Forty years of the Merseyrail Underground

Posted by Robert Hampton on 2nd May 2017 at 8:52 pm

On 2nd May 1977 the Merseyrail underground opened to the public. The first departure was the 6.05am service from Liverpool Central to Southport. Passengers, including Ralph Jackson in this photo from the Science and Society Picture Library were presented with a commemorative certificate of their journey.

Merseyrail publicity showing the loop and link lines and the slogan Right to the Heart of the City

On that first day, only the Northern Line to Moorfields and Central was in service. The Wirral loop opened a week later, but initially only served James Street and Central in the city centre, as the Wirral Line platforms at Moorfields and Lime Street were not ready. They opened later in 1977.

Black and White photo of Moorfields railway station with a class 503 unit

Photo by Peter Whatley, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Original)

The following years saw the network extended, starting with the reopening of the former CLC route to Garston and Hunts Cross. Then electrification was extended on the Wirral side, first to Hooton, then onwards to Chester and Ellesmere Port.

Sadly, some of the proposed schemes (such as the Gateacre line, the Wapping Tunnel and the Outer Loop) never came to fruition, but Merseyrail can nevertheless be considered a success story of which the city region can be proud.

A large crowd alights from a class 502 electric
Photo via Paul Gorton – original

Another part of the Merseyrail project was of course the replacement of the old LMS-built rolling stock with the class 507 and 508 units. Fortunately – thanks to the efforts of Steamport Southport, the Northwest Friends of the NRM, and now the Friends of the 502 Group – an example of the much-loved class 502 trains survives. Meanwhile, our friends over at the Suburban Electric Railway Association are taking care of the Wirral class 503 unit.

The network continues to be developed, with a new station at Maghull North due to be completed by next year, and it looks like the long-held ambition of a station in Skelmersdale may soon be realised. There is also the controversial matter of the new trains, due to enter service from 2020.

All these developments ensure that Merseyrail will continue to play a vital role in the region’s economy, bringing thousands of people every day, right to the heart of the city. Here’s to the next 40 years.

Moorfields Station 2nd May 2017

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