Merseyrail - D

Merseyrail - D
Merseyrail Reopening Lines and Track
Merseyrail Burscough Curves
The Burscough Curves were short chords linking the Ormskirk to Preston Line with the Manchester to Southport Line. The curves allowed northbound trains from Ormskirk to run directly to Southport to the west, and southbound trains from Preston to run west to Southport.
The last regular passenger trains ran over the curves in 1962; the tracks were subsequently lifted. The reinstatement of the Burscough Curves would allow direct Preston-Southport & Ormskirk-Southport services providing an option of an alternative Liverpool-Southport route via Ormskirk. Network Rail has recommended that a strategy for the Burscough Curves be developed further.
In a parliamentary debate on 27 April 2011, the Burscough Curves were a prime point of the debate. The transport minister wished to meet former Southport MP John Pugh regarding the reinstatement of the curves. The latest refresh of Merseytravel's Long Term Strategy puts the opening of the curves in Network Rail's CP7 period.
The new Class 777 Merseyrail trains have been tested for battery electric operation, with the prospect of using them on the Burscough Curves open to review. Battery train introduction on the Merseyrail network may improve the business case to reopen the Burscough Curves, allowing Northern Line trains to travel from Ormskirk to Southport, giving two routes from Liverpool to Southport. If realised Burscough Junction, Burscough Bridge, New Lane, Bescar Lane and Meols Cop stations may be incorporated into Merseyrail.
Merseyrail Edge Hill to Bootle
Known as either the Canada Dock Branch line or the Bootle Branch line, this is an unelectrified line running from Edge Hill Junction in the east of the city in a long curve to the container terminal to the north of the city. The line's last passenger trains were withdrawn in 1977.
Being the only line currently into Liverpool docks, freight to Seaforth Container Terminal ensures constant use. The line has been mooted on many occasions for electrifying and reopening to passengers, giving scope to reopen stations along its length: Spellow, Walton & Anfield, Breck Road, Tuebrook, Stanley, and Edge Lane.
Network Rail investigated options for the Canada Dock Branch in its March 2009 Route Utilisation Strategy for Merseyside and concluded that the expected benefits did not justify the investment in new infrastructure.
The Department for Transport's rail electrification document of July 2009 stated that the route to Liverpool Docks would be electrified via overhead wires. The Canada Dock Branch Line is the only line into the docks. From the document:
  • 70. Electrification of this route will offer electric haulage options for freight.
  • There will be an alternative route to Liverpool docks for electrically-operated freight trains, and better opportunities of electrified access to the proposed freight terminal at Parkside near Newton-le-Willows.
The document states "route to Liverpool docks for electrically-operated freight trains", which is the Bootle Branch line being the only line into Liverpool docks. However, the initial phases of electrification scheduled until 2016 do not list this line.
This delay may impede the efficiency of Liverpool docks container terminal which is being extended to accommodate the largest post-Panamax container ships increasing container throughput of the terminal by 25%, entailing increased usage of the line.
Local residents are campaigning to have the majority of containers to be transported by rail easing road congestion and pollution, which may increase rail traffic even further. This delay in electrification may delay any proposed passenger use for the line.
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, page 37, states:
A long term proposal which will need to be considered alongside the developing freight strategy for the region and the expansion of the Port of Liverpool. The proposal envisages the introduction of passenger services which will operate from the Bootle Branch into Lime Street.
An initial study is required to understand fully the freight requirements for the line and what the realistic potential for operating passenger services over the line is.
It was announced in December 2019 that Liverpool City Council had commissioned a feasibility study to see about reopening the Canada Dock Branch to passenger traffic.
Merseyrail North Mersey Branch
The North Mersey Branch from Bootle to Aintree is currently used only by engineering trains to gain access to Merseyrail tracks; however, Merseytravel has long-term goals to reopen and electrify the line.
The line was considered in the Merseyside Route Utilisation Strategy document, concluding that reopening could not yet be recommended. However, the Route Utilisation Strategy document went on to state:
The possibility of running passenger trains along the North Mersey and Bootle branches was examined by the RUS and cannot yet be recommended. However, future development and regeneration could lead to increased demand for such services.
Any such passenger services would need to be implemented in a way that ensures current and future freight demand can be accommodated. There is also a possibility in the longer term of using other infrastructure, including the disused Wapping and Waterloo tunnels, to provide new journey opportunities.
