiming to be the best train operating company in the UK.1920 The latest figures released by NR (Network Rail) (as of period 12 of 2012/2013) report that Merseyrail's Public Performance Measure (PPM) was 96.2% and the moving annual average (MAA) stood at 95.5%.21
In February 2010, Merseyrail was named the most reliable operator of trains in the UK, with a reliability average of 96.33% during 2009-2010, the highest ever achieved by any UK train operator.22
(Figures shown are attributable to Merseyrail Electrics 2002 Ltd, (who operate the Northern and Wirral Line sections of the "Merseyrail" branded network).
|Year ending||Turnover (£m)||Gross profit (£m)||Trading profit (£m)||Pre-Tax profit (£m)||Retained profit (£m)|
Enforcement of by-laws
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Merseyrail employs a team of officers who enforce railway by-laws relating to placing feet on seats, travelling without tickets, and other aspects of anti-social behaviour. The enforcement of the 'feet on seat' by-law by Merseyrail was judged to be "draconian"26 in September 2007; however, Merseyrail stated that it did not want to take offenders to court, but was not allowed to fine offenders otherwise (unlike people who smoke on trains or station platforms).27 Merseyrail is the only UK train operator to take such a vigorous approach, a stand which Merseyrail claims has proved very popular with commuters and has reduced anti-social behaviour on the system.28
Collection of separate railways
The present Merseyrail system was merged from the lines of five former pre-Grouping rail systems:
- The Mersey Railway
- The Cheshire Lines Committee railway (Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross section).
- The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Liverpool to Kirkby, Liverpool to Ormskirk and Liverpool to Southport sections.
- The Wirral Railway (Birkenhead Park to New Brighton and West Kirby)29
- The Great Western Railway & London and North Western Railway (Rock Ferry to Hooton and Chester section and the Ellesmere Port branch).
The nucleus of the system was the Mersey Railway, which opened from Liverpool James Street to Green Lane, Birkenhead running through the Mersey Railway Tunnel, one of the world's first underwater railway tunnels in 1886.2 The tunnelled route was extended to Liverpool Central in 1890. A tunnelled branch to Birkenhead Park was added in 1888 to connect with the Wirral Railway and the original line extended to Rock Ferry to connect with the Birkenhead Woodside to Chester line in 1891.30
The Mersey Railway was electrified in 1903 being the world's first full electrification of a steam railway.2 This was followed by the separate Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line from Liverpool Exchange to Southport, which was electrified in 1906. The electrification of the former Wirral Railway lines to (New Brighton and West Kirby) took place in 1937 and allowed through running into Liverpool via the Mersey Railway tunnel.
Creation of Merseyrail
The programme of route closures in the early 1960s, known as the Beeching Axe, included the closure of two of Liverpool's mainline terminal stations, Liverpool Exchange and Liverpool Central high-level in Liverpool, and also Woodside Station in Birkenhead.
Riverside terminal station at the Pier Head was the fourth terminal station to close. This was not a part of the Beeching cuts: the demise of the trans-Atlantic liner trade forced its closure in 1971.
The Beeching Report recommended that the suburban and outer-suburban commuter rail services into both Exchange and Central High-level stations be terminated and that long- and medium-distance routes be concentrated on Lime Street Station. Liverpool City Council took a different view, and proposed the retention of the suburban services and their integration into a regional rapid-transit network. This would divert all local urban routes from Lime Street mainline terminus station, releasing platform space at the station to focus on mid to long haul routes. This approach was backed up by the Merseyside Area Land Use and Transportation Study, the MALTS report. Liverpool City Council's proposal was adopted and Merseyrail was born.31
The Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority, later named Merseytravel, was formed in 1969 with representatives from all Merseyside local authorities taking responsibility for the local rail network, henceforth known as 'Merseyrail'. At that time, the lines out of Liverpool Exchange, Liverpool Central Low Level and Liverpool Lime Street stations were completely separate and were given the names of 'Northern Line', 'Wirral Line' and 'City Line' respectively.
