Saturday, 18 July 2015

LIVERPOOL Merseyrail

 Liverpool South Parkway station, opened in 2006

While staying in Manchester, I took a day trip to Liverpool on Tuesday, 7 July 2015, to refresh my impressions of the Merseyrail system and see how the city has developed since my last visit 10 years ago, and I was actually positively surprised. Merseyrail hasn't changed much, so there was not really anything new to see except the interchange at South Parkway, where I got off the train from Manchester. A very spacious, though not too busy station which provides bus shuttles to John Lennon Airport. As the weather was not so bright in the morning and I wanted to take some pictures of the refreshed livery of the trains, I first travelled into the city and went for a walk down the redeveloped waterfront.

James Street inbound platform - typical look of all refurbished stations

Getting off at Liverpool Central, I was already surprised how this station had been refurbished and looked a bit nicer than before, although the horrible cladding on the walls is still there. Later I went over to the Wirral side and the sun came out, so I got the shots I wanted to be featured in my forthcoming "Tram Atlas Britain & Ireland". While the surface stations still looked pretty much the same as I remembered them, almost all underground stations have recently been refurbished. The 1970s brown cladding was replaced with friendly white panels, while maintaining the overall look of the tube stations. Currently the Moorfields tube station on the Wirral loop is out of service for refurbishment, which leaves just the Moorfields platforms on the Northern Line for upgrading, which is planned to be done soon. 

Moorfields - Northern Line inbound platform - still in its original appearance

Rather by chance, I happened to see the Water Street exit from James Street station, which is only open during peak hours. It is quite a long and inclined foot tunnel leading to an exit at Water Street/Drury Lane used by many office workers in that area. The tunnel is illuminated with the colour of the light changing continuously:


 Unfortunately, step-free access into the trains will have to wait until a new generation of trains arrives, mostly it is quite a big step up for boarding. The current trains have partly been refurbished once again in the inside, while on the outside all have received a new "livery", although this is just a film with different themes that is covering the sides of the train, like you would do with adverts, I guess. So, everything looks refreshed.

On the outside, the trains now carry several different liveries

In some aspects, the system reminds me a lot of the Berlin S-Bahn, not least the sound of the electric trains, which is similar to our old 477s or the still-in-use 485s. And then there's the third-rail power supply, of course. On the other hand, operation is more like the New York Subway, with a train guard on every train travelling in the rear cabin. I find it funny anyway to hear a manual bell ring through the train and the driver who rings back, confirming he has understood the "ready to go" message, feels like an old tramway. While during the day, a 15-minute service is maintained despite the trains not really getting that busy, the same headway is operated during peak hours, and then platforms get very full, I saw quite some congestion at Moorfields, especially with trains going to three different destinations there are many people waiting for one of the following trains. The long Southport - Hunts Cross route is then operated with double trainsets, i.e. 6-car trains. So, all in all, I like Merseyrail and it's a pity other British cities of a similar size don't have a similar S-Bahn-type service, as most regional services are part of larger franchises. It is also a pity, Liverpool could not get its way with the tram project, which would have made this city an even more attractive destination for urban rail enthusiasts.

As for tickets, I actually planned to get a day pass, covering all of Merseyrail plus all buses in Merseyside, but in the end just got a day pass for Merseyrail proper, which at 4.90 GBP was quite cheap and enough for that day. Eventually I returned to Manchester Victoria on the world's first passenger railway, which finally, after more than 150 years, was electrified. Luckily, cheap day return tickets betweens these two cities can be used on any of the routes linking them.


Merseyrail (Official Site)

Merseyrail at UrbanRail.Net

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