Merseyrail Skelmersdale Branch
Skelmersdale lost its rail passenger service in 1956. The village was expanded into a new town from the 1960s. A number of proposals over the years have been put forward to connect Skelmersdale to the Merseyrail network.
In June 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies called for the reopening of the line from Ormskirk to Skelmersdale as part of a £500 million scheme to open 33 stations on 14 lines closed in the Beeching Axe.
The report proposed extending the line from Ormskirk railway station by laying 3 miles (4.8 km) of new single track along the previous route towards Rainford Junction, at a cost estimated to be in the region of £31 million.
In December 2012, Merseytravel commissioned Network Rail to study route options and costs of connecting to Skelmersdale with Merseytravel contributing £50,000 and West Lancashire Council contributing £100,000.
In 2014, the reopening of a section of the Skelmersdale Branch from Upholland to Skelmersdale town centre was proposed. In January 2017, Lancashire County Council announced that the preferred site for the railway terminal station was the former Glenburn Sports College and Skelmersdale College's West Bank Campus.
In the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, it was stated that Merseytravel was working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to develop a plan to extend the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale with third rail electrification under consideration.
The government gave assurances in April 2020 that the Skelemersdale link would be constructed. However, the Department for Transport announced in July 2022 that it was rejecting the Strategic Outline Business Case, throwing the scheme into doubt.
The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.
Merseyrail Outer Rail Loop
The Orbital Outer Rail Loop was a part of the initial Merseyrail plans of the 1970s. The route circled the outer fringes of the city of Liverpool using primarily existing rail lines merged to create the loop. Liverpool city has a semi-circular footprint with the city centre at the western fringe against the River Mersey.
The western section of the loop would parallel the river running through the city centre. The scheme was started along with the creation of Merseyrail however postponed due to cost cutting, with only the western section of the loop completed being a part of the current Northern Line.
The concept of using the former Cheshire Lines Committee's North Liverpool Extension Line route through the eastern suburbs of Liverpool as the eastern section of a rapid-transit orbital route circling the outskirts of the city first emerged before the Second World War.
The proposal was for a 'belt' line using the now demolished Liverpool Overhead Railway, which ran along the river front, as its western section. In the 1960s during the planning for Merseyrail, this was developed into the Outer Rail Loop scheme – an electric rapid-transit passenger line circling the outer districts of the city by using a combination of newly electrified existing lines and a new link tunnel under the city centre merging lines to the north and south of the city centre completing the loop.
A feature was that passengers on the mainline radial routes into Lime Street from the east and south could transfer onto the Outer Loop at two parkway interchange stations completing their journey to Liverpool suburbs avoiding the need to travel into the city centre, which would also relieve pressure on Lime Street station.
Liverpool South Parkway was one of these stations opening thirty years after the initial proposal. The Outer Loop would have connected the eastern suburbs of the city: Gateacre, Childwall, Broad Green, Knotty Ash, West Derby, Clubmoor, and Walton with the city centre.
As finally developed, the Outer Loop consisted of two sub-loops – a loop serving the northern suburbs and one the southern suburbs with both running through to the city centre from the east. The sub-loops allowed more direct journeys into the city centre from the eastern suburbs giving the overall scheme greater viability.
The eastern section of the Outer Rail Loop project was cancelled in the late 1970s because of delays and cost overruns on the Loop (Wirral Line) and Link (Northern Line) projects and local political opposition. Only the western section of the loop was built.
The project was abandoned as a working proposal by Merseytravel in the 1980s. Much expense was incurred in constructing a large bridge taking the M62 motorway over the eastern section and the construction of header tunnels south of Liverpool Central station. The route is still largely intact, complete with bridges, although now the eastern section mainly forms the Liverpool Loop Country Park – a walking and cycling trail through the suburbs.
The key components of the Loop were as follows:
  • West Section – The existing Merseyrail Electrics Northern Line from Sandhills in the north (later Aintree on the Ormskirk branch) to Hunts Cross. This section includes the most expensive part of the Outer Rail Loop – the Link Line tunnel under Liverpool city centre – and the reopened and electrified line from Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross.
  • East Section – The former Cheshire Lines Committee North Liverpool Extension Line initially from Hunts Cross to Walton however amended to Aintree. This is now the Country Park.
