Liverpool is to finally get new trains for its Merseyrail network after local leaders approved a £460 million project to replace the existing 40-year-old fleet.

52 new four-car trains will be manufactured and supplied by Stadler, based in Bussnang in Switzerland.

Four metres longer than the current three-car units, capacity on each train will increase to 486 from 303 while retaining the same number of seats. This uplift will be due to wider gangways between cars and a better arrangement of seats which will also give more space for wheelchairs, buggies, bicycles and heavy luggage.

Due to faster acceleration and better brakes, journey times will be reduced by up to nine minutes on longer routes. At the same time, more efficient electrical systems and reduced weight (99 tonnes for four cars vs 105 tonnes for three cars) will mean that the new trains will use 20 per cent less energy.

Better doors will allow passengers to board and alight more quickly. The fact that they will be owned directly by Merseytravel, and not leased, means that the new trains will be designed to fit the network. Flat floors will line up with rebuilt platforms, with the gap filled by a sliding step, to give fast and safe access.

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Doors will be fitted with ‘sensitive edge’ technology, so even objects as small as a child’s finger will cause doors to open and reclose. Door opening and closing will be carried out by the driver, aided by CCTV cameras the length of the train. The doors themselves will be fitted with ‘traffic light’ illumination – green, amber and red – to indicate when it is safe to board and when doors are closing.

The total budget (£460 million) will include purchase of the trains, upgrading the depots at Birkenhead and Kirkdale, improved power supplies and platform works to level surfaces with the new train doors and accommodate eight-car trains in peak hours.

The first train is expected to be delivered during the summer of 2019 and, after acceptance testing, to enter service during 2020. Deliveries will then be around one train per week, with the whole fleet in service during 2021, at which time a new faster timetable will be introduced. The current Class 507/508 trains will be returned to owner Angel Trains as new ones enter service.

Looking to the future, the trains will have passive provision for operating at 25kV AC as well as the more regular 750/850V DC so they could, potentially, run out to destinations such as Skelmersdale and Wrexham.

Images: Stadler/Merseyrail

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