The opening or re-opening of several lines, the building of new stations across the network, extensive electrification, and a radical expansion of the Merseyrail network are all proposals put forward in Merseytravel’s Long-Term Rail Strategy.
A brand new station may also be built in the city centre, to cater not only for the extra services being called for, but also for the arrival of high-speed trains from the HS2 and (the proposed) HS3 lines into Liverpool in the 2030s.
The strategy is due to be ratified by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority on September 19. If the 12 separate proposals all go ahead (and Merseytravel admits this is unlikely as priorities change), then the Halton Curves and both curves at Burscough will be re-opened.
There will be a new line to Skelmersdale, with a triangular junction on the Kirkby-Wigan line allowing access to both Liverpool and the West Coast Main Line. And either or both of the North Mersey and Bootle branch lines could re-open for passenger traffic.
In addition, a totally new line is proposed to run from Hunt’s Cross to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Speke and Runcorn.
Lines such as Ormskirk to Preston, Kirkby to Wigan, Crewe to Warrington, Chester/Wrexham to Bidston, and the Cheshire Lines Committee route from Liverpool to Warrington and Manchester could all be electrified with the 25kV overhead system. The Merseyrail network would be expanded accordingly, eventually using brand-new dual voltage trains.
Merseyrail’s fleet of 59 three-car electric units is due for renewal, and Merseytravel told RAIL: “The modernisation of the Merseyrail fleet is currently being considered, with the business case reviewing a number of options.
“For instance, it could be that the existing stock is kept in the short to medium term with extensive remodelling, with a view to new rolling stock longer term. Conversely, the business case may show new stock in the shorter term to be the most cost-effective and viable option. The options will be subject to statutory political approvals, of course.”
It is also proposed to bring the Wapping tunnel back into use, allowing Merseyrail Northern Line trains from Southport and Kirkby to reach Warrington and Wigan. Additionally, reviving a disused link line under central Liverpool could allow Wirral Line trains to join the southern half of the Northern Line.
The highest priority is placed on building a dedicated high-speed line into Liverpool as part of HS2/HS3. This, along with several additional conventional services that are proposed, could lead to the building of the new city centre station with large-scale surrounding developments.
The increase in freight traffic, particularly in connection with the developments at Liverpool SuperPort, is also considered.
Launching the strategy, Merseytravel Chairman Liam Robinson said: “This is real ‘big picture’ thinking by the Liverpool City Region. Doing it this way, working with Network Rail, ensures that our transport planning is intrinsically linked to our economic planning.
“The rail strategy is about co-ordination and building on our successes, most notably the Merseyrail network. It is about ensuring that our rail connections link seamlessly with those beyond, not only to what we would consider the untapped potential of local catchment areas such as North Wales and Skelmersdale, but to London and to places like Manchester and across the Pennines to Leeds, through better, faster and more frequent connections.”
The strategy envisages the projects being completed by the end of Control Period 8 in 2034, but each element will be subject to full business and engineering studies to achieve funding and a government go-ahead.