Chaos as Wirral Line closes for upgrade

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

Home » Chaos as Wirral Line closes for upgrade

Published: 21st October 2016

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


Rail travellers who normally use the Wirral Loop Line are set to face six months of Mersey misery as the route closes in January 2017 for an upgrade.

The concrete bed on which the track is laid needs replacing, along with the track itself, and it will take until June 2017 for it to be fully operational again.

At the outset of the engineering works, there will be six weeks of complete closure of the cross-river route, starting on January 3rd and meaning there will be no ‘happy new year’ for regular rail users.

Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool and chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, says the renewal work is “necessary to keep the network running and safe”.

“Whilst it will be disruptive for passengers, there is a strong alternative transport option available to ensure people can still get around as they would do normally,” he added.

Despite these alternative options, businesses are being told to consider the provisions they may need to put in place to support not just their employees, but also their customers.

Merseyrail are urging commuters not to immediately default to driving by car at peak times, amid fears that the extra strain on the road network – and especially on the Mersey Tunnels – could lead to stationary traffic.

During the work, some rail and concrete beds that have remained relatively untouched since they were first laid in the 1970s will be upgraded or replaced, along with sections of rail beneath the river.

Months of planning have gone into the work between Merseyrail, Merseytravel and Network Rail, and the hope is that the alternative travel arrangements put in place will ensure businesses along the route are able to remain open for business throughout the six months.

Buses account for the bulk of the alternative travel options, including ‘express’ rail replacement buses that will ‘load and go’ without delay during peak times, and provide return travel regularly from early morning to late evening.

Rail tickets may also be used on the standard loop bus service 10A, while the 14 cross-river bus routes that link Liverpool with Chester and Wirral will be strengthened for the engineering period.

Cyclists however cannot be accommodated on rail replacement buses – leaving them to ferry across the Mersey on one of the three services per hour, at a crossing time of about ten minutes.

It is not just rail travellers who are being warned ahead of the works though, as Merseyrail concede that other travellers in the region are likely to be affected by the work, and by the increased use of buses and ferries, especially at peak times.

The advice is unremitting about the prospect of more people deciding to drive: “Don’t take the car, use public transport. The Mersey Tunnels and surrounding routes can accommodate additional buses but they will not be able to cope with an increase in cars, especially at peak times. Congestion will increase journey times for everyone.”

Terry Strickland, area director for Network Rail, added: “The Wirral Line track renewal is part of a £340 million investment in the railway of the Liverpool City Region. After more than 40 years it is time to renew track on the loop line and river bed to maintain the safety and reliability of the network.

“Meanwhile underground, we will also be undertaking maintenance jobs that will help boost the resilience of the network, limiting the need for further disruption in the future. We are supporting the work of Merseytravel and Merseyrail to keep the city region moving during this time and thank passengers in advance for their patience during the works.”

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