Tuesday, 18 August 2020

End of the line nearing for Merseyrail's 508s and 507s

On Sunday 16th of August, a pair of Merseyrail class 508s left Birkenhead North depot for the last time. The units were hauled by a class 57 operated by Rail Operations Group over the Wrexham-Bidston line, then on to Craven Arms, there they would remain overnight before being taken to Newport docks, where they are to be scrapped.

The scrapping of Merseyrail's fleet of class 508 and 507 units has been on the cards for some time, as they are to be replaced by new class 777 units built by Stadler. However, 110 and 134 have been retired much earlier than their classmates and months before the expected introduction of the first class 777.

It appears 110 and 134 had reached their mileage limit and were in need of an overhaul, therefore with new units on the way it wasn't deemed cost-effective to keep them in service. Space at Metseyrail's Birkenhead North and Kirkdale depots will also start to become limited as more class 777s arrive. 6 have arrived so far and are being stabled at the recently rebuilt Kirkdale depot. There is space for overnight stabling at some stations for 508/7s, but it is likely that depot space will still start to become constrained soon.

  
508 115 at Liverpool Lime Street

It is however unlikely that we will see more 508 or 507s being sent off-lease just yet, at least not until the first class 777s begin to enter service later this year. Before Covid-19, 52 class 508/7s were required to be in service each day. With 110 and 134 now sent for scrap, that leaves a total of 57 class 508s and 507s remaining in service. With the fleet approaching 40 years old it can be assumed that a number of the units will be out of service for maintenance or repair at any given time. 134 hadn't been used since January 2020, however 110 was in service as recently as Wednesday the 12th of August. 

507 003 at Chester Station

Merseyrail has ordered just 52 class 777s, with only 50 being required each day. This reduction in the requirement will be achieved through the speeding up of the timetable, which will reduce the number of diagrams. The new units should also be much more reliable and therefore fewer will be out of service each day for maintenance or repairs. Merseyrail does have the option to purchase a further 60 units, but this is on the basis that services are extended in future to places such as Helsby, Skelmersdale or Wrexham. With extension dependant on the success of a battery trial and or further electrification. One class 777 is to be fitted with batteries and tested on the Merseyrail network, this will be to test the feasibility of future extensions without the need for costly electrification. 


 507 001 alongside a Network Rail measurement train at Hooton Station

I posted a video to Youtube of the move on Sunday night and was surprised by the number of people who were saying that they will be sad to see the 508/7s go. I assumed that people would be glad to see the old making way for the new, but thinking about it, it is easy to see why people may think fondly of the old class 508s and 507s. They have served the Merseyrail network well for almost 40 years, with Merseyrail as an operator regularly sitting at or near the top of National Rail Passenger Survey. The refurbishment carried out between 2002 to 2004 also means that the units still look fairly modern to this day, both inside and out.


However, their days are numbered, so if you want to experience a Merseyrail class 508 or 507 you probably have about 18 months left in which to do so, before they're all sent off for scrap.



In 2019 I wrote about how Merseyrail are adapting station platforms to provide step-free access once the new 777s enter services, find out more: Paving the way for new trains





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