posted on 17th Mar 2020 17:54
One of the contracts now realised at Siedlce is the batch of Class 777 EMUs for the Merseyrail network. So far three trains of 52 on order are on test: 777 001 and 002 at PCW, and 777 003 in UK.
777 001 was finished at Altenrhein works in early October 2019, followed by 002 in December 2019 and 003 in January 2020. Starting with 777 004 and all onward even number EMUs these trains will be built in the new St. Margrethen works, which is very close to Altenrhein. All odd numbers, i. e. 777 005 onwards, will be built in Siedlce. In 2020 it is envisaged to build 14 Class 777s at Siedlce and 14 at St. Margrethen.
The Class 777 bodyshells are being produced at Stadler's Szolnok factory, the 267 bogies at Stadler València works. The production run is now at its height, thence Szolnok works is despatching four bodyshells per week, these being sent alternately to Poland and Switzerland. As a trial project, the sixth Class 777 to be delivered will be equipped with a 5 t battery unit, enabling autonomous operation should the power supply to the third rail be interrupted.
The train operating company Merseyrail Electrics 2002 Limited, is a Serco-Abellio 50/50 joint venture. In spite of its name, it was created in 1995 following the privatisation of British Rail. It is the busiest suburban rail network outside the London area. The Merseyrail brand name dates from much earlier - 1971.
Merseyrail is responsible for providing train services on a 120 km, 67-station network, serving the Liverpool and Birkenhead conurbations known jointly as Merseyside (population around 1.4 million), the former city on the right (Lancashire) bank of the Mersey in Lancashire, and the latter on the left (Cheshire) bank, on the Wirral peninsula, between the Mersey and Dee rivers.
There are two lines, the Northern Line (originating at Liverpool Central with four arms, to Hunts Cross, Kirkby. Ormskirk and Southport), and the Wirral Line, from four termini on the Wirral, Chester, Ellesmere Port, New Brighton and West Kirby to Hamilton Square in Birkenhead. Beyond here the line passes under the Mersey in a steeply-graded tunnel (completed in December 1885), then becomes a single track underground loop beneath Liverpool city centre, built between 1972 and 1977. Trains run clockwise round this loop, at headways of five minutes at peak periods. Both lines are electrified with 750 V DC third rail.
Although the network was not originally conceived as a metro, it has evolved certain similar characteristics to one, especially as the Merseyside conurbations expanded in the post-war period. Services nowadays are ope-rated by Class 507 and 508 EMUs:
- the three-car 507s built between 1978 and 1980 by BREL (York works) and refurbished by Alstom at Eastleigh between 2002 and 2005 (32 trains currently in service),
- and the three-car Class 508s, built between 1979 and 1980 at BREL York, 27 of these also refurbished by Alstom at Eastleigh between 2002 and 2004 for Merseyrail.
The 507s and 508s replaced Class 502 and 503 EMUs built in 1938 by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway at Derby (Litchurch Lane) works. Suffice to say that Merseyrail EMUs have long, busy lives!
In February 2010 Merseyrail was nominated the most reliable British train operating company, with a reliability average of 96.33 % in 2009 - 10, the highest ever achieved in Britain by an operator. In March 2016 Merseyrail stated that 110,000 journeys were made on the network with over 800 trains being operated each weekday. Passenger traffic is increasing at a rate of 2.5 % per annum, which indicated that if nothing was done to replace the existing, ageing fleet of 59 EMUs (of which 50 are required for diagrams on weekdays), the network would be struggling at 60 % over capacity by 2043. New trains were thus needed, and tenders were duly invited.
In October 2015 the Official Journal of the European Union announced that the bids submitted by Bombardier, CAF, Mitsui, Siemens and Stadler had reached the pre-qualification stage. Stadler was then nominated preferred bidder and the binding contract was signed on 16 February 2017. The agreement covered the construction of 52 new articulated four-car EMUs, together with their maintenance over their 35-year lifespan.
