Merseytravel lets the concession for the Merseyrail network, setting the conditions and terms of contract.
Merseyrail is an urban network of vital importance to the transport infrastructure of the Liverpool City Region, operating on the Wirral and Northern lines. It is one of the most punctual and reliable railway networks in the UK, with consistently high scores for customer satisfaction.
It runs almost 800 trains per day, carrying more than 100,000 passengers on an average weekday. There are 66 stations on the network, four of which are underground in the city centre, giving easy access to work, study, shopping and leisure.
Merseyrail is currently run as a 50/50 joint venture company between Serco and Abellio, which has a 25-year concession agreement with Merseytravel. The concession started on 20 July 2003, with review dates every five years.
The Merseyrail franchise, in being awarded by local Passenger Transport Executive Merseytravel, is different to most train franchise contracts, which are awarded by the Department for Transport. The only other franchise that is awarded in a similar fashion is the London Overground network.
This local concession agreement has allowed both organisations to work closely together to respond to local demands and needs.
In September 2014, Merseytravel published a long term rail strategy
setting out rail plans to improve connectivity and capacity within the Liverpool City Region and beyond during the next 30 years.
One of those priorities is “Enabling Growth on the Merseyrail Network”, which aims to increase use of the network by new and existing customers by further improving the operation and performance of rail services, together with passenger facilities.
The two organisations are already working closely on projects to improve station facilities. Recent and ongoing projects include the £40 million scheme to upgrade the five underground stations alongside Network Rail, and the recent introduction of free WiFi at underground stations.
Other schemes include a new bridge and lift scheme
at Birkenhead North station and a new lift scheme at Formby station. Meanwhile, plans for are afoot for new trains on the network by the early 2020s. The procurement process is well underway with the issue of the OJEU notice
in October 2015 and shortlisted bidders confirmed in January 2016.
It’s expected that a preferred bidder will be identified towards the end of 2016 and it will be at this point that City Region leaders, through the Combined Authority, will be asked to commit to the project going ahead.
In the meantime, improvements are continuing to maintain high standards for customers. The fleet has been recently re-liveried with new “wraps” on the outside of trains, featuring designs which show how workers, students and leisure passengers can make the most of their journey, while enhancements to the inside of the trains have also been made.
Close working between Merseytravel and Merseyrail also takes place when planning for major events, such as the Open Championship golf at Hoylake, and Cunard’s Three Queens in the summer of 2015, to make sure increased demand on the public transport network is sufficiently met.
Merseyrail is not the only operator in the Liverpool City Region. The City Line, being part of the mainline network, is served by other operators such as Northern and TransPennine Express. For more information on rail projects check out our ‘Strategic Transport’