Merseyrail - B

Merseyrail - B
Creation of Merseyrail
The programme of route closures in the early 1960s, known as the Beeching Axe, included the closure of two of Liverpool's mainline terminal stations, Liverpool Exchange and Liverpool Central (High Level), and one on the Wirral, Birkenhead's Woodside Station, leaving only one mainline station serving all of Merseyside at Liverpool Lime Street. Riverside terminal station at the Pier Head later closed due to the demise of the trans-Atlantic liner trade in 1971.
The Beeching Report recommended that the mostly-electrified suburban and outer-suburban commuter rail services into Exchange and Central High-level stations from the north and south of the city be terminated. Long and medium-distance routes would be concentrated on one mainline terminal station at Lime Street station serving Liverpool, the Wirral and beyond.
Liverpool City Council took a different view, proposing the retention of the suburban services and integrating them into a regional electrified rapid-transit network by linking all lines via new tunnels under the centres of Liverpool and Birkenhead.
As well as ease of transport around most of Merseyside, the proposed network would offer all urban line areas ease of access to the remaining mainline station at Liverpool Lime Street and divert urban routes from the mainline terminus station to underground rail in Liverpool's centre.
This would release platforms from urban use, leaving the mainline station to focus on mid- to long-haul routes. This approach was supported by the Merseyside Area Land Use and Transportation Study (the MALTS report). Merseyrail was born when Liverpool City Council's proposal was adopted. However, not all of the electrified sections were saved; as part of the Beeching cuts, the Southport to Preston line was to be axed, and rather than keeping the electrified section between Southport and Crossens it was closed in 1964.
The Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority, later named Merseytravel, was formed in 1969 with representatives from all local authorities, taking responsibility for the local rail lines identified to be incorporated into the new network, known as 'Merseyrail'.
At that time, the lines out of Liverpool Exchange, Liverpool Central Low Level, Liverpool Central High Level and Liverpool Lime Street stations were separate. The existing electric and diesel hauled lines identified to become the new Merseyrail lines, the first stage of Merseyrail's creation, were named the 'Northern Line' (from Exchange and Central High Level), 'Wirral Line' (from Central Low Level) and 'City Line' (from Lime Street station) respectively.
The Strategic Plan for the North West (SPNW) in 1973 envisaged that the Outer Loop, the Edge Hill Spur connecting the east of the city to the central underground sections, and the lines to St. Helens, Wigan and Warrington would be electrified and all integrated into Merseyrail by 1991.
To create the comprehensive rapid-transit network, four construction projects needed completion:
  • Loop Line; a tunnel extending the Wirral lines in a loop around Liverpool's city centre, creating the Wirral Line.
  • Link Line; a tunnel linking the lines north and south radiating out from under Liverpool city centre to be named the Northern Line.
  • Edge Hill Spur; by reusing the 1830 Wapping Tunnel, recently closed in 1972, from Edge Hill junction in the east to Central Station, enabling eastern lines to access the underground city centre section.
  • Outer Rail Loop; effectively a rail loop around the outer suburbs of the city and city centre using existing lines. The Northern Line would form the western section through the city centre. The loop would also be split into two loops, one north and one south of Liverpool's city centre, heading for the city centre's Central Station from Broad Green in the east via the Edge Hill Junction. A part of the scheme would be the construction of a six platform underground station at Broad Green where the two loops and the St.Helens/Wigan line met.
Only the first two projects were constructed, creating the fully electrified third rail Northern and Wirral Lines. The last two were cancelled late in the project after some works had actually started. This isolated the City Line, preventing its full integration into the network: local services still entered the mainline Lime Street station, occupying platforms that could have been used for long-haul routes.
In the decades following the commissioning of the resulting cut-down rapid-transit network, political moves were made to complete the full project, to fully incorporate the City Line into the network; but to no avail. Until the 2015 electrification of the Lime Street to Manchester and Wigan lines, the City Line remained 100% diesel hauled, with the Lime Street to Warrington line still retaining diesel traction.
Since its creation Merseytravel has sponsored the use of Merseyrail branding in stations and paid British Rail to brand local services in a Merseyrail livery. This livery sponsorship ended with the privatisation of British Rail when operators adopted their own corporate train liveries.
Merseyrail The Loop and Link Project
  • The major engineering works required to create the Northern and Wirral lines became known as the 'Loop' and 'Link' Project, consisting of two tunnels. The 'Loop' was the Wirral Line tunnel and the 'Link' the Northern Line tunnel, both under Liverpool's city centre. The main works were undertaken between 1972 and 1977. 
  • A further project, known as the Edge Hill Spur, would have integrated the City Lines into the city centre underground network. This would have meshed the eastern section of the city into the core underground city centre section of the electric network, releasing platforms at mainline Lime Street station for mid to long haul routes. The Edge Hill Spur was not completed due to budget cuts.
Merseyrail The Loop Line (Wirral Line)
The Loop Line is a single-track loop tunnel under Liverpool's city centre serving the Wirral Line branches. It was built to allow both greater capacity and a wider choice of destinations for Wirral Line users, which included the business and shopping districts of Liverpool city centre and the mainline Lime Street station. The loop extension offered direct mainline station access to Wirral residents after the decommissioning of the mainline Woodside terminal station in Birkenhead.
