Swiss manufacturer Stadler Rail has been awarded a contract with Merseytravel which it says is worth up to £700m, to build and maintain 52 metro trains on the Merseyrail network, and build a Kirkdale depot.
Stadler beats Bombardier, CAF, Mitsui, and Siemens who were announced as the shortlist for the work in January 2016.
The contract begins in 2020, and will see Stadler entirely replace one of the oldest fleets in the UK, with new trains which will provide fully step free access for all passengers, making Merseyrail the most accessible traditional network in the UK. A new Kirkdale maintenance depot will be designed, built and operated by Stadler.
The trains will be able to carry 60% more passengers, while retaining the same number of seats, and will cut journey times by up to 10%.
The new four-car trains will all be in service by 2021, with the first unit arriving for testing by the middle of 2019. The value of the manufacture and maintenance contracts for the 52 trains is up to £700m and Merseytravel also has the option to trigger the manufacture of a further 60 vehicles.
The trains will have lower floors, only 960 mm above rail level, and will be entirely walk-through with no dividing doors, increasing their capacity to 486 people. Strong but lightweight carriages, built from aluminium, mean they will be safer and more energy efficient.
On-board safety will be enhanced by open and airy compartments with no dividing doors, as well as CCTV and a transparent cabin for the driver. The trains will have wider aisles, larger vestibules at the doorways, more grab handles, making the train safer to use for standing passengers too.
Through the maintenance contract, Stadler will undertake light and heavy maintenance of the units throughout their 35-year life cycle. Stadler will also oversee the maintenance of the existing fleet, which will be carried out at the current facility in Birkenhead.
Stadler will transfer 155 maintenance workers from Merseyrail into its own operations, bringing the total number of Stadler employees in the UK to over 200 people by 2019.