Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram said he was “bucking the trend” as the UK’s first battery-powered passenger trains went into service in the region, the day after a Government decision to axe the northern leg of HS2.
The new Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby, Merseyside, opened on Thursday – the day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to scrap HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester.
The station, which cost £80 million and is fully accessible, will be the first to be served by Merseyrail’s publicly-owned, battery-powered trains.
Mr Rotheram, the metro mayor of the region, told the PA news agency: “We’re absolutely bucking the trend.
“Whilst the Prime Minister has been dithering about HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, we’ve been getting on and we’ve delivered this fantastic facility for the people in this area, people who have been crying out for a station here for over 50 years, and it’s ourselves that have delivered it.”
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) is initially installing seven trains with battery power, which will enable them to travel without the need for an electric third rail.
Other trains in the fleet of 53 new vehicles could be retrofitted with the technology, bosses say.
The train batteries are recharged using the electric third rail and, once beyond the electrified network, can be topped up by recycling kinetic energy generated when the train brakes.
The authority says the trains will use up to 80% less energy than diesel trains and new stations can be added to the line without the need for a third rail.
Mr Rotheram said it was part of a plan for the region to have a London-style integrated transport system that would see a shift away from the use of cars.
He said he wanted to work with the Government to improve services between Liverpool and Manchester as the first stage of a Northern Powerhouse Rail service across the north.
But he said that after speaking to Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Wednesday, he thought Government proposals to improve transport in the north were “jam tomorrow”.
The Labour mayor added: “We’ve always said that we’ll work with the Government of the day and if Mark Harper wants to come and see this fantastic facility – I have invited him – then he can come and take a look at what we’re doing.”
He said he would be looking at the detail of transport schemes announced by the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
“In the North we have a second-class system and we want a better network and that means we have to invest in it,” he said.
“If this was happening, what happens in the North, down south, then the Government would have acted.
“What they’ve done is scrapped HS2, which is the north-south link, but we’re really pushing ahead now and saying to the Government, work with us on these proposals for west-east connectivity.
“Liverpool to Manchester, Manchester to Leeds and then right the way across to Hull and we think this is really important for the future of the whole country.”