Merseyrail - Creation of Merseyrail - I

Merseyrail - I
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 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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