New Merseyrail train on show at Birkenhead North railway station

Earlier today, the press were invited to Birkenhead North Station to see one of the new fleet of publicly owned trains that will replace all of the old rolling stock currently in service on the Merseyrail network.

The new fleet is a key part of the Mayor’s plans for a London-style transport network that seeks to make it as quick, easy, and reliable for people to travel around the region by taking greater local control of public transport and linking different modes of transport together.

Co-designed in consultation with local people, the modern trains boast a wide range of customer-focused features and functions including: 

  • Pioneering sliding step technology, providing step free access for all
  • On board Wi-Fi
  • Improved passenger information screens 
  • More space for wheelchairs, bicycles and prams

birkenhead.news spoke to one of the local people involved in the consultation, Philip Barton, who was on the panel of local residents, which included wheelchair users, parents with prams, cyclists and others, who contributed to the design and layout of the new trains.

Philip Barton (R) demonstrating the ease of use of the new access ramps Image credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

“Wheelchair access was the most important aspect for me,” Philip said. “The ramp [to get on the train] is a big improvement on the existing rolling stock.” Often in railway stations, there is a big step between the platform and the train deck, which means that a staff member will have to manually fit a ramp to allow access for wheelchair users each time they need to get on or get off a train.

The new design means that every door on the train has a ramp that automatically extends to allow easy access for all passengers at all stations. Philip continued, “A lot of work was done to platforms to try and create level-access at every station on the network.”

Philip told us that one of the panel’s recommendations was to have wider aisles down the complete length of the centre of the train, to provide better access not only for wheelchairs and mobility scooters but also for prams and pushbikes.

Even the interior colour scheme was taken into consideration for visually impaired people, “We chose this colour scheme because we felt it was better for people with visual impairments, even the seat pattern and colour.”, Philip said.

This fleet of trains has been designed for the people, by the people.

These new trains are a near half a billion-pound investment in our region’s transport network and will transform the way people get around in our region. They’re a major part of my vision for a London-style transport system that will make getting around our region quick, cheap and reliable.

They will be the greenest and most accessible trains in the country and, best of all they’re owned by us. We’ve designed them around the needs of local residents, who I’m sure will all absolutely love them.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
David Powell, Programme Director for the new fleet of trains Image credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

The Programme Director for the new fleet of trains, David Powell said, “This is very much a local project. We have local control of the railway and we made a choice to own the trains ourselves, which means that the design [of the new trains] is specific to the Merseyrail network. So, we’ve got a unique set of trains that are going to make a huge difference to the Merseyrail network for the next 35 to 40 years.”

The new trains are currently undergoing testing and David anticipates that the fleet will be made up entirely of the new trains during 2023. “Stadler, who are building the trains, have got quite a few built ready for us to inspect and put through testing.”, David continued.

On connectivity and integration with other existing transport networks, David said, “We’ve got really good bike storage areas – much better than on the existing trains – so we definitely see integration with bikes as being a key part of it. We want to get connectedness better with buses. In the future, we hope to be able to display bus information on the information screens on the trains to show people what their transport options are.”

Liam Robinson is Chair of the LCR Transport Committee and he told birkenhead.news that “These are amongst the cleanest and greenest fleets you’ll find anywhere in this country. They’re actually a lot lighter than the old trains – they use less electricity to move around the network, which reduces that carbon footprint.”

Liam Robinson, Chair of the LCR Transport Committee Image credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

“At the end of the day, one of the key ways we’ve got to tackle the climate emergency is to get people out of cars and on to better public transport and that’s what these trains are for.” He continued. “There’s lots of different ways that these trains will help [with connectivity]. The fact that these trains can run on batteries will mean that they can go to different places [where diesel trains currently run] and that will provide new journey opportunities for these trains.”

“We’ve had local cyclists designing the [onboard] cycle storage and we’re looking at how we go through reregulating the buses, so that the bus network can properly integrate with rail, in a way that it doesn’t in this country. There’s lots we’re doing to look at how we can have proper London-style ‘tap-ins’ and smart ticketing of which Merseyrail will be at the heart.”, Liam concluded.

One of the new trains will be on display for the public to visit at Birkenhead North station on:

Thursday 9 September 
Birkenhead North rail station, Station Road, Birkenhead, Wirral CH41 7AZ 
10:00 to 14:00 

Saturday 11 September 
Birkenhead North rail station, Station Road, Birkenhead, Wirral CH41 7AZ 
10:00 to 14:00 

The train will be stationary throughout the event. Visitors are asked to wear face coverings on board the train and platforms out of respect for others, unless exempt. Car parking is available but please use public transport where possible.

At the events, staff will be on hand to talk through the features of the new trains, designed and built by train manufacturer Stadler for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.  

Images credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

Image credit: www.fotopiaimages.com
Image credit: www.fotopiaimages.com
Image credit: www.fotopiaimages.com
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