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David Bartlett in the Liverpool Daily Post said:Entire Merseyrail fleet of trains to be replaced at cost of more than £300m
MORE than £300m is to be spent replacing every single train on the Merseyrail network.
Merseyrail’s fleet of trains is more than 30 years old and reaching the end of its useful life.
Jim Barclay, chief executive of transport authority Merseytravel, today warned that, if the trains are not replaced soon, “the network could start to have serious operational problems”.
Last year, Merseytravel asked train manufacturers for an idea of how much a new fleet of trains would cost.
It is now estimated the cost will be between £300m and £350m, and Merseytravel has asked headhunters Veredus to find a project director.
A leaked Merseytravel report states: “Merseyrail needs a fleet which will meet the current and future needs of passengers, as well as the demands of being operated on the most intensive network in the UK outside London.
“It must also be able to cope with the extreme operating conditions experienced on the network, including a corrosive environment in the underground City Loop section of the network and extremely tight curves, which create excessive wheel wear and wheel/rail interface issues.”
Merseyrail’s 58-strong fleet is rented from Angel Trains at a cost of £12m-a-year, which is funded from a government grant.
The lease agreement runs out in 2015, but there is an option to extend it until 2018. Merseytravel is in negotiations to secure an additional year of use, as the new trains are not expected to enter service until 2019.
Mr Barclay yesterday wrote to chief executives of the councils across Merseyside to explain the importance of the project.
In the letter, leaked to the ECHO, he said an advert will appear in tomorrow’s Sunday Times for a project director to oversee buying the new trains.
The cost of the new trains will be met by government grants and fares (which are pegged to inflation). The transport authority may also have to borrow cash for the trains.
“The current trains were built in the late 1970s and, despite a refurbishment programme that was undertaken a decade ago, both the expected lifespan of the vehicles and the current leasing arrangements, are set to expire over the next six years,” Mr Barclay said in his letter.
“If we do not get new rolling stock within the timeframes defined above, the network could start to have serious operational problems.”
The news will be welcomed by commuters using Merseyrail.
Around 20m journeys are taken each year on the network, which is currently seeing a £20m upgrade at Central Station. It will not reopen until October.