The new £500m Merseyrail train fleet for the Liverpool City Region in England is set to enter service as soon as 23 of this month, after its drivers agreed on terms.

Negotiations with the drivers, represented by the ASLEF union, were said to be final roadblock to the trains’ launch.

Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram called the development a “massive milestone”, stating it will bring rail travel into the 21st century.

These publicly-owned trains forms part of Rotheram’s plans for a London style transport system.

“This is a massive moment not just for our region, but for the entire country, as we prepare to launch the UK’s first publicly owned trains in decades into service, putting the ‘public’ back into public transport,” he said.

Built by Swiss rolling stock manufacturer Stadler, the trains underwent trials in Germany in October 2019.

However, the pandemic impact, along with discussions with trade unions and a factory flood have delayed the launch of these trains.

Rotheram noted: “Throughout this process, all parties have worked diligently to ensure that passengers can enjoy our new trains as soon as possible. We’ve worked with the trade unions and train operator to help deliver a fair deal for everyone, one that protects jobs, enhances the role of a second safety critical member of staff on every train and provides passengers with value for money.”

“Unlike the Government’s approach nationally, we’ve shown that there is a better way to handle these matters – and it’s by getting everyone around the table and working together in good faith.”

The new trains will incorporate sliding step technology, free phone charging and Wi-Fi, with more space for bikes and wheelchairs 

The trains will be rolled out in a phased manner, with the first train to operate on the Kirkby line.

This will be followed by the Ormskirk line, with launch of the trains across the Northern and Wirral lines expected later in 2023.