  • North Section – Originally the Cheshire Lines Committee line from Walton to Kirkdale via the Breeze Hill tunnel. In later versions of the scheme the North Mersey Branch from Aintree to Bootle was substituted. The latter is still intact although only used by maintenance trains whilst the former is now partially built over.
  • Central Section – The central section from Central station to Broad Green in the east of the city, was a later addition to the plan effectively dividing the loop into two sub-loops, one north, one south. City centre access for the towns east of the Liverpool City Region was provided. This included the unrealised Edge Hill Spur scheme from Liverpool Central underground station to Edge Hill using the Waterloo Tunnel and a section of the City Line from Edge Hill to Broad Green. A major junction was to have been formed with the eastern section of the Outer Loop with a six platform underground station to be named Rocket under the car park of the Rocket pub near the M62/Queens Drive road junction.
The Outer Rail Loop would have been double track throughout, using the electrified 750 V DC third rail system of the Merseyrail Electrics network.
Although no official proposals have been made to revive the scheme in recent years, the route is effectively safeguarded with periodic calls being made by local politicians for the revival of the complete project or just the short stretch of route from Hunts Cross to Gateacre. The Gateacre service was the last to operate out of the former Liverpool Central High Level Station prior to its closure in 1972.
Since the postponement of the project, a number of Route Utilisation Strategy documents have mentioned reopening the North Mersey Branch line, the northern section of the loop, to form a passenger link between Bootle and Aintree with stations to serve Ford and Girobank.
Merseyrail Edge Hill Spur (reusing tunnels)
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Edge Hill Spur scheme was proposed to link the east of the city with the central underground section. It would have extended the Merseyrail underground network from Liverpool Central Station to Edge Hill Station using existing freight tunnels.
The scheme was dropped, but a junction and two headers tunnels were built south of Central station to facilitate future construction of the Spur during the construction of the Northern Line tunnel.
The construction of the Spur would have connected the City Line branches to the east of Liverpool into the electrified Merseyrail network and importantly the underground section in Liverpool's city centre. An increase in integration and connectivity of the network would have been achieved. The Spur would have also formed the central section of the proposed Outer Rail Loop splitting the loop into two smaller loops (see Outer Loop section).
An additional and substantial benefit was diverting local urban trains entering the city from the east underground in the city centre. This would release platform space at Lime Street mainline terminus station for the use of only mid and long-haul mainline routes.
The initial and cheaper proposal was to re-use the 1829 Wapping freight tunnel, by means of two new single-track tunnels branched off the Northern Line tunnel at a new junction named Liverpool Central South Junction, south of Central Station.
The Wapping Tunnel would have given access to Edge Hill via the historic Cavendish cutting, built for the 1830 Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Access to the City Line would have been obtained via a flyover to the east of Edge Hill Station over the main lines from Lime Street. This flyover has since been demolished.
In the early 1970s, Liverpool City Council planners proposed an alternative scheme, which was subsequently adopted. This revised route would permit a new underground station to be constructed to serve Liverpool University, behind the Student's Union building in Mount Pleasant.
It would extend the two connecting tunnels from Central Station in a large radius curve to the north, passing beneath the mainline Lime Street station approach cutting and accessing Edge Hill via a section of the Waterloo/Victoria Tunnel. On emerging from this tunnel at the existing Edge Hill Station, the route would be on the north side of the main lines thereby removing the need for a flyover.
Although powers were obtained to build this line under the 1975 Merseyside Metropolitan Railway Act, construction was postponed due to the financial cutbacks and political opposition that also halted the Outer Rail Loop project. The east of Liverpool has suffered in many aspects ever since. An attempt was made to revive the project in the mid-1980s but it was found to be not financially viable.
Following the collapse of the Merseytram scheme in 2006, proposals were considered to revive the project, with the route of the tunnels currently safeguarded. Further references are made to the scheme, as a future option, in MerseyTravel's 30-year plan.
A further proposal to resurrect the Edge Hill spur scheme with a new station at Paddington Village was revealed in 2016 by the then Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, as part of a scheme to extend Liverpool's Knowledge Quarter onto the site of the former Archbishop Blanche School.
A feasibility study to reopen the Wapping Tunnel was commissioned and delivered in May 2016. The report found that the Wapping Tunnel was in good condition though suffered from flooding in places and would require some remedial work, but that the concept of reopening the tunnel was viable.
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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