The manufacturers of Merseyrail’s new trains have been told how the roll-out of the £500m fleet has been “frustratingly poor” and ordered to make “immediate improvements” for passengers.
In a “full and frank exchange,” Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram told Markus Bernsteiner, chief executive of manufacturer Stadler, that standards of service since the new 777 fleet – beginning on the Kirkby line in January – had “fallen well below the high standards that passengers rightly expect.”
A number of issues have arisen with the trains since their phased introduction earlier this year, most recently at the new £80m Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby.
In a statement, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority confirmed options are being explored to compensate impacted passengers.
The short release confirmed how Mr Rotheram met with the Swiss-based manufacturers of rolling stock on Monday afternoon. It said: “In what was a full and frank exchange of views the Mayor made clear, in no uncertain terms, that current performance of the fleet roll-out had been frustratingly poor and demanded immediate improvements for passengers.
“While we are all exceptionally proud of the investment we’ve made in the country’s first publicly owned trains in a generation, we are aware that the standards of service specifically on the Kirkby line have fallen well below the high standards that passengers rightly expect.”
The new station in Kirkby opened to much fanfare last month as Mayor Rotheram heralded the second new location to be unveiled during his period in office. Much of what was lauded about Headbolt Lane was the capacity for the battery-powered trains provided by Stadler to be able to travel between the terminus and Kirkby station without the need for an electrified third rail like most other services on the Merseyrail network.
However, this has proven to be easier said than done, with passengers reporting repeating issues and faults with the fleet. This was raised in Mr Rotheram’s meeting with Stadler.
The statement added: “During the introduction of any new technology, such as the battery-powered fleet, initial problems are to be expected. However, particularly since the opening of the new £80m Headbolt Lane station, the new trains servicing it have been very unreliable and the Mayor and Combined Authority officers have repeatedly raised concerns about the level of performance with Stadler and also urged Merseyrail as the train operator to do everything possible to minimise disruption.
“The Mayor sought assurances that the level of service and reliability would improve (as initial teething problems are resolved). Promised performance improvements have not been delivered to date and the CA will be holding commercial discussions to identify appropriate compensation for passengers for the disruption caused.”
A further statement on the proposed compensation for passengers is due “in the near future.” The Combined Authority added how all parties wished for the current issues to be resolved as soon as possible.
“It is our hope – and belief – that these months of disruption will soon be behind us and passengers will enjoy decades of service from a modern, accessible and innovative fleet of trains.”