The Strategic Plan for the North West, the SPNW, in 1973 envisaged that the Outer Loop, the Edge Hill Spur connecting the east of the city to the central underground sections, and the lines to St. Helens, Wigan and Warrington would be electrified and all integrated into Merseyrail by 1991.32
The Loop and Link Project
The major engineering works required to integrate the Northern and Wirral lines became known as the 'Loop' and 'Link' Project. The main works were undertaken between 1972 and 1977. A further project, known as the Edge Hill Spur, would have integrated the City Lines into the city centre underground network. This would have meshed the eastern section of the city into the core underground electric city centre section of the network, releasing platforms at mainline Lime Street station for mid to long haul routes.
The Loop Line
The Loop Line is a single-track loop tunnel under Liverpool's city centre serving the Wirral lines. It was built to allow both greater capacity and a wider choice of destinations for Wirral Line users, which included the business and shopping districts of Liverpool city centre and Lime Street Station.
Trains from Wirral arriving via the original Mersey Railway tunnel enter the loop beneath Mann Island and continue in a clockwise direction through James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street and Central, and return to the Wirral via James Street station.33
The Link Line
The Link Line is a double-track tunnel that links the Hunts Cross branch to the south with the Southport, Ormskirk and Kirkby branches to the north, thereby creating one line, the Northern Line. It provides direct access from the north and south of Liverpool to the shopping and business districts in the city centre via two underground stations, Liverpool Central and Moorfields, both of which also interchange with the Loop Line. The Northern Line effectively creates a north-south crossrail enabling passengers to travel from the south to the north of the city, and vice-versa, via Liverpool city centre.
The present Northern Line underground station at Liverpool Central Low Level was originally the Mersey Railway terminus. A section of the original 1880s tunnel between James Street and Central stations was used to form the Link Tunnel. The remainder, between Paradise Street Junction and Derby Square Junction, was retained for use as a stock interchange line between the Northern and Wirral lines and also for a reversing siding for Wirral Line trains terminating at James Street when the Loop Tunnel is inoperative. The stock interchange section of the tunnel is not used for passenger traffic.34
The Link Tunnel was originally intended to link the urban lines north and south of the city creating a north-south crossrail and an additional function in completing the western section of a planned double-track electrified suburban orbital line, circling the city's outer suburbs, known as the 'Outer Rail Loop'. However, the eastern section of the Outer Loop was never built due to budget cuts.35
The Hamilton Square Burrowing Junction
A burrowing junction was constructed at Birkenhead Hamilton Square station, to increase traffic capacity on the Wirral Line by eliminating the flat junction to the west of the station. This included a new station tunnel at Hamilton Square to serve the lines to New Brighton and West Kirby.
Liverpool Central South Junction
To the south of Liverpool Central Low Level Station, a new track layout was constructed as part of the Link Line project. This layout permitted the former Mersey Railway route to be connected to the former Cheshire Lines Committee route from the closed Central High Level Station and so allow the Northern Line to be extended in a southerly direction to Garston and, later, Hunts Cross. It was accomplished by excavating the trackbed of the high-level tunnel to connect the two routes by means of a gradient. As it was still necessary to accommodate a reversing siding to serve Central Low Level, and as the width of the high-level tunnel did not permit a three-track alignment, a new section of single-track tunnel was built for the Central to Garston line. This tunnel starts to the south of the station and rises to join the high-level tunnel.
At the time of construction, the opportunity was taken to construct two short header tunnels for the proposed Edge Hill Spur project (see below). Should the project go ahead, the connecting tunnels could be constructed without the need to obstruct rail services on the existing route. The junction arrangement would be a burrowing junction, as at Hamilton Square (see above), with the grade separation of tracks increasing capacity. 35
Expanding the Network (1977 - Present)
The Loop and Link project was followed by a programme of expansion, electrification and new stations, which built on the greater integration and capacity provided by the new infrastructure.
Walton to Kirkby
On 30 April 1977, Liverpool Exchange terminus station was closed as a part of the Link tunnel project to create the electrified Merseyrail north-south crossrail line named the Northern Line. Liverpool Exchange was the terminus of the northern Liverpool to Manchester route to Manchester Victoria via Wigan Wallgate station.
A tunnel under Liverpool's city centre, the Link tunnel, created the through Northern Line. The nearby Moorfields underground through station located on the new Link tunnel replaced Liverpool Exchange terminus station. Since diesel trains could not operate in the underground stations and tunnels for safety reasons, trains that had terminated at Liverpool Exchange terminus from Wigan Wallgate were as a temporary measure terminated at Sandhills station, the last surface station before the tunnel.
