‘There’s nothing’ - calls for late night Merseyrail and bus services intensify

Wirral residents are paying up to £60 to travel home at night and others have to leave gigs and bars early.
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People have voiced their frustration at having to cut their nights short and high taxi fares due to a lack of public transport at night in Merseyside.

After it was reported the Liverpool City Region will “monitor the possibility” of introducing night trains and other late night options, many people are backing calls for the extra services, or, see a return of the night bus that once took people from Liverpool to the Wirral in the early hours of the morning.

Late night services were temporarily brought in to deal with the huge crowds at the Eurovision Song Contest but usually buses and trains stop just before midnight. For those on the Wirral in particular, this means tunnel tolls and other factors can drive up the price of taxis to sometimes £60 or more.

However, a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority spokesperson previously said that ‘the overall demand for late night services is still at a level which would not justify any significant changes to the timetable.’

Travelling at night: People living outside of Liverpool have voiced a number of concerns about the lack of public transport available at night, with some even saying they had ‘essentially been stranded in Liverpool because taxis were unavailable.’

Travelling home after a night out in the city has become even more troublesome for Wirral residents, with 18-months of nighttime closures of the Birkenhead Tunnel meaning detours to the Wallasey Tunnel are adding extra money to taxi fares.

Tales of travel woe

Archie Wood, from New Brighton, says that although there are many different transport options to get from Wirral to Liverpool during the day, at night ‘there’s nothing’. He said: “There have been so many times when I have had no other option but to pay over £20 on a taxi just to get home alone. Many taxi drivers refuse to go onto the Wirral as most of their potential customers will be in Liverpool, which makes it even harder.”

Archie said bringing back public transport at night would make things safer for people, travel cheaper, and reduce emissions, adding: “Whenever I’ve been in Liverpool at night it’s chaos on Hanover or Ranelagh Street, especially because people are drunk and more likely to get hurt.

One of the new Merseyrail Trains.Image: MerseytravelOne of the new Merseyrail Trains.Image: Merseytravel
One of the new Merseyrail Trains.Image: Merseytravel

“It also makes going out in Liverpool from the Wirral extremely expensive. It would give the nighttime scene in Liverpool a massive economic bonus by making it easier to get back home.”

Due to Birkenhead Tunnel closures, Archie’s Uber ride once ended up being over £60, which was ‘easily twice the amount’ spent on drinks with their friend.

Colin Ebbrell, 56, said he would definitely go out in Liverpool more often and stay later if services ran later. He lives near Prenton Park on the Wirral but on Sundays goes to the Grapes on Roscoe Street in Liverpool for the jazz night there. As the night finishes at 1am, he has to miss the second half to run back for the bus or catch the last train.

He said: “I’m not a particular jazz aficionado but Sundays in the Little Grapes are ace. It’s not just that. I might be on the last train from Manchester on a Saturday and can’t get across the river. I can spend ages on Trainline trying to get discounted rail tickets only to be stung for £30 to get the extra four miles.”

He added: “Why can’t they run the buses on the weekend until 2am? I can get a train from St Albans in Hertfordshire to London all through the night but not catch one from James Street to Hamilton Square.”

The Ship & Mitre pub stands looking over the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel.The Ship & Mitre pub stands looking over the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel.
The Ship & Mitre pub stands looking over the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel.

Matthew Robinson, who lives in Kirkby, said his nights are often cut short too. He said: “The bus takes a ridiculous amount of time into town from Kirkby, so when the trains fail as they have been or they aren’t running, it’s either an expensive cab or a nearly 2 hour bus journey.

“I think a night train would be extremely beneficial for us in Kirkby. More often than not I’ll come home from a night out due to the time of the last train to avoid the cab fare otherwise half the money you spend ends up on a cab.”

What taxi drivers think of the proposals: Caroline Pettersson, a black cab driver for 17 years on the Wirral thinks bringing in night trains or even the night bus would be “fantastic.”

She added: “The idea of night trains would be great for me because I could drop people off at the station and pick people up from Hamilton Square. We lost a lot of that business when they took away the subsidies for the buses.

“I feel for the people that the buses have stopped now. Different companies tried to run it but without the subsidy it was obviously a non-starter for them. I don’t see the taxi industry as being against tunnel buses and night trains. We had that before and we actually lost trade when we lost them.”

As for the huge fares, she explains the difficulty Liverpool black cab drivers face is they can’t pick up anyone until they’re back in Liverpool. This means a taxi taking someone to Heswall has to factor in the cost and time of driving back to town without a passenger.

Missing out on job opportunities: It’s not just nights out that are affected by the lack of nighttime services. Rachel, 18 from Liscard, said: “The biggest thing though is the amount of jobs I can’t apply for. Bar work, clubs, restaurants. This is because the majority of my wage would be going towards taxi fares. I only live less than 3 miles away from the city centre in Liscard and it costs me around £20 to £25 in a private hire.”

Given additional funding would be needed for any night services to be brought in, any plans are a long way off from becoming reality so what do people think would be a good first step?

First steps: Archie said: “I think making trains and buses run slightly later beyond midnight than they do would be a good way to ease into it or potentially making roads like Hanover Street bus or taxi only past a certain time. With people stumbling into roads, taxis parking on the pavement and heavy traffic, it’s really dangerous.”

People told the LDRS they wanted to see a trial done at the weekends to see what demand would be like and to do a feasibility study on whether night buses or trains could work.

Others wanted to just see current services made safer, cheaper and more reliable first or night services brought in for similar big events to Eurovision.

Tom Donnelly-Sutton grew up on the Wirral but has since moved away. He thinks fare capping once tap in tap out is introduced on Merseyrail services would be a good start in improving transport. He added: “The Mersey shouldn’t be the barrier it is. We should be what Salford is to Manchester if the transport links were there. We’ve got the infrastructure, so it should be possible to get a train or bus late on back over the water.

“This might encourage people to remain local, spend more on nights out if they aren’t having to worry about transport, and most importantly, boost Birkenhead’s viability as a nighttime economy destination with the planned regeneration of the town.”