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Major track improvements for safer and more reliable journeys.

The final phase of the renewal of the 40-year old concrete base of the rail track that runs around the Wirral loop line, and connects Wirral and Liverpool, took place between January and June 2017.

Network Rail also made the most of the opportunity to carry out other work, including replacing conventional track under the riverbed.


The work needed to be done to keep the network safe and reliable. The work will also help get the network ready for new state-of-the-art Merseyrail trains which will come into operation on the network from 2020. You can find out more here


The six months of work (3rd January-12th February) involved periods of full closure during which there were no cross-river rail services, with high quality rail replacement bus services in their place. There were also periods where rail services were able to run cross-river as far as James St in Liverpool City Centre, including Bank Holidays and some weekends, to best service high profile events.


This was a challenging project as the work was carried out in the narrow tunnels 40m underground. The Liverpool City Region is one of only four in Britain that has an underground rail network, meaning that the work was highly specialised needing the right equipment and people. Engineers worked day and night to get it done as quickly as possible.

  • A total 1.2km length of concrete track slab – the seven most challenging sections on the ‘loop’ –was replaced for the first time since the loop was opened in the 1970s.
  • Just over one kilometre of traditional ballasted track was replaced under the riverbed as well as other maintenance jobs being carried out, such as the repair of broken sleepers, work to realign track and renewal work to switches and crossings which the Merseyrail trains use to switch lines.
  • 140 wagon loads of concrete was used as well as nearly six and a half kilometres of cabling for lighting, power and water.
  • The only access point for work vehicles was from Wirral so all vehicles had nearly a 10 kilometre round trip underground to reach the work site.

Network Rail, Merseyrail and Merseytravel, worked over many months, with local authorities, operators and other partners, to produce a plan for these works that balanced the need to get essential and complex work done with the need to keep people moving and the City Region ‘open for business’.

A high level marketing and communication plan raised awareness of the project and key travel options and advice. The key advice was to leave cars at home and stick to public transport where possible by using the express, high quality rail replacement bus services (with WiFi and USB charging points), or other public transport, to keep the Mersey Tunnels and surrounding routes moving.

By following the travel advice and planning their journeys, passengers, businesses and partners all played their part keep the whole transport network and the City Region moving during the six months.

In a poll conducted by consumer watchdog, Transport Focus, just before it started, awareness of the work was at 84% (compared with a similar project affecting Bath Spa, which scored 67%).

There were also positive results in a customer survey carried out by Merseytravel after the completion of Phase 1 including:

  • 80% of people asked agreed that the information provided enabled them to make informed choices about how they travelled.
  • 73% rated the replacement buses good or very good.