A year later in 1978, the short electrification from Walton to Kirkby extended the Merseyrail network, creating a Northern Line branch terminus and interchange station at Kirkby. The line was electrified using the standard 750V DC third-rail Merseyrail system. The northern Liverpool to Manchester route was cut into two with differing modes of traction, electric and diesel. The diesel Wigan service terminating at Sandhills station was cut back to Kirkby. The Merseyrail electric and the Northern Rail diesel services use opposite ends of the same platform at Kirkby. Merseyrail and Northern Line trains are generally timed to meet there for ease of interchange.
Liverpool Central to Garston
The reopening of the former Cheshire Lines Committee line from Liverpool Central to Garston was made possible by the excavation of the invert of the tunnel into Central High Level station to form a link into the southern end of Central Low Level station. This link had been envisaged when the Mersey Railway was extended to Central in the 1890s. The CLC line had been abandoned since the termination of the Liverpool Central to Gateacre service in 1972. On reopening, the line was electrified using the Merseyrail 750v DC third-rail system and allowed through running via the Link Line tunnel to the Northern Line branches to Southport, Ormskirk and Kirkby. The line was opened in 1978.
Garston to Hunts Cross
This short extension at the southern end of the Northern Line opened in 1983. It allowed interchange between the Merseyrail Northern Line services with City Line and main line services from Lime Street. The reopened line passed under the West Coast Main Line Liverpool branch at Allerton but needed to cross the old Cheshire Lines Committee line to Manchester on the flat, which affected capacity.
Rock Ferry to Hooton, Chester and Ellesmere Port
Rock Ferry railway station had been a terminus for Wirral Line services since the Mersey Railway was extended there from Green Lane in 1891. Passengers for the lines to Chester and Helsby would change trains at this station from the electric service on to mainline services, operated by steam and diesel. Rock Ferry became one of the terminals for the Merseyrail Wirral Line. In 1985 the line from Rock Ferry to Hooton was electrified and incorporated in the Wirral Line of Merseyrail, Hooton thus becoming a new terminus.
Hooton is a junction station where the line to Helsby via Ellesmere Port branches off the main Chester line. The line from Hooton to Chester was electrified in 1993, Chester thus becoming a terminus station of the Wirral Line. The line from Hooton to Ellesmere Port was electrified in 1994 and incorporated into the Wirral Line, Ellesmere Port thus also becoming a terminus and interchange station.
A programme of new stations on the Merseyrail network expanded the coverage of the system. They are as follows:
- Bache: On the Hooton to Chester line, opened in 1983 to replace the former Upton-by-Chester (Halt).
- Bromborough Rake: On the Rock Ferry to Hooton line, opened in 1985 with the completion of electrification to Hooton.
- Overpool: On the Hooton to Ellesmere Port line, opened in 1988.
- (Bache and Overpool are outside the PTE boundary and were funded by Cheshire County Council with some support from Merseytravel).
- Eastham Rake: On the Rock Ferry to Hooton line, opened in 1995.
- Brunswick: On the Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross line, opened in 1998. This station serves the South Docks regeneration area and also the Grafton Street area of Dingle high above the station via a staircase and footbridge.
- Conway Park: On the Hamilton Square to Birkenhead Park underground line, opened in 1998. This station was originally intended to be built as 'cut and cover' with an office building on top. More onerous fire protection requirements arising from the Fennel report into the Kings Cross fire of 1987 made this prohibitively expensive and so the station was constructed in an open cut with lift access to the platforms. It serves the Europa Boulevard area of Birkenhead, a regeneration area.
- Wavertree Technology Park: Opened in 2000 on the City Line route from Edge Hill to Huyton to serve the expanding Technology Park.
