Merseyrail’s first Class 777 bodyshell set for completion
The first Merseyrail Class 777 bodyshell is due for imminent completion in Szolnok, in Hungary.
The operator has 52 four-car electric multiple units on order from Stadler, in a deal worth £460 million. The bodyshells are being manufactured in Hungary before being moved to Altenrhein in Switzerland, where the trains will be assembled.
They are due to begin entering service in early 2020, to replace Merseyrail’s ageing Class 507 and ‘508’ fleet. They will be owned by local transport authority Merseytravel.
“We’re in good shape and in touching distance of the end of the design phase, and manufacturing the first bodyshell. The first train will then be assembled over the winter and will commence static testing in Switzerland in February,” Merseytravel’s Programme Director of Rolling Stock David Powell told RAIL.
“All dynamic testing will then take place on our own network once we take delivery of the first train next June, which will then enter service in Q1 2020.”
All 52 trains are expected to have entered service by Q1 2021, with a new timetable introduced in May or December 2021 once all the old units have been withdrawn.
A special ‘mock-up’ of one of the new train carriages and driving cab is currently on Merseyside, offering passengers a glimpse of what to expect. It includes actual working doors and a sliding step, to demonstrate the technology being implemented to make the trains fully accessible on a network that has a wide variety of platform heights.
It is currently at the Make.North Docks venue until October. It will then be moved to Pacific Road Business Hub in Birkenhead, and then the city’s main station at Lime Street in November.
Powell added: “We’re very pleased with the reaction. Things that have caught the eye include our platform-train interface model. People have also been surprised with how high and wide the interior of the carriage feels, and the ambience which is very difference from most other British suburban multiple units.
“It has 2+2 seating and includes airline seats with generous legroom. There are wider seats and a wider aisle, which have been created in our case through smarter design. The seats are firm but comfy, and have been tried out by people of all shapes and sizes.”