20 attendees were entertained in Chester on Monday 25 April to a presentation by David Powell, who is the Programme Director at Merseytravel responsible for managing the introduction of the new fleet of 53 Stadler-built Class 777 units which will replace the Class 507 & Class 508 units currently running on the Merseyrail network. He described the project from its inception to the present day.
It was interesting to hear the initial work that was undertaken to discover from passengers what features they wanted to see on the new trains. He covered the design and build procedures and the lead time involved. It looks like the new trains will be in operation shortly.
He described the infrastructure changes that have been undertaken, including the adjustments to almost 100 platforms to allow level boarding, platform lengthening and signal repositioning to accommodate longer trains, a new trackside Wi-Fi network to provide connectivity between all trains and the Sandhills control centre (with the added spin-off of free Wi-Fi access for passengers) and the provision of new substations and cable upgrades to bolster the available power supply.
The introduction of the trains is not the end. David gave details of the extensions Merseyrail would like to see over the coming years and he outlined what he thought might be the viable coverage on the network for battery-powered trains. An entertaining and informative evening was had by all.