- Liverpool South Parkway: Opened in 2006 on the site of Holly Park football ground of South Liverpool FC in South Liverpool. It is an interchange station between the Merseyrail Northern Line from Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross and the City Line from Liverpool Lime Street to Runcorn and Warrington Central and also mainline services. The station also includes a bus terminal and large car park and has frequent bus services to Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The station was formed from an amalgamation of the four-track Allerton Station and the relocation of the Merseyrail Garston Station. Garston station was closed on the opening of the new facility, the first station closure on the Merseyrail network since Liverpool Exchange station in 1977.35
||This section may contain original research. (January 2011)|
There have been various suggestions for ways to enlarge the Merseyrail network. Some would extend beyond the current area, while others would use former existing lines or track beds. In approximately 2013 the current Merseyrail fleet is scheduled to be replaced: if trains capable of use beyond the third-rail DC network are selected as replacements, various expansions can be achieved without electrification of the entire new route.36
The Liverpool to Wigan and Manchester lines are being electrified using overhead wires with completion in 2014.1 Class 319 dual-voltage, third-rail and overhead wires, Electric multiple units will be fully refurbished and transferred from the Thameslink route to operate between Liverpool, Wigan and Manchester, which is partially Merseyrail's City Line.37
The Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for Merseyside called for additional units to ease overcrowding on peak-time services. Southeastern and London Overground have withdrawn their fleets of Class 508 electric multiple units that came from Merseyrail. It would be possible to transfer these units back to Merseyside to supplement the current Merseyrail fleet.38 In November 2009, it was reported that Merseyrail was in talks to add three further trains to its fleet to boost rush-hour capacity, using rolling stock transferred from London Overground. The trains would require refurbishment.39 However, to date no additional units have been taken on by Merseyrail, despite the suggestions of both passengers and the Merseyside RUS to improve capacity. In 2011 Merseytravel invited initial expressions of interest from manufacturers in the provision of a fleet of between 150-250 third-rail vehicles, spares, maintenance facilities and financing in order to gauge the expected costs.
In October 2012, Merseyrail announced a new project director to lead the procurement of a new fleet.40 The new trains are expected to cost between £300m to £350m and to be delivered starting in 2017 with full delivery by 2019.41 Merseyrail has an existing option to extend the current fleet lease by two years until March 2018 and is seeking to negotiate an extra year on top of that from the rolling stock leaser Angel Trains taking the lease to March 2019.
The Route Utilisation Strategy document makes note of the benefits of dual-voltage electric multiple-unit trains that could be used both on the third-rail Merseyrail network and on future electrified lines using overhead wires.38 All new third-rail rolling stock must be capable of simple conversion to the overhead wire 25kV electrical supply system, so any future rolling stock on the Merseyrail DC third-rail lines will have provision for an overhead wire pantograph. Refurbished dual-voltage trains are being acquired from Thameslink for use on the Merseyrail network.5
Network Rail has suggested that tram-trains could offer an opportunity to connect more areas of Merseyside to the rail network. This would allow street running, providing an alternative route through Liverpool city centre. It could potentially relieve pressure on the busy underground section of the network. This is a long-term aspiration suggested for around 2024 and would be dependent on successful trials of the technology elsewhere in the UK.3842
- John Lennon Airport: the existing Northern Line and the City Line from Liverpool Lime Street station to Liverpool South Parkway station are being assessed. From South Parkway the tram-trains would seamlessly transfer to a new tramway.
- Kings Dock to Edge Hill: a link from Edge Hill in the east of the city to the Arena at Kings Dock in the city centre is also being considered. The disused 1829 1.26 mi Wapping Tunnel links the two locations. Tram-trains could then access existing and proposed electrified lines to the east and south of the city.
Many proposals to electrify lines and add them to the existing Merseyrail service have been put forward.
The City Line
The entire City Line is being electrified from Liverpool to Wigan and the Manchester branches with construction from 2011 to 2014.1 Many of the details for the City Line have yet to be announced:
- Whether Merseyrail operates the trains, incorporating the City Line fully into the Merseyrail electric network or Northern Rail continues to operate on behalf of Merseytravel.
- The extent of the electrified City Line.
- The terminus stations.