The project of getting the new fleet into service by 2020 and all the associated infrastructure improvements, such as an upgraded power supply and refurbished depots, is expected to cost around 460 million GBP. The agreement also includes an option clause for the construction and maintenance of 60 more four-car trains. Stadler is to take on 155 Merseyrail maintenance workers. By 2019 the total number of Stadler employees in Britain achieved 200.
The trains will be the property of Merseytravel, the publicly-owned executive body that provides professional, strategic and operational transport advice to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. It oversees the public transport network and is responsible for coordinating bus and rail servi-ces, maintaining transport infrastructure, providing public transport information and operating the Mersey road tunnels, the Mersey ferries and their associated visitor attractions. Finance are provided by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. The trains, once delivered, will be leased to Merseyrail.
The Class 777 trains have bodyshells made of aluminium extrusions. Rated at 2,100 kW, they have an axle arrangement 2’ (Bo)’ (Bo)’ (Bo)’ 2’, with two non-powered bogies and three powered Jakobs bogies, and have a top service speed of 120 km/h. This, combined with lively acceleration (1.1 m/s2) and deceleration (1.0 m/s2), will enable them to reduce journey times by up to 10 %. For instance, the Chester to Birkenhead run will take six minutes less than at present (35 minutes) while that from Southport to Hunts Cross will take nine minutes less (currently 64 minutes). Faster journey times will enable diagrams to be ope-rated using fewer trains.
Batteries will be provided to enable the trains to move independently on non-electrified tracks within depot areas. Provision will also be made for retrofitting with equipment enabling operation off 25 kV AC overhead. This will enable Merseyrail to extend services from Liverpool to destinations such as Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham, this being a long term aspiration of Liverpool City Region. Provision for the retrofitting of ETCS Level 2 will also be made.
The new trains are 64.98 m long over couplings, and 2,820 mm wide. The end cars are 18.1 m long and the intermediate cars are 14.4 m long. The units have 182 seats in a 2 + 2 configuration, and space for up to 291 standees. That means a 60 % greater capacity than the trains they will replace. They are fully gangwayed and wheelchair-accessible, with two wheelchair areas and two places for bike storage, one in each end-car, with innovative bike rack specially designed for the storage of three bikes in parallel. No WC cubicles will be provided, since journey times are relatively short.
The end cars each have one pair of double leaf entrance doors, the intermediate cars, two pairs. The entrances are fitted with lights indicating when it is safe to board or alight. The doors also have very sensitive anti-trap systems, able to detect objects as small as fingers. Driver’s cab access is via separate doors. Floor height is 960 mm above rail top, reflecting platform height at Network Rail stations. Retractable steps are provided, these acting intelligently and virtually eliminating gaps between the platform and the thresholds of the entrance vestibules. The trains are designed for driver-only operation (DOO), although at key locations and times customer service staff will be available on the trains. CCTV is installed, including exterior cameras focused on the entrance doors.
Passenger safety is the number one objective. Thus glazed partitions are provided between the driver’s cabs and passenger accommodation, and there are no doors between the seating areas and entrance vestibules, or in the wide inter-car gangways. The Class 777 EMUs are fitted with a unique system of front evacuation system, allowing the movement of passengers between two coupled driver's cabs through the front doors, and thanks to an automatic front sliding step mounted on the bottom of this door.
The first train was scheduled for delivery by mid-2019, with the entire new fleet being in service by 2021. But in fact deliveries started now on account of the delay in the supply of an important component from the supplier, who could not be replaced. The end of deliveries is envisaged for summer 2021(subject to the coronavirus...).
In early February 2020 Serco’s Derby based Rail Technical Services (SRTS) has been awarded a contract by Stadler Rail to undertake a programme of testing for the Class 777 EMUs. SRTS are responsible for type testing activities at the Wegberg-Wildenrath test centre and at the new Liverpool Kirkdale depot operated by Stadler Rail Service UK. SRTS engineers have delivered and fitted instrumentation to 777 001 and are carrying out a range of tests including dynamic behaviour, EMC, braking, wheel slide protection and noise. SRTS is also supporting testing activities for Stadler with other new UK projects (Greater Anglia FLIRT UK EDMUs and the Glasgow METRO EMUs).