Train faults lead to cuts in Merseyrail services

Merseyrail trains

Train operator, Merseyrail, is cutting back its services following a spate of faults within its fleet.

A new, reduced, timetable will be introduced from Monday, June 13.

While commuters are facing reductions or cancellations to their services, there is still no indication of when the region’s £460m new fleet of trains will be introduced, despite testing starting with the new rolling stock in October 2019. The existing fleet of leased trains is one of the oldest in the country, at almost 50 years.

The operator said over the past few weeks it has seen an “unexpected and significant” increase in wheel bearing faults which has affected the number of trains available to run. This has resulted in the full fleet being tested, with those trains found to have the fault being taken out of service for repair.

Merseyrail said it is now making further changes to timetables to ensure that a reliable service can be delivered on all lines, some of which are currently operating with rail replacement buses only, because of this issue.

From Monday June 13, trains will run every 30 minutes on the Ormskirk, Kirkby, Hunts Cross, New Brighton, West Kirby, Chester, and Ellesmere Port lines.

Trains will run every 15 minutes between Southport and Liverpool Central.

A supplemental rail replacement bus service will also be in place between the following stations in case services become overcrowded:

  • Spital and Moorfields stations
  • Birkenhead North and Moorfields stations
  • Maghull and Moorfields stations
  • Waterloo and Moorfields stations

Rail replacement buses will be timed to minimise waiting time for passengers, the operator pledged.

Passengers on the Kirkby and New Brighton Lines will see trains re-introduced on Sunday, June 12, with services operating the normal 30-minute Sunday timetable, before changing to an amended 30-minute timetable from Monday, June 13.

Merseyrail has confirmed that this timetable will remain in place until further notice. As trains are repaired they will be used to strengthen services where possible, providing six car trains at peak times.

Passengers are advised to allow extra time for their journey as services are likely to be busy and to check @merseyrail on Twitter for updates before they head to the station.

Andy Heath, Merseyrail managing director, said: “I’d like to offer my sincere apologies to our passengers for the disruption that this unexpected and significant increase in wheel bearing faults is causing. We know that these changes to our timetable add inconvenience and delay into the day for the people of the City Region and for that we are truly sorry.

“I’d also like to reassure our passengers that we are working closely with our partners and industry experts to resolve this problem, with progress being monitored daily. As soon as it is possible, we will return to our normal, reliable 15-minute timetable.”

Almost three years since testing began on Merseytravel’s new fleet of trains, the transport authority has still not revealed when they could enter service.

The operator has blamed the impact of COVID for delays to the new trains entering service. But the issue still remains that peak time services cannot operate at three Merseyrail stations due to signalling problems.

Peak time eight-car trains, compared with six-car services with the current fleet, overlap the signalling systems. This means that points behind the trains cannot be set properly to allow the new rolling stock to manoeuvre at stations, including Liverpool Central – one of the busiest stations in the country – Southport station and Hunts Cross.

Merseytravel has had to delay the planned roll-out of the new rolling stock several times with still no firm date for their introduction, delays that hamper Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s plans to revitalise the region’s transport infrastructure.