Kirkby to Wigan
In 1977, the Liverpool to Kirkby section of the Liverpool-to-Bolton route was electrified and merged into Merseyrail. Kirkby became the terminus of the Northern Line Kirkby branch. The former through service to Bolton was split in two, with passengers wanting to make through journeys forced to change at Kirkby from the Merseyrail electric network to the Northern Rail diesel network onwards to Bolton. Changing trains at Kirkby was eased by having the electric and diesel trains on the same long platform. An advantage was that passengers from as far as Hunts Cross, in south Liverpool, could travel to Kirkby, north of Liverpool, on Merseyrail. Previously the Bolton line terminated at the old Liverpool Exchange terminus station to the north of the city centre, with the Hunts Cross line terminating at the old high level Central terminus station to the south of the city centre. This disconnection entailed a cross-city centre journey by foot or taxi, there being no direct public transport (bus) route.citation needed
In 2007 Merseytravel announced that funding had been secured to extend the electrification beyond Kirkby to a new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the extensive Tower Hill housing estate; however, no work has commenced.44
Ormskirk to Preston
Electrification from Ormskirk to Preston has been considered in conjunction with the Burscough Curves reopening detailed below. It would re-establish the most direct Liverpool-Preston route and is one of Merseytravel's long-term aspirations.45 However, in 2008 Network Rail said the benefit-to-cost ratio of the scheme was insufficient to justify this scheme in the near future.46
Bidston to Wrexham
The Borderlands Line from Bidston to Wrexham Central is operated by Arriva Trains Wales using diesel trains. Various proposals to electrify some or all of the line exist. The most recent study, conducted by Network Rail in 2008, investigated the costs of extending the Merseyrail network third-rail electrification to Wrexham. However, when the cost was estimated at £207 million,47 Merseytravel announced that cheaper overhead-line electrification would be considered instead. This would require dual-voltage trains with third-rail and overhead-wire capability.48 The Welsh government is pushing for improved rail connections between North Wales and Liverpool which may accelerate the electrification of the line.49
Other electrification proposals
The following routes are included in Merseytravel's rail strategy as "long-term aspirations".45 No detailed analysis has been carried out into their feasibility and they are unlikely to be developed further in the near future.
The Burscough Curves were short chords linking the Ormskirk to Preston Line with the Manchester to Southport Line. The last regular passenger trains ran over the curves in 1962; the tracks were subsequently lifted. The reinstatement of the Burscough Curves would allow direct Preston-Southport and Ormskirk-Southport services and provide an alternative Liverpool-Southport route. Network Rail has recommended that a strategy for the Burscough Curves be developed further.46
In a parliamentary debate on 27 April 2011, the Burscough Curves were a prime point of the debate. The transport minister wished to meet Southport MP John Pugh regarding the reinstatement of the curves.50
Edge Hill to Bootle
Known as either the Canada Dock Branch line or the Bootle Branch line51 is a line running from Edge Hill Junction in the east of the city in a long curve to the container terminal to the north of the city. Originally only serving Canada Dock, the line was extended north to the container terminal in the 1970s. The line meets and runs parallel to Merseyrail's Northern Line at a junction between Bank Hall and Bootle Oriel Road stations. The line's last passenger trains were withdrawn in 1977. This was a temporary service from Southport to Liverpool Lime Street during the construction of the Merseyrail network of tunnels. On the completion of Merseyrail, trains from Southport used the Merseyrail network. Being the only line now into Liverpool docks, freight to Seaforth Container Terminal ensures constant use.52
The line has been mooted on many occasions for reopening to passengers, giving scope to reopen stations along its length: Spellow, Walton & Anfield, Breck Road, Tuebrook, Stanley and Edge Lane. The line from Edge Lane would continue through Edge Hill junction via Edge Hill station and terminate at Lime Street. A disadvantage is that the northern end of the line does not loop back to Liverpool city centre at Kirkdale. The line would be a point to point line from Lime Street station to Bootle reducing the appeal to attract passengers. To loop the line back to Liverpool's city centre giving greater passenger appeal, branching into the Northern Line, would entail constructing sweeping curves after Kirkdale station or short tunnels from the deep cutting before Kirkdale station into the unused twin Breeze Hill tunnels near parallel to the tunnels. One tunnel is complete, the other was never fully completed and abandoned by the Victorians, however the western section emerging at Kirkdale station is near complete. The tunnels which run north east from Kirkdale station to the Rice Lane road flyover at Queens Drive, have two portals at an ideal location for trains to run onto the platforms at Kirkdale station.
