Merseyrail - Merseyrail Franchise and Concession History - F

Merseyrail - F
Merseyrail Franchise and Concession History
  • As a result of the privatisation of British Rail, the Northern Line and Wirral Line were brought together as the Mersey Rail Electrics passenger franchise, being sold on 19 January 1997. 
  • Although franchises are awarded and administered on a national level (initially through various independent bodies, and later the Department of Transport directly), under the original privatisation legislation of 1993, passenger transport executives (PTEs) were co-signatories of franchise agreements covering their areas – this role being later modified by the Railways Act 2005.
The first train operating company awarded the Mersey Rail Electrics franchise contract was MTL. MTL was originally the operating arm of Merseytravel but had been privatised in 1985. The brand name Merseyrail Electrics was adopted by MTL.
The Merseyrail name became the official brand for the network in the days of British Rail, surviving several franchise holders, although the name was not used by Arriva when holding the franchise. Despite this, Merseytravel continued the Merseyrail branding at stations, allowing the name to be adopted colloquially.
With acquisition by Arriva, the train operating company was rebranded Arriva Trains Merseyside from 27 April 2001. Merseyrail is referred to as "Merseyrail Electrics" by National Rail Enquiries, and as "Serco/Abellio Merseyrail" by Merseytravel.
The City Line was also privatised under the 1993 Act, but as part of a different, much larger North West Regional Railways (NWRR) franchise. Upon sale on 2 March 1997, the first train operating company awarded the NWRR franchise contract was North Western Trains (owned by Great Western Holdings). The train operating company was later bought by FirstGroup and rebranded First North Western.
The third-rail electric Northern and Wirral Lines were largely isolated from the rest of the National Rail network with no through passenger services to or from outside the third-rail Merseyrail network.
A decision was to transfer the network into exclusive Merseytravel control, being removed from the national franchising system. The Secretary of State exempted the two lines from being designated as a national railway franchise under the 1993 Act.
When the Mersey Rail Electrics franchise was due for renewal, coming into force on 20 July 2003, Merseytravel contracted the operation of the two lines with a concession extending for up to 25 years. The first successful bidder was Merseyrail Electrics (2002) Ltd, a joint venture between Serco and NedRailways (renamed Abellio in 2009).
  • The City Line, which was largely diesel-operated at the time, was not included in 2003 franchise, continuing as a part of the nationally administered rail franchise system. From 11 December 2004, the NWRR franchise was merged into a new Northern franchise. 
  • The first train operating company awarded this franchise contract was Northern Rail, also owned by a Serco-NedRail (Abellio) joint venture. This franchise passed to Arriva Rail North on 1 April 2016 and then to Northern Trains on 1 March 2020.
Due to the isolation of the Northern and Wirral Lines, Merseyrail Electrics (2002) Ltd are keen to adopt vertical integration – taking responsibility for maintenance of the track from Network Rail. The current managing director of Merseyrail is Andy Heath.
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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