Merseyrail – a presentation on that new rolling stock

A present day Merseyrail electric unit.

A present day Merseyrail electric unit.

I could not get to the last Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers association (OPSTA) meeting on 24th February but there was an interesting presentation at it all about the promised new Merseyrail trains.

If you follow the link above you can see the presentation.

Friends of the 502 Group

Last weekend, as I posted about a few days ago, Jen and I went to have a look at the work being carried out by this group of volunteers who are trying to rebuild a desperately neglected Class 502 EMU which used to run on the Merseyrail network until it and its fellow class mates started to be displaced from the late 1970’s by the present Class 507/8 EMU’s

The restoration work required is massive as I think these two photos show:-



And for those with memories of the interior of the 502 EMU’s how about this nostalgia shot:-


Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Read more about the Friends of the 502 Group on their web site:-

The photos above are amongst my Flickr shots at:-

Merseyrail – What will the new trains look like and when will they appear?

Well this one has done the rounds more times than any of us care to remember and I have posted about the saga previously on this blog site.

Could the new trains look like this?

Could the new trains look like this?

So where are we up to? Well a presentation to members of Merseytravel on 4th June 2015 said this. I have added some explanations of weird rail industry terminology in [ ]:-

Current Situation
• Merseyrail Electrics is one of the best performing TOCs [Train Operating Companies] in the UK [makes you wonder about the others as I know locals who think Merseyrail is a poor performer], nonetheless the system does operate within a number of constraints
• The current fleet consists of 59×3 car units leased by Merseytravel from Angel Trains then sub-leased to Merseyrail (contract extendable to December 2019)
• By this time the vehicles will be over 40 years old
• Fleet reliability has improved recently, but remains modest (~11,000 MTIN) [Miles per Technical Incident Number – the frequency of breakdowns]
• The availability requirement (85%) is very undemanding and masks the poor reliability
• The trains make poor use of the interior space and while comfortable for suburban rolling stock have a relatively low passenger carrying capacity (303 passengers with 192 seats)
• A small scale refresh programme is underway which will allow the fleet to continue operating until the end of the decade but will not address capacity constraints
• The traction power infrastructure is under pressure, which limits performance and expansion
• The depot facilities have seen little investment and are inefficiently laid out
• The LTRS [Long Term Rail Strategy – This is a recent document produced by Merseytravel and on which I have commented on before] anticipates continued growth in patronage, regardless of any investment
• If no additional capacity is provided there will be over-crowding, leading to growth being stifled within the current concession period 2

A couple of additional interesting facts
• Extending the current fleet’s life beyond the 2030s is not considered viable.
• Merseytravel has considered a wide range of commercial strategies and has concluded that the bundling of the rolling stock, depot re-construction and maintenance into a single set of contracts with one supplier optimises risk transfer and value for money

It seems that a meeting of the Merseyside Combined Authority [City Region Cabinet] on 21st August will be the next significant date in this saga.

Or could they look like this?

Or could they look like this?

Whatever happens it seems that the decision making process can’t be put off for much longer.

The Bootle Gas Works Branch Railway/Langton Dock Branch (Midland Railway)

The remains of this long gone branch railway are still visible in various places not least of which is the former tunnel that took the branch under what was Marsh Lane Station but is now Bootle New Strand Station on the Merseyrail network.

The trees in the foreground mask the now pedestrian tunnel which runs  under the the first carriage of this Merseyrail Electric Unit which is sat at New Strand Station

The trees in the foreground mask the now pedestrian tunnel which runs under the the first carriage of this Merseyrail Electric Unit which is at at New Strand Station

This former branch is probably a mile or so south of the North Mersey Branch (and travelling east to west like it) which I posted about on 2nd May.

The tunnel is now a pedestrian link under the present railway/station which gives access to an ASDA Superstore. What drew my attention to it was the wall-art on the tunnel walls and I posted a piece with a photo from that wall-art associated with the Borough of Sefton being 40 years old this year on 29/03/2014. I would add that the tunnel has been substantially filled in so the ground level you walk on through the tunnel is much higher than the original trackbed.

There are quite a few depictions of things associated with Bootle life on the tunnel walls and here are a few more shots of the wall-art.




An internet search about the old branch threw up an interesting web site which carries photo’s and some description of the efforts made by people to access these long closed tunnels, where this may still possible. The link below gives details.

The former Midland Railway built branch line left Langton Dock and headed directly inland in an easterly direction, travelling under the Southport – Liverpool Line, under Stanley Road, under Marsh Lane and then under Hawthorne Road. Various tunnel/retaining/parapet walls can easily be seen on Marsh Lane and where the line passed under Hawthorne Road. A high vantage point allows you to trace much of the line further east where it was in a cutting between houses and businesses. The parapet walls where it passed under Southport Road are still in place for example.

A fascinating point here is that the line passed under Marsh Lane, not across it at an angle, but following the same line as Marsh Lane for a fair distance. Marsh Lane from Litherland Road to Hawthorne Road is in effect a long unseen viaduct as the closed railway tunnel is still below it.