Network Rail investigated options for the Canada Dock Branch in its March 2009 Route Utilisation Strategy for Merseyside42 and concluded that the expected benefits did not justify the investment in new infrastructure. It had been suggested that Liverpool FC could assist in funding the reopening of this line to provide a direct link to its proposed new Stanley Park Stadium; however, the stadium plan has since been put on hold.5354
The Department for Transport's Rail electrification document of July 2009 stated that the route to Liverpool Docks would be electrified via overhead wires. The Canada Dock Branch Line is the only line into the docks.52 From the document:
- 70. Electrification of this route will offer electric haulage options for freight.
- There will be an alternative route to Liverpool docks for electrically-operated freight trains, and better opportunities of electrified access to the proposed freight terminal at Parkside near Newton-le-Willows.
The document states "route to Liverpool docks for electrically-operated freight trains", which is the Bootle Branch line being the only line into Liverpool docks. However the initial phases of electrification scheduled until 2016 does not list this line.55 This delay may impede the efficiency of Liverpool docks container terminal which is being extended to accommodate the largest post-Panamax container ships increasing container throughput of the terminal by 25%, entailing increased usage of the line. Local residents are campaigning to have the majority of containers to be transported by rail easing road congestion and pollution, which may increase rail traffic even further.56 This delay in electrification may delay any proposed passenger use for the line.
The March 2009 Merseyside RUS document was published before the Department for Transport's Rail electrification document of July 2009. Major infrastructure costs will be met with the electrification project which now casts a positive light on future passenger usage for this line. To elevate the case further Merseyrail is acquiring dual-voltage, third-rail and overhead-wire passenger trains which can operate on the line. These points plus serving Liverpool and Everton FC's stadia, would lever recommissioning of passenger train introduction.5
North Mersey Branch
The North Mersey Branch from Bootle to Aintree is currently used only by engineering trains to gain access to Merseyrail tracks; however, Merseytravel has long-term goals to reopen and electrify the line.45 The line was considered in the Merseyside Route Utilisation Strategy document, concluding that reopening could not yet be recommended. However, the Route Utilisation Strategy document went on to state:
- The possibility of running passenger trains along the North Mersey and Bootle branches was examined by the RUS and cannot yet be recommended. However, future development and regeneration could lead to increased demand for such services. Any such passenger services would need to be implemented in a way that ensures current and future freight demand can be accommodated. There is also a possibility in the longer term of using other infrastructure, including the disused Wapping and Waterloo tunnels, to provide new journey opportunities.42
The reopening of a section of the Skelmersdale Branch from Upholland to Skelmersdale town centre has been proposed. The line was completely closed in 1963. This would give Skelmersdale, the second largest town in North West England without a railway service, direct access to Liverpool city centre. Network Rail has recommended that a further feasibility study be carried out.4257 In June 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies, in its Connecting Communities: Expanding Access to the Rail Network report, called for funding for the reopening of the line from Ormskirk to Skelmersdale as part of a £500m scheme to open 33 stations on 14 lines closed in the Beeching Axe, including seven new parkway stations.5859 The report proposes extending the line from Ormskirk railway station by laying 3 miles of new single track along the previous route towards Rainford Junction, at a cost estimated to be in the region of £31m. The route is largely intact, however a slight deviation north of Westhead where houses have been built on the old trackbed would be required. The proposed station would be on the north west corner of the town near the Skelmersdale Ring Road, next to where the old station once stood.5960
In December 2012 Merseytravel commissioned Network Rail to study route options and costs of connecting to Skelmersdale with Merseytravel contributing £50,000 and West Lancashire Council contributing £100,000.61 The range of options considered including a simple park and ride on the existing Northern Line Kirkby branch, an extension of the Northern Line Kirkby branch to a new terminus in Skelmersdale and finally a connection from the Northern Line Ormskirk branch, possibly extended to create a loop via Skelmersdale between Kirkby and Ormskirk.
Merseytravel has shown interest in the Halton Curve, a short section of track from Frodsham to Runcorn which currently operates one passenger train per week. Trains may use the curve only in the northbound direction because of signalling and permanent-way restrictions. The curve was threatened with closure in 2004 being later reprieved. There is a hope that one day a passenger service will return.
