UK: The contract for Stadler Bussnang AG to supply and maintain 52 electric multiple-units was signed by Liverpool region transport authority Merseytravel on February 16.

The deal is worth ‘up to £700m’, including maintenance throughout the EMUs’ expected 35-year lifecycle at the Kirkdale depot which will be designed, built and operated by Stadler, and a potential option for a further 60 vehicles.

Switzerland-based Stadler told Metro Report it had several locations where EMUs could be manufactured, and its factory capacity planning process was not yet complete.

Stadler was named preferred bidder for the contract on December 16, beating Bombardier Transportation, CAF, Siemens and a consortium of Mitsui, Alstom and East Japan Railway’s J-TREC. Formal award was delayed by a legal challenge submitted by Bombardier.

Merseytravel told Metro Report that ‘the legal process is ongoing; however, Bombardier has agreed to lift the automatic stay which has prevented Merseytravel, Merseyrail and Stadler from signing the contracts. We remain fully confident in the integrity of our procurement process and, therefore, that we can robustly defend the challenge.’

The new trainsets will completely replace the current Merseyrail fleet, which is one of the oldest in the UK with an average age of almost 40 years. Testing of the first of the new EMUs is scheduled to begin in 2019, with all expected to be in service by 2021.

The four-car articulated EMUs will be 64·98 m long and 2 820 m wide with walk-through wide gangways to create more passenger space. They will be able to accommodate 182 seated and 302 standing passengers and two wheelchair users. The total capacity of 486 passengers will be 60% higher than the current three-car sets which are 4 m shorter, while retaining the same number of seats.

The new units will have lower floors, 960 mm above rail level, and ‘intelligent’ sliding steps. In combination with infrastructure improvements these will ‘virtually eliminate’ the gap between the platform and the train and provide fully step-free access, making Merseyrail ‘the most accessible traditional network in the UK’.

The doors will have sensors to detect obstructions and will illuminate to inform passengers when it is safe to board and alight. There will be a ‘transparent’ cab for the driver, offering a ‘comfortable’ working environment with enhanced sight lines and an ergonomic desk.

The 750 V DC third-rail EMUs will be equipped with batteries enabling independent movement within depot areas, and will also be suitable for retrofitting with 25 kV 50 Hz capability and ETCS Level 2. They will have a maximum speed of 120 km/h, and better performance than the current fleet is expected to cut journey times by up to 10%.

Stadler will also oversee the maintenance of the existing fleet at the current facility in Birkenhead. It will take on 155 maintenance staff from Merseyrail, bringing the total number of Stadler employees in the UK to more than 200 by 2019.

‘This contract with Merseytravel marks a very important milestone for Stadler in the UK’, said Peter Jenelten, Executive Vice-President & Head of Marketing & Sales at Stadler. ‘The UK is a key part of our global strategy and this contract represents the latest step in our growth here’.