The first of 52 new trains for the Merseyrail network is taking shape at Stadler’s factories in Altenrhein, Switzerland, and Siedlce in Poland.
To coincide with its release of a video showing the new trains’ bodyshells under construction (see below), Stadler has announced that the first unit has had its bogies fitted and is now undergoing testing and static commissioning at the factory.
Once these tests are successfully completed, the Class 777 train will be transported to Siemens Mobility’s Test and Validation Centre in Wegberg-Wildenrath for dynamic testing.
The first train is due to arrive in Liverpool for testing and commissioning on the Merseyrail network later in 2019, with the first trains beginning to be rolled out for passengers from 2020.
In a departure from normal UK practice, apart from in London, the new train fleet will be owned both locally and publicly. The £460 million project is being managed by Merseytravel, the executive body that provides professional, strategic and operational transport advice to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
The trains will then be leased to Merseyrail, the Serco Abellio company that has a 25-year concession to operate the rail network.
As a result of this arrangement, the trains have been designed specifically for the network. A passenger survey, conducted by Transport Focus in 2013, guided their design, with one of the more interesting safety features being a sliding step to bridge the gap between the platform edge and the train doorway, making boarding and alighting easier and safer.
Anticipating their delivery, work is underway in the Liverpool City Region in preparation for the new trains. The re-build of the Kirkdale depot is nearing completion and upgrade works on the platforms, to ensure that they will line up with the sliding steps on the new trains and so provide level access onto the train at all stations, are entering their final phase.
Merseyrail managing director Andy Heath commented: “This milestone in the new fleet project is a huge step closer to introducing these state-of-the-art trains onto our network which will transform rail travel in the Liverpool City Region.
“Works through September and October will complete the platform upgrade programme that will support the new trains’ pioneering sliding step technology offering unassisted access for all, as well as improving power supply across the network.”