Trains from Wirral arriving via the original Mersey Railway tunnel enter the loop beneath Mann Island in Liverpool continuing in a clockwise direction through James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street and Central, returning to the Wirral via James Street station. The loop tunnel gave interchanges for passengers of the Wirral Line to the Northern Line at Moorfields and Central stations.
Merseyrail The Link Line (Northern Line)
The purpose of the Link Tunnel was to link the separate urban lines north and south of the city creating a continuous north–south crossrail, called the Northern Line. A substantial section of the Northern Line had an additional function in completing the western section of a planned double-track electrified suburban orbital line, circling the city's outer suburbs, known as the 'Outer Rail Loop'. However, the eastern section of the Outer Rail Loop was never built due to budget cuts.
The Link Line tunnel is a double-track tunnel that links two lines: One line running south from the city centre to Hunts Cross; another running north from the city centre to Southport, with branches to Ormskirk and Kirkby. One continuous line would be created, the Northern Line.
The line provides direct access from the north and south of Liverpool to the shopping and business districts in the city centre via two underground stations, Liverpool Central and Moorfields, both of which also interchange with the Loop Line, which is an extension of the Wirral Line. The Northern Line effectively creates a north–south crossrail enabling passengers to travel from the south to the north of the city, and vice versa, via Liverpool city centre.
The present Northern Line underground station at Liverpool Central was originally the Mersey Railway terminus at Liverpool Central Low Level. A section of the original 1880s tunnel between James Street and Central stations was used to form the Link Tunnel. The remainder, between Paradise Street Junction and Derby Square Junction, was retained for use as a rolling stock interchange line between the Northern and Wirral Lines and also for a reversing siding for Wirral Line trains terminating at James Street when the Loop Tunnel is inoperative. The rolling stock interchange section of the tunnel is not used for passenger traffic.
Merseyrail Hamilton Square Burrowing Junction
A burrowing junction was constructed at Birkenhead Hamilton Square station, to increase traffic capacity on the Wirral Line by eliminating the flat junction to the west of the station. This included a new station tunnel at Hamilton Square to serve the lines to New Brighton and West Kirby.
Merseyrail Liverpool Central South Junction
To the south of Liverpool Central Low Level Station, a new track layout was constructed as part of the Link Line project. This layout permitted the former Mersey Railway route from the north to be connected to the former Cheshire Lines Committee route running south from the closed Central High Level Station, allowing the Northern Line to be extended in a southerly direction to Garston and, later, Hunts Cross.
It was accomplished by excavating the trackbed of the high-level tunnel to connect to the lower level tunnel of the two routes by means of a tunnelled gradient. As it was still necessary to accommodate a reversing siding to serve Central Low Level, and as the width of the high-level tunnel did not permit a three-track alignment, a new section of single-track tunnel was built for the Central to Garston line. This tunnel starts to the south of the station and rises to join the high-level tunnel.
At the time of construction, the opportunity was taken to construct two short header tunnels for the proposed Edge Hill Spur project (see below). Should the project go ahead, the connecting tunnels could be constructed without the need to obstruct rail services on the existing route. The junction arrangement would be a burrowing junction, as at Hamilton Square (see above), with the grade separation of tracks increasing capacity.
Merseyrail Expanding the Network (1977 – present)
The Loop and Link project was followed by a programme of expansion, electrification and new stations, which built on the greater integration and capacity provided by the new infrastructure.
  • Walton to Kirkby
On 30 April 1977, Liverpool Exchange terminus station was closed as a part of the Link tunnel project to create the electrified Merseyrail north-south crossrail line named the Northern Line. Liverpool Exchange was the terminus of the northern Liverpool to Manchester route to Manchester Victoria via Wigan Wallgate station.
A tunnel under Liverpool's city centre, the Link tunnel, created the through crossrail Northern Line. The nearby Moorfields underground through station located on the new Link tunnel, serving the Northern and Wirral Lines, replaced Liverpool Exchange terminus station.
Since diesel trains could not operate in the underground stations and tunnels for safety reasons, trains that had terminated at Liverpool Exchange terminus from Wigan Wallgate were terminated at Sandhills station as a temporary measure, which is the last surface station before the tunnel.
A year later in 1978, the short line electrification from Walton to Kirkby extended the Merseyrail network, creating a Northern Line branch terminus and interchange station at Kirkby. The line was electrified using the standard 750 V DC third rail Merseyrail system.
The northern Liverpool to Manchester route was cut into two with differing modes of traction, electric and diesel. The diesel Wigan service terminating at Sandhills station was cut back to Kirkby. The Merseyrail electric and the Northern Rail diesel services use opposite ends of the same platform at Kirkby. Merseyrail and Northern Rail trains are generally timed to meet for ease of interchange.
Merseyrail Liverpool Central to Garston
In 1978 the Northern Line was extended south from Liverpool Central to Garston. This was made possible by inclining the tunnel into Central High Level from Garston to run down into the lower level tunnel entering Central Low Level from the opposite end of the station forming one continuous tunnel.
