LIVERPOOL is to get a direct, three-times-a-day train service to Glasgow. Fast trains from Lime Street to Manchester are to be doubled and people living in St Helens and Huyton are to get stepped up services on a par with Merseyrail.

The moves are part of a raft of wide ranging improvements for Mersey train passengers in the Northern and TransPennine Express franchise awards which are announced today.

The deal will see people travelling to and from the Liverpool City Region, and within it, benefiting from more and better quality rail services. Connections between the northern cities will be more frequent and there will be improved services between Southport and Manchester, including more evening services.

The direct service between Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow will avoid the need for travellers to change at Wigan or Preston.

The franchises have been awarded by DfT. For the first time the specifications for bidders to meet were drawn up jointly by DfT and Rail North – a consortium of the 29 transport authority areas in the North, including Merseytravel – to ensure that they best reflect local need and support economic growth.

A key factor for Merseytravel was ensuring that people using the City line, such as those living in places like St Helens, Huyton and Newton-le-Willows benefit from similar service standards to those who have access to the Merseyrail network, including improved evening and Sunday services.

Key points

  • Direct services to Scotland. A new direct TransPennine Express service –  three services a day – from Lime St to Glasgow,  removing the need to change at Preston or Wigan. In addition, an hourly direct TransPennine Express service to Edinburgh (via Newcastle). There will be St Helens stops en route.

  • Improved connections between the Northern cities, with a commitment to four fast services an hour (TransPennine Express & Northern)  between Lime Street and Manchester and two per hour between Liverpool, Leeds and York (TransPennine Express), as well as more services to Preston (Northern & TransPennine Express).

  • Improved evening and Sunday services on the City Line, benefitting people living in places such as in Huyton and St Helens.

  • Improved services between Southport and Manchester, including more evening services. A new hourly (Northern) service from Southport right through to Leeds or Bradford via Manchester, opening up the town to a new market, helping support and grow the economy.

  • An early Northern service from Lime St to Manchester Airport (arriving no later than 0445).

  • Daily services to Manchester Airport via both Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Central.

  • Over 500 new-build carriages will be introduced across both franchises, across the North, with Pacer units withdrawn by 2020.

  • Longer trains and more frequent services  providing space for nearly 13,000 more passengers – around 26 pc more capacity – into Manchester and Liverpool during the morning rush hour; plus longer, newer trains serving Bolton.

  • A new high-quality ‘Northern Connect’ service, meaning new or refurbished trains on longer-distance services, faster journeys and stations staffed daily with catering services and free Wi-Fi at each one. As well as serving Liverpool and Manchester, this network will also serve other destinations including Blackpool North, Lancaster, Barrow, Chester, Windermere, Huyton, Carlisle and Warrington.

  • Brand new electric trains on services from Manchester to Preston and Blackpool once electrification is complete.

  • New late evening services on the Todmorden Curve from Manchester Victoria to Blackburn via Burnley and Accrington.

  • New direct service from Chester to Leeds.

  • More services  and space on the Cumbrian Coast line, with timetable improvements to benefit workers at Sellafield and Whitehaven.

  • Improved ticketing, including mobile and print-at-home tickets, and discounted fares for jobseekers.

Said Cllr Liam Robinson, chairman of both Merseytravel and Rail North: “This is a big step forward , not only in better connecting the Liverpool City Region to other cities to make the most of employment and leisure opportunities to support economic growth,  but also in driving up standards for people who live locally.

 “I have always been conscious that the City Region’s rail network is in two halves and the standards people enjoy can vary greatly depending on postcode.  This isn’t acceptable.

“The Merseyrail network is managed locally and scores consistently highly for reliability and customer satisfaction, while the City Line is part of the national rail network and standards lag behind. 

People will benefit from some additions and changes to service from December 2017 when the timetable changes, which have to be scheduled well in advance and agreed nationally, will first be able to reflect the services outlined in the successful bids.

It is likely to be December 2019 before services that require new rolling stock to operate them will be added to the timetables.