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Train at platformMerseyrail

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 68 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. This strategy is due to be refreshed regularly, with an update due out later this year (2017).
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 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 and the new station building and facilities at Ainsdale. In June 2018, the first fully new station on the network in 19 years* opened at Maghull North.
Close working between Merseytravel and Merseyrail also takes place when planning for major events, such as The Open Championship golf at Birkdale, and Cunard’s Three Queens in the summer of 2015, to make sure increased demand on the public transport network is sufficiently met. It’s not only big events where partnership working comes into play – it’s also vital when planning for major engineering works, as was the case with the Wirral Loop Line track renewal works in 2017.
For more information on Merseyrail, visit their website at
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’ guide page.
* The last totally new stations built on the Merseyrail network were Conway Park on the Wirral Line and Brunswick on the Northern Line, both in 1998. Wavertree Technology Park on the City Line was built in 2000 but is not served by Merseyrail trains and Liverpool South Parkway was open in 2006 on the site previously held by Allerton station. 

New trains for the Merseyrail network
The current fleet used on the Merseyrail network is almost 40 years old – one of the oldest in the UK. Although the trains are performing admirably well, maintenance is becoming a bigger challenge.
Plans to build a new fleet of modern trains for the Merseyrail network were approved by the Combined Authority in December 2016, with Swiss manufacturer Stadler chosen as the preferred bidder.
The overall cost of the scheme is £460m and includes infrastructure upgrades to power supplies, platforms and track, as well as refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North and the on-going maintenance of the trains.
The trains will be specifically built for the Merseyrail network and will be bought and owned by the Combined Authority, not a leasing company as is common in the industry. The first trains are expected be running on the network by the end of 2020.
You can find out more about the new trains, including the many features and benefits, at our webpage