The linking of the two tunnels had been envisaged when the Mersey Railway was extended to Central from James Street in the 1890s, with the Mersey Railway ensuring the two tunnels were on the same alignment.
The diesel-hauled line from Liverpool Central High Level to Gateacre in the south of the city had been abandoned in 1972. On reopening under the Merseyrail brand, the electrified line never reached Gateacre as it once did, terminating three stations towards the city centre at Garston.
Merseyrail Garston to Hunts Cross
This short extension of electrified Merseyrail line at the southern end of the Northern Line opened in 1983. It facilitated passenger interchanging between the Merseyrail Northern Line services with the Merseyrail City Line and main line services from Lime Street. The reopened line passed under the West Coast Main Line Liverpool branch at Allerton but needed to cross the southern Manchester line via Warrington on the flat, which affected capacity.
Merseyrail Rock Ferry to Hooton, Chester and Ellesmere Port
Rock Ferry railway station had been a terminus for Wirral Line services since the Mersey Railway was extended there from Green Lane in 1891.
  • Passengers for the lines to Chester and Helsby would change trains at this station from the electric service on to mainline services operated by steam and diesel.
  • Rock Ferry became one of the terminals for the Merseyrail Wirral Line. In 1985 the line from Rock Ferry to Hooton was electrified and incorporated in the Wirral Line of Merseyrail, Hooton thus becoming a new terminus.
Hooton is a junction station where the line to Helsby via Ellesmere Port branches off the main Chester line. The line from Hooton to Chester was electrified in 1993, Chester thus becoming a terminus station of the Wirral Line. The line from Hooton to Ellesmere Port was electrified in 1994 and incorporated into the Wirral Line, Ellesmere Port thus also becoming a terminus and interchange station.
Merseyrail New Stations
A programme of new stations on the Merseyrail network expanded the coverage of the system. They are:
Bache (1983), Bromborough Rake (1985), Overpool (1988), Eastham Rake (1995), Brunswick (1998), Conway Park (1998), Maghull North (2017), Headbolt Lane (2023)
Liverpool South Parkway opened in 2006 on the site of Holly Park football ground of South Liverpool F.C. in South Liverpool. It is an interchange station between the Merseyrail Northern Line from Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross and the City Line from Liverpool Lime Street to Runcorn and Warrington Central and also mainline services.
The station also includes a bus terminal and large car park and has frequent bus services to Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The station was formed from an amalgamation of the four-track Allerton station and the relocation of the Merseyrail Garston Station. Garston station was closed on the opening of the new facility, the first station closure on the Merseyrail network since Liverpool Exchange station in 1977.
Merseyrail Accidents and Incidents
  • On 26 October 2005, a Merseyrail Class 508 train de-railed in a tunnel on the approach to Liverpool Central underground station. All 119 passengers and train crew were evacuated safely; only the guard was injured. The cause was determined to be rail gauge spread caused by poor maintenance.
  • On 11 January 2007, a train ran through a buffer stop at West Kirby. Two people were injured.
  • On 30 June 2009, a train ran away at Kirkdale, running through a buffer stop and colliding with a wall. A passenger train had passed the site of the accident less than 5 seconds earlier. Merseyrail was fined £85,000 plus costs of £20,970.15 for offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
  • On 22 October 2011, an intoxicated teenage girl died after falling between the train and platform at James Street station. The train guard was subsequently convicted of her manslaughter by gross negligence and was jailed for five years.
  • On 13 March 2021, a Merseyrail Class 507 train collided with the buffer stop at Kirkby station. The cause was found to be that the driver of the train was using a mobile phone whilst driving. The distraction led him to enter the station at nearly three times the permitted speed. He was sacked and prosecuted, pleading guilty in February 2022 to a charge of endangering the safety of people on the railway.
  • On 28 October 2022, a Merseyrail train derailed on the tracks just outside Liverpool Central underground station. The train was not in service at the time, and no one was injured. In a statement released by Merseyrail it was stated a train "tripped a safety device that is designed to lead to a controlled derailment".
Merseyrail Overview
Owner: Merseytravel, Network Rail
Area Served: Liverpool City Region and surrounding areas
Liverpool City Region (Merseyside and Halton)
Transit Type: Commuter rail
Number of Lines: 2 (plus main line commuter services)
Number of Stations: 68 (66 managed)
Annual Ridership:
2019: 30.6 million
2020: 9.0 million
2021: 20.0 million
Chief Executive: Neil Grabham
Headquarters: Rail House, Liverpool
Merseyrail Operation
Began Operation: 1977 - 46 years ago
Operator(s): Serco-Abellio
Infrastructure Manager(s): Network Rail
Character: Commuter rail, National Rail franchise
Number of Vehicles: 57
Train Length: 3 cars, 6 cars during peak times
Headway: 15 minutes (general), 5 minutes (central sections), 30 minutes (Ellesmere Port branch, general in evenings and on Sundays)
Technical Track Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification: 750 V DC third rail
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