Here are a couple of shots of the remaining blue engineering brick parapets:-

This Southport Road looking east with the line being in a cutting both sides of the over-bridge

This is Southport Road looking east with the line being in a cutting both sides of the over-bridge

e shots of the remaining blue engineering brick parapets etc.

This is Hawthorne Road looking east with the former line being in a cutting until Hawthorne Road.

This is Hawthorne Road looking east with the former line being in a cutting until this point.

Some of the photos in this posting are amongst my Flickr photo’s at

Merseyrail passengers have their say on future trains

New research has revealed that passengers in Merseyside like to sit facing each other during journeys.

This research, Future Merseyrail rolling stock – what passengers want, was carried out to provide an insight into what customers would like to see in a modernised Merseyrail fleet. The current Merseyrail fleet is approaching 40 years old and is one of the oldest operating in the UK. All options, which include a new fleet or extensive re-work of the existing stock, are being considered.

A Merseyrail Electric Unit at Sandhills

A Merseyrail Electric Unit at Sandhills

In picking out seats, 50 per cent chose to sit in the existing pod-style seats, facing each other in twos. The reasons given were that it allowed them to sit as a group and talk to family and friends. Even those travelling on their own felt it gave them an opportunity to make conversation with strangers.

The railway has seen strong growth in passenger numbers over the last 10 years and this looks set to continue. As a result, the research recommended that a mix of seating, including the pod-style, airline and possibly longitudinal, like on London Underground trains, would best address capacity demands.

Other improvements passengers suggested were making trains more spacious and ‘open plan’ with areas for bikes, wheelchairs and pushchairs. Security issues were also of paramount importance to passengers, including increased visibility of CCTV cameras and the installation of help points. Calls were also made for Wi-Fi and bins on the trains.

Passengers’ feedback and ideas will feed into the specification and design for any new or modernised trains.

My thanks to passengerfocus for this report

Merseytravel/Merseyrail – 20 years of big local railway ambitions many of which have hit the buffers! – Posting 2

My first blog on this subject, posted on 29th January, was based on RAIL Magazine’s Merseyside feature in edition No.208 of September 1993.

We now move on to an edition of modern railways from August 2003 and their feature article headed ‘Bright future on Merseyside: 25 year franchise, new tram network’


* June 2003 saw a £3.6b 25year contract awarded to Serco/Nedrail to run Merseyside’s 3rd rail electrified lines which serve 66 stations.

* Interestingly, cost cutting by a previous operator (MTL), who had run the electrified trains from rail privatisation until Arriva gained a short contract to run them, came in for some criticism in the article. Fines for poor services had hit £6m, we were told!

The fleet of class 507/508’s trains were then breaking down every 4,000 to 5,000 miles they travelled; well below the expected average of 15,000 miles per break down. They are clearly performing far better these days.

The article states that 25 overground and 5 underground stations were to be refurbished by 2006 – 5 per year. I have not checked this in detail so any comments would be welcome.

Another pledge was that all stations would be fully accessible by the end of the next Local Transport Plan in 2010. My reasonably informed guess is that this did not happen but I could be wrong.


In the 10 years from 1993 (when the first magazine article that I reviewed was published) to 2003 it was claimed that £72m had been spent on the network with 5 new stations and 7 refurbishments. Old Roan, Kirkdale and Conway Park Stations were highlighted.

We then move on to planned expansion of the network and that old chestnut opening up the ‘Bootle Mineral Branch’ which runs from Bootle to Aintree was noted [it has not happened]. ‘The Bootle – Aintree link will only need about two miles of track to be upgraded and electrified and is covered in the LTP’ (Local Transport Plan). Sounds grand and as though it was a certainty but……………

Another plan in 2003 was to open up the Bootle to Edge Hill line to meet the demands of the proposed new football stadium [neither has happened].

And hey look more talk of an extension of the line beyond Kirkby. [still not happened]

And another one that did the rounds back in 1993 – ‘the possibility of electrifying the Bidston to Wrexham line (back then operated by First North Western) and adding it to the Merseyrail Electrics system is also being considered.’ Well another 11 years on there is no sign of this getting off the ground.

The ‘£16m’ Liverpool South Parkway got a mention – trouble is it actually cost £32m!

Separately in this edition of modern railways the infamous merseytram project is covered and back in 2003 it was still a live project. The article tells us that the then Secretary of State for Transport had approved £170m towards the £225m cost of Line 1 to Kirkby and the Liverpool City Centre lines. Of course Merseytram came to a rather sticky end when the then Labour Government gave up on the project (probably because of Merseyside’s dysfunctional local governance) and pulled its contribution.

So we have moved forward 10 years to 2003, some things have happened but many have not and pipe dreaming is still a significant factor it would seem. But what about Southport AGAIN? Still no mention of upgrading its eastern and northern rail access or reinstating the Burscough Curves. My recollection is that such matters got a great deal of tea and sympathy, when raised by Sefton Councillors, but in reality Merseytravel seemed hardly aware that it was the Transport Authority for this important seaside town at the north of its empire.