The operator of Liverpool’s local rail network has unveiled an upgraded fleet of trains as part of plans to expand in the coming years.
The first of the 52-strong fleet, bought by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority from Swiss manufacturer Stadler for £460m, was presented to media at a rail depot in Kirkdale on Tuesday.
The fleet, which will be publicly owned by the city region, is part of a £500m investment in Merseyrail, the partially underground rail network serving commuters and others across Merseyside and the Liverpool city region, operated by Merseytravel.
The trains have been part of a long-running dispute between Merseyrail and the RMT over the role of guards, which has led to a series of strikes in the past year.
The current fleet is around four decades’ old and has been in increasing need of replacement.
The new trains have space for 50% more passengers and are the first in the UK to include sliding steps to help those with wheelchairs and pushchairs get on board, according to Merseyrail.
Other new features include free wifi for passengers, wider seats, plugs and USB ports beneath every seat, as well as more room for cycle storage.
As well as carrying more people, the trains are intended to support growth of the city region and accelerate plans by Merseyrail to expand the network to places including Wrexham, Skelmersdale and Warrington.
The city region authority also plans to expand the fleet beyond 52 trains in the coming years.
The first train is expected to arrive in Liverpool later this year to complete the testing and driver training process.
The Kirkdale depot is undergoing renovation as part of the wider investment by Merseyrail and is expected to enter the final phase this year.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region said the trains were “the most accessible anywhere in the country and will help make our rail network fit for the 21st century”.