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The Wirral Line is one of the two commuter lines operated by Merseyrail on Merseyside, Englandmarker, the other being the Northern Line (the Merseyrail City Line is not owned or operated by Merseyrail). It connects Liverpoolmarker with the Wirral Peninsulamarker, with branches to New Brightonmarker, West Kirbymarker, Chestermarker and Ellesmere Portmarker. In the centre of Liverpool, it operates a circular service in a single-track tunnel built in the 1970s, known as the Loop. The line is allocated the colour green on maps of the Merseyrail system.

History

The Wirral Line is based on the former Wirral Railway and the Mersey Railway, whose tunnel under the River Merseymarker between Liverpool and Birkenheadmarker opened in 1886. Originally, the Mersey Railway ran from James Street station in Liverpool to Hamilton Squaremarker station in Birkenhead, after which was a flat junction, from where there were two branches: one heading south to Green Lanemarker (extended to Rock Ferrymarker in 1891) and one heading west to Birkenhead Park stationmarker (opened in 1888). In 1892 the line was extended from James Street to Liverpool Centralmarker station.

The Wirral Railway ran from Birkenhead Park to West Kirbymarker, with a branch from Birkenhead Northmarker to New Brightonmarker. These also form part of the Wirral Line, as does the former Chester and Birkenhead Railway from Rock Ferry to Chestermarker. There is also a branch from Hootonmarker to Ellesmere Portmarker.

The Loop in central Liverpool was constructed in the 1970s, opening in 1977. From a new platform at James Street station, it runs in a deep-level tube to Moorfieldsmarker, then to Lime Streetmarker and a new deep-level platform at Liverpool Centralmarker. (The original Mersey Railway platforms are now used by the Northern Line). From there it returns to James Street, rejoining the Mersey Railway tunnel just before the station.

Conway Park stationmarker on the West Kirby/New Brighton branch was added in 1998.

Electrification

The Wirral Line is electrified using a 750V DC third rail. The Mersey Railway was electrified in 1903, making it the first railway in the world to become entirely electrified. The former Wirral Railway, by then part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, was electrified in 1938, so by the opening of the Loop in 1977, there were three electrified destinations: New Brightonmarker, West Kirbymarker and Rock Ferrymarker. Electrification south to Hootonmarker followed in 1985, which was extended to Chestermarker in 1993 and finally to Ellesmere Portmarker in 1994.

Following the electrification of the former Wirral Railway, in 1938 the LMS introduced new trains with air-operated sliding doors. These electric multiple units were eventually designated as British Rail Class 503. Further similar units were built in 1956 to replace the former Mersey Railway carriages. The entire Class 503 stock was replaced by Class 508 - originally built in the late 1970s for services from London Waterloomarker - as well as the almost identical Class 507 (built to replace the Class 502 stock used on the Liverpoolmarker-Southportmarker/Ormskirkmarker lines).

Services

During Monday to Saturday, trains run every 15 minutes from Liverpool to each of New Brighton, West Kirby and Hooton. From Hooton, trains continue every 30 minutes to each of Chester and Ellesmere Port. This gives a service every five minutes under the River Mersey and around the Loop. On Sundays, trains run every 30 minutes from Liverpool to each of the four termini.

Interchange with the Northern Line is available at Liverpool Central and Moorfields, and the City Line at Lime Street. Arriva Trains Wales operate services from Bidstonmarker along the Borderlands Line to Wrexham Centralmarker. Various proposals over the years have suggested the electrification of part or all of this route and incorporating it into the Wirral Line and also electrifying beyond Ellesmere Port through to Helsbymarker.

Interchange is available with other National Rail services at Liverpool Lime Streetmarker and Chestermarker. There is also a limited connecting service from Ellesmere Portmarker.

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