Trailblazing role of passengers in designing the Liverpool City Region’s new fleet of trains sets a new standard

25 February 2021

“What features would you like to see on your new trains?”

Transport Focus asked local people in the Liverpool City Region just that as part of a research exercise, commissioned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, that placed passengers at the heart of the decision-making process.

Rail users were invited to take part in the research to inform the design process for the new, state-of-the-art trains, in a move that’s been hailed as trailblazing for the UK rail industry.

The full report on passenger consultation, published today and available online, shows that the innovative approach ensured the new trains would be designed and built with the needs of local people in mind.

A diverse group of 40 passengers from across the City Region, supported by Merseytravel, operator Merseyrail and train manufacturer Stadler, took part in a series of focus groups to consider a wide variety of design options and features for the new trains.

Recruited to be the ‘passenger voice’ the group provided feedback on over 20 design aspects that made it into production, from the innovative sliding step technology – which provides level access for all customers – to the train’s livery and layout of the seats.

The 18-month research project was conducted both online and face-to face with interactive engagement sessions on board two life-size mock ups of a carriage.

The second full size mock up showcased many aspects of this work and went on public display at venues across the City Region, which was visited by over 10,000 people and attracted hugely positive feedback.

Here is what some of the focus group members had to say about their experience of co-designing the trains:

“I thought this was a fantastic project and I was very proud to be part of it.” Female, 55+, Commuter, user of the Wirral and Northern lines

“It was a great chance to be involved in something that impacts our daily lives.” Male, 26-34, Leisure, user of the Wirral and Northern lines

“The community aspect, the balance of online and face to face workshops worked well. Having the opportunity to be part of the process was fantastic.” Female, 35-54, Commuter, user of the Northern line

“Looking forward to stepping on the new trains!”  Male, 26-34, Leisure, user of the Wirral and Northern lines.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“There is no better way of getting a service that works for passengers than to ask them what they want.

Merseyrail passengers can take pride in knowing that these trains were created by and for them.

“More operators should look to include passengers throughout the design process of new trains.”

Cllr Liam Robinson, transport portfolio holder for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said:

“This publicly owned fleet has a wide range of state-of-the-art, customer focussed facilities and features, including pioneering sliding step technology and on board wi-fi, so passengers’ experience will be safe, inclusive, comfortable and smart.

“We asked Transport Focus to work with us on this research to seize the opportunity to directly involve our passengers and the results speak for themselves.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank our 40 passengers as their valuable insight directly influenced our customer focussed approach which is something we were committed to right from the start of this process.

“The fleet has been designed for passengers by passengers and we are immensely proud of this.”

Greg Suligowski, head of customer and stakeholder experience at Merseyrail, said:

“It was a pleasure to work with our passengers on the design of the train that will serve the needs of the people of the Liverpool City Region for years to come.

“Working with our partners at the Liverpool City Region, Transport Focus and Stadler we believe this innovative approach was incredibly useful in understanding what features our passengers wanted on board the new trains. From seating, to the design of the interior, to the livery of the train itself, the end product is a train that really reflects the needs and preferences of Merseyrail passengers”.



Notes to editors

DOWNLOAD REPORT: New trains for the Merseyrail network – What passengers want

The passenger research carried out by Transport Focus on behalf of Merseytravel took part in two phases. The first was in partnership with Merseytravel in 2013. The second phase, which is the subject of the report published today, began in 2017, with operator Merseyrail and Stadler, the trains manufacturer, joining the process.

Press office contact

For further information please contact: Misha MccGwire, communications officer, Tel: 0300 123 0836 or email:

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