​New trains for the Merseyrail network are a step closer after Members of the Merseytravel Committee today (Thursday 1st October) approved the plans going out to bidders.

The procurement process will start with an OJEU notice being put out to the market tomorrow (Friday 2nd October).

It is 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.

New trains by the early 2020s are considered the best option in meeting growing demand on the network and in supporting the city region’s economic ambitions, while also presenting the best value for the public purse.

It follows the development of a detailed business case over many months which looked at all options from refurbished stock to new stock now or in the future.

The current fleet is approaching 40 years old, is amongst the oldest in the UK and is close to the end of its operational life. While still achieving high levels of performance and customer satisfaction, it is recognised that this will prove increasingly challenging and costly as the existing fleet ages.

In addition, new trains that can carry more people and with shorter journey times will help meet growing demand on the network, of which parts are already close to capacity at peak times.

Demand is increasing by 2.5 per cent each year, with an overall 40 per cent increase in passenger numbers expected by 2028. Some parts of the Merseyrail network are predicted to be way over capacity – 160 per cent filled – by 2043.

A new set of trains is also considered the best option to support the delivery of the City Region’s Long Term Rail Strategy (LTRS) by providing a fleet that could carry significantly more passengers and run on a potentially extended network within the next 30 years to places such as Warrington and Crewe.

The faster journey times and increased capacity would present a significant economic boost to the City Region, worth an estimated £70m per year and would stimulate the creation of around 1,000 jobs.

The project is likely to cost around £400m and will include major infrastructure improvements at stations and depots, and in the power supply to the network.

The plans have been developed to ensure that there will be no additional costs to local tax payers, with costs recovered over the operational life of the new trains by leasing them to the commercial operator responsible for the Merseyrail network – currently Merseyrail Electrics.  Merseytravel’s initial investment will use a variety of funding mechanisms, including a rail reserve already established for this purpose.

Said Chair of Merseytravel Cllr Liam Robinson:

“Giving the procurement process the green light to proceed is a decision taken both out of practicality and ambition for the Merseyrail network, the people who use it and the city region economy. We can’t stand still.

“Now it’s up to the bidders to help shape our vision. This isn’t about new trains because we simply want a new train set, it’s because we recognise that a new fleet, and the associated works, is essential for providing services that people and business can rely on, as well as being astimulus for further economic growth.”

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