Proposals for the route were included in Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy for Wales.62 An hourly service between Liverpool and Chester via the curve would be feasible if the line were upgraded.
This would improve railway connections from Chester and North Wales to Liverpool South Parkway, the nearest station for Liverpool John Lennon Airport.63 Whether the Liverpool Lime Street to Chester line via Runcorn railway bridge and Liverpool South Parkway station will be on the Merseyrail network using dual-voltage trains remains to be seen.
The Outer Rail Loop
The Orbital Outer Rail Loop was a part of the initial Merseyrail plans of the 1970s. The route circled the outer fringes of the city of Liverpool using primarily existing rail lines merged to create the loop. With Liverpool city having a semi-circular footprint with the city centre at the western fringe against the River Mersey, the western section of the loop would run through the city centre. The scheme was started along with the creation of Merseyrail however postponed due to cost cutting.
The concept of using the former Cheshire Lines Committee's North Liverpool Extension Line64 route through the eastern suburbs of Liverpool as the eastern section of a rapid-transit orbital route circling the outskirts of the city first emerged before the Second World War. The proposal was for a 'belt' line using the now demolished Liverpool Overhead Railway, which ran along the river front, as its western section. In the 1960s during the planning for Merseyrail, this was developed into the Outer Rail Loop scheme - an electric rapid-transit passenger line circling the outer districts of the city by using a combination of newly electrified existing lines and a new link tunnel under the city centre merging lines to the north and south of the city centre completing the loop. A feature was that passengers on the mainline radial routes into Lime Street from the east and south could transfer onto the Outer Loop at two parkway interchange stations and complete their journey to Liverpool suburbs avoiding the need to travel into the city centre - Liverpool South Parkway was one of these stations opening thirty years after the initial proposal. The Outer Loop would have connected the eastern suburbs of the city: Gateacre, Childwall, Broad Green, Knotty Ash, West Derby, Norris Green and Walton with the city centre.35
As finally developed, the Outer Loop consisted of two sub-loops - serving the northern and southern suburbs with both running through the city centre from the east. These sub-loops allowed more direct journeys to the city centre from the eastern suburbs giving the overall scheme greater viability.
The Outer Rail Loop project was a victim of the recession of the late 1970s compounded by delays and cost overruns on the Loop and Link projects and local political opposition. The project was abandoned as a working proposal by Merseytravel in the 1980s. Much expense was incurred in constructing a large bridge taking the M62 over the eastern section and header tunnels at Liverpool Central station. The route is still largely intact, complete with bridges, although now the eastern section mainly forms the Liverpool Loop Country Park - a walking and cycling trail through the suburbs.
The key components of the Loop were as follows:
The West Section - The existing Merseyrail Electrics Northern Line from Sandhills in the north (later Aintree on the Ormskirk branch) to Hunts Cross. This section includes the most expensive part of the Outer Rail Loop - the Link Line tunnel under Liverpool city centre - and the reopened and electrified line from Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross.
The East Section - The former Cheshire Lines Committee North Liverpool Extension Line initially from Hunts Cross to Walton however amended to Aintree. This is now the Country Park.
The North Section - Originally the CLC line from Walton to Kirkdale via the Breeze Hill tunnel. In later versions of the scheme the North Mersey Branch from Aintree to Bootle was substituted. The latter is still intact although only used by maintenance trains whilst the former is now partially built over.
The Central Section - The central section was a later addition to the plan and effectively divided the loop into two sub-loops and also gave city centre access for the towns east of Merseyside. This included the unrealised Edge Hill Spur scheme from Liverpool Central Low Level to Edge Hill using the Waterloo Tunnel and a section of the City Line from Edge Hill to Broad Green. A major junction was to have been formed at Broad Green with the eastern section of the Outer Loop with a six platform underground station to be named Rocket under the car park of the Rocket pub near the M62/Queens Drive road junction.
The Outer Rail Loop would have been double track throughout and electrified using the 750V DC third-rail system used by the Merseyrail Electrics network.
Although no official proposals have been made to revive the scheme in recent years, the route is effectively safeguarded with periodic calls being made by local politicians for the revival of the complete project or just the short stretch of route from Hunts Cross to Gateacre. The Gateacre service was the last to operate out of the former Liverpool Central High Level Station prior to its closure in 1972.
