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 England . U.K.

Liverpool Merseyrail Map © Robert Schwandl



Liverpool was once the world's second and the the UK's largest seaport. The City was also a major manufacturing hub and thrived with the industrial revolution. Since World War II the decline of industries and shipping adversely affected the City causing its population to drop from 850,000 in 1940 to 450,000 today. However, the metropolitan area has seen its population increase to 1.5 million inhabitants.

Liverpool is currently served by a metro-like system, Merseyrail, which is a service similar to the S-Bahn systems in many German cities or Australia's Sydney and Melbourne rail systems. Merseyrail contains three separate lines, two of which (Northern and Wirral Lines) are electrified and separate from all other rail traffic and travel in tunnels beneath central Liverpool. These lines also offer frequent (5 minute interval in central Liverpool off-peak) making it comparable to a metro. These two lines combined are often referred to as the Merseyrail Electrics or the Merseyrail Underground. The third line, the City Line utilizes diesel services that connect to neighbouring Manchester and do not utilize the underground portions of the Merseyrail network and cannot be considered a metro-like line.

Liverpool, however did have a true metro system. The congestion at the Liverpool docks led to the construction of an elevated metro system, the Liverpool Overhead Railway (LOR). The LOR was the world's fourth oldest metro and the first elevated system in Europe. The LOR was eventually abandoned in 1956 and subsequently torn down in 1957. To find out more about the LOR click here.

Merseyrail was created by combining several older electric train lines with new central city tunnels and newly built or electrified lines. The system included the Mersey Railway who built one of the world's first underwater railway tunnels (1886), which traversed the River Mersey. This railway was originally steam powered, but the underwater tunnel became filled with smoke leading to a most unpleasant ride. Originally the line went from James Street in Liverpool to Green Lane in Birkenhead. Throughout the 1800s the Mersey Railway was extended both in Birkenhead and in Liverpool, where the tunnel was extended from James Street to Central Station, Liverpool. In 1903 the line was electrified using a third rail in order to make the trip beneath the Mersey more tolerable for riders.

Apart from the Mersey Railway the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway was also electrifying its suburban routes to the north of Liverpool. The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway also electrified using a third rail system that was compatible with the Liverpool Overhead Railway and some reciprocal services were run between the two systems.

After 1938 when branches to West Kirby & New Brighton were electrified and through routed onto the Mersey Railway into Liverpool the electrified urban/suburban rail network of Liverpool saw no expansions until the 1970s. In the 60s plans were drawn up to create Merseyrail, using the existing and new electrified routes, a new cross-town tunnel and a reconstructed Mersey Railway tunnel under central Liverpool.

Between 1972 and 1977 the old Mersey Railway's tunnel was converted into a new single track circle line with trains operating in a clockwise direction. In 1978 a new north-south tunnel was opened connecting to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway's electrified lines and was extended south over an abandoned railway, which was reactivated and electrified. The former Mersey Railway became the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail system and the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway became the Northern Line.

Merseyrail is no longer part of the National Rail system, but is administered by Liverpool's Public Transport Executive, MerseyTravel. This arrangement was made possible because Merseyrail is a completely segregated rail network.

The total length of the system is 120 km of standard gauge railway electrified with 750V third rail and contains 67 stations. In 2023, a 1-station extension opened in Kirkby (Headbolt Lane) on the railway route to Wigan, which is served in battery mode with the new Stadler trains.


Liverpool Merseyrail Liverpool Merseyrail Liverpool Merseyrail Liverpool Merseyrail Liverpool Merseyrail Liverpool MerseyrailLiverpool Merseyrail Liverpool Merseyrail


1886: Mersey Railway Tunnel opens from Green Lane - James Street
1888: Branch to Birkenhead Park opened
1891: Green Lane Branch extended from Green Lane - Rock Ferry
1892: Downtown Liverpool Tunnel extended to Central Station
1903: Entire Mersey Railway electrified
1904: Liverpool - Southport electrified on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway
1906: Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway's branch to Aintree electrified
1913: Electrification on the Lanacashre & Yorkshire Railway extended to Ormskirk
1938: West Kirby & New Brighton branches electrified with through service via the Mersey Railway Tunnel

1972-1977: Modification of the Mersey Railway Tunnel to form the downtown loop for Merseyrail Underground
1978: Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway's line is tunnelled across downtown Liverpool for Merseyrail Underground
1978: Extension Central - Garston (now Liverpool South Parkway)
1983: Extension Garston - Hunts Cross
1985: Electrification and inclusion into Merseyrail of Rock Ferry - Hooton
1993: Electrification and inclusion into Merseyrail of Hooton - Chester
1994: Electrification and inclusion into Merseyrail of Hooton - Ellesmere Port
1995: Eastham Rake station added
1998: Brunswick and Conway Park stations added

18 June 2018: Maghull North station added
05 Oct 2023: Kirkby - Headbolt Lane (1.3 km, non-electrified)

 Older Photos
Birkenhead Central © Robert Schwandl Liverpool Central © Robert Schwandl Kirkdale © Robert Schwandl Lime Street © Robert Schwandl Moorfields © Robert Schwandl West Kirby © Robert Schwandl

Tram Atlas Britain & IrelandRobert Schwandl:


Birmingham, Blackpool, Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, London (Croydon) & Sheffield
+ London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, Tyne-and-Wear Metro, Liverpool Merseyrail & Glasgow Subway + Tram Museums

Numerous colour images, detailed network maps, Text deutsch/English, ISBN 978 3 936573 45 9, Nov. 2015, EUR 19.50

More info

Robert Schwandl: METROS IN BRITAIN. Underground & Light Rail Networks in the U.K. - March 2006, ISBN 3936573123 More info

Maund, T B: Merseyrail Electrics: The Inside Story. - 96 pages, Ian Allen Publishing

Maund, T B: The Birkenhead Railway, (LMS and GW Joint). - 2001, 102 pages, Railway Correspondence and Travel Society; ISBN 0901115878


MerseyTravel (Official Site)

Merseyrail (Official Site)

Merseyrail at Wikipedia

Liverpool Overhead Railway at UrbanRail.Net



2004 © UrbanRail.Net by Robert Schwandl.