JULY 20 will see the control of Liverpool’s 750 VDC suburban lines passed from the UK Strategic Rail Authority to the local Passenger Transport Executive, Merseytravel. On the same day the Merseyrail Services consortium of Serco and NedRailways will take over the operation of the Merseyrail Electrics franchise from Arriva Trains.

Valued at £3·6bn, a new 25-year operating contract was signed on May 23, a month after Serco and NedRailways were named as preferred bidder (RG 5.03 p244). Break points have been agreed at seven years and then every five years. A key target is to improve the Public Performance Measure punctuality score from 92% to 93·5% within seven years.

In conjunction with SRA and owner Angel Trains, a £32m project will see Merseyrail’s 59 Class 507 and 508 three-car EMUs overhauled and refurbished at Alstom’s Eastleigh works by December 2004. A new fleet of rolling stock will be developed over the next 10 years.

By 2011 all 80 stations on the Merseyrail network will be disabled-accessible, compared with 40 today. A rolling programme will see 25 surface and five underground stations refurbished or rebuilt by 2006. Ticket gates will be fitted at Liverpool Central, Lime Street, Moorfields, James Street, Hamilton Square and Southport stations by early 2005.

Merseytravel is considering the extension of electric services to Woodchurch on the Bidston - Wrexham line, on the Bootle branch, and to new stations at Stanley Park and Aintree.