Why new Merseyrail trains are running late

A flagship project to give Merseyside a new fleet of modern greener trains could finally launch by the end of 2021, according to the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

Just 14 of the 53 custom-built trains have arrived in the UK following set-backs.

Bosses admit the scheme is taking much longer than they wanted but are hopeful they can get the £500m service on track to begin operating by the end of the year.

It comes as the scheme has taken a major step forward with the successful testing of new battery technology.

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram Credit: Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

According to the original plan, the trains should have been operating by now along with an enhanced timetable for passengers.

Instead those who have continued to rely on rail services during the pandemic are still travelling on one of the oldest fleets in the country.

The Metro Mayor is quick to explain why the new trains are not yet running.

Inside one of the new Merseyrail trains Credit: ITV Granada

Another potential obstacle on the line ahead is the issue of the people who will be working on the publicly-owned trains.

Members of the RMT union have previously taken part in a number of strikes in a long dispute with operators Merseyrail over the role of guards on the new units.

While talks have resumed with all sides hopeful of signing an agreement, ASLEF, the union representing the train drivers, is yet to conclude its discussions.

Mayor Rotheram, who has a manifesto promise to deliver 'Merseyrail for all', hopes the situation will be resolved soon.

He said: "There is a bit to go because we've got a real issue around affordability because the amount of passengers means the fares we would normally get have been reduced considerably.

"We need to look at all of those issues but we are hoping they can be overcome quite quickly."

The Mayor warned difficult decisions will need to be made to increase revenues to fill the black hole caused by the pandemic.

The livery of the new trains has been designed with the help of passengers Credit: ITV Granada

Passengers have been encouraged to see some of the new trains on the Northern Line in recent weeks.

Staff from manufacturers Stadler have been testing "game-changing technology" which means some trains could use batteries to run beyond the limits of the electrified third rail.

The battery-powered trains, which save energy and cost, are initially set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby, as part of the Mayor's commitment to connect under-served communities.

It should put an end to waiting for connections on platforms, according to transport authority Merseytravel.

Rainhill, Woodchurch and Widnes could also benefit and it could allow the new fleet to operate beyond the city region as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Tram-train technology and trackless trams are also being considered to reach the likes of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Kirkby and Southport town centres and Wirral Waters.

Charging points bring Merseyrail services into the 2020s Credit: ITV Granada

With no compartments or steps, the new train fleet has been designed to be accessible and modern.

The carriages not only have a larger capacity but actually feel more spacious.

Wifi and charging plugs are likely to be a big hit with customers - but exactly when they finally get to travel on board is still up for discussion.