Since the postponement of the project, a number of Route Utilisation Strategy documents have mentioned re-opening the North Mersey Branch line, the northern section of the loop, to form a passenger link between Bootle and Aintree with stations to serve Ford and Girobank.3565
The Edge Hill Spur
In the 1960s/early 1970s the Edge Hill Spur scheme was proposed to extend the Merseyrail underground network from Liverpool Central Station to Edge Hill Station using existing freight tunnels. The original proposal was extended to widen the benefits of the wider Merseyrail proposal. The scheme has not been actively pursued since the 1980s but a junction to facilitate future construction and two headers tunnels was built as part of the Link Line works in the 1970s.
The construction of the Spur would have connected the City Line branches to the east of Liverpool into the electrified Merseyrail network and importantly the underground section in Liverpool's city centre. An increase in integration and connectivity of the system would be achieved. The Spur would have also formed the central section of the proposed Outer Rail Loop (see above). An additional and substantial benefit was releasing platform space at Lime Street mainline terminus station from urban to mid and long haul mainline routes, as the Spur would divert local urban routes entering the city underground in the city centre.
The initial and cheaper proposal was to re-use the 1829 Wapping freight tunnel, by means of two new single-track tunnels from a new junction at Liverpool Central South Junction, on the tunnel approach to Central Station. The Wapping Tunnel would have given access to Edge Hill via the historic Cavendish cutting, built for the 1830 Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Access to the City Line would have been obtained via a flyover to the east of Edge Hill Station over the main lines from Lime Street. This flyover has since been demolished.
In the early 1970s, Liverpool City Council planners proposed an alternative scheme, which was subsequently adopted. This revised route would permit a new underground station to be constructed to serve Liverpool University, behind the Student's Union building in Mount Pleasant. It would extend the two connecting tunnels from Central Station in a large radius curve to the north, passing beneath the mainline Lime Street station approach cutting accessing Edge Hill via a section of the Waterloo/Victoria Tunnel. On emerging from this tunnel at the existing Edge Hill Station, the route would be on the north side of the main lines thereby removing the need for a flyover.35
Although powers were obtained to build this line under the 1975 Merseyside Metropolitan Railway Act, construction was postponed due to the financial cutbacks and political opposition that also halted the Outer Rail Loop project. The east of Liverpool has suffered in many aspects ever since. An attempt was made to revive the project in the mid-1980s but it was found to be not financially viable.
Following the collapse of the Merseytram scheme in 2006, proposals were considered to revive the project.66 and the route of the tunnels is safeguarded. City Line electrification, currently in progress, should add to the viability of the scheme.
St James Station
Liverpool’s Strategic Investment Framework, the blueprint for the city’s regeneration published in November 2012, states the importance of reopening St James’ station.67 The station, which is located on the corner of St.James' Place and Parliament Street - immediately south of Liverpool's city centre - was closed in 1917. The station saw little use being the next station to Liverpool Central high-level terminus station. The station is in a deep cutting on the operational crossrail Northern Line tunnel section between Liverpool Central Station and Brunswick Station. Being on a well connected crossrail line the station now gives greater appeal for passenger usage than in 1917.
The original platforms and surface level buildings have mainly been removed leaving some platform level rooms carved out of the rock in the sides of the cutting. The cutting the original station was built in is not long enough to accommodate platforms for a six car train, and would entail the station being partially built inside the tunnel. As the cutting formerly contained three tracks with now only two tracks using the tunnel, ample room should be available for the construction of full width platforms to modern requirements. The original stair access would likely need to be replaced with lifts or escalators. Although located in a deep cutting, with tunnelled sections either side, the station should be sufficiently open to the air not to be classed as a sub-surface station and therefore not subject to the requirement for costly fire prevention measures as was the case with Conway Park railway station on the Merseyrail network in Birkenhead.
One aim of the Strategic Investment Framework is to boost the Baltic Triangle, which is becoming an important location for the city's creative sector. Local people and businesses have pledged to work with Liverpool Vision and Merseytravel to assess if the station may be re-opened. If so, the next step will be the development of a business plan for presentation to Network Rail.68
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