Commuters will have to endure six months of misery next year while engineers upgrade ageing rail tracks.
There will be no trains at all between Wirral and Liverpool for six weeks from January in the first phase of ‘essential’ work, with all trains starting and ending at Birkenhead North and Central.
Passengers face rail replacement bus journeys between Wirral and Liverpool stations from Tuesday, January 3 until Sunday, February 12.
More than a kilometre of track needs to be replaced or fixed on Merseyrail's city centre loop underground between James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street and Central Station.
Some of the tunnels date back more than 150 years.
Network Rail is investing £340m in the city region’s railways, with the tracks on the loop to be upgraded for the first time since the 1970s.
The second phase of work will see Wirral line trains run to James Street but no further on weekdays between Monday, February 13 and Monday, May 29.
But trains will still only go as far as Birkenhead Central and North stations at weekends during the 15-week second phase, other than during major events like Easter, bank holidays and Aintree.
The third and final phase of work will again see no trains at all between Liverpool and Wirral for 20 days, with trains starting and finishing at Birkenhead stations from Tuesday, May 30 to Sunday, June 18.
The upgrades means passengers who use Moorfields, Lime Street and Liverpool Central stations face having no Wirral line services for the full six-month period.
Rail replacement buses between Wirral and Liverpool will be in operation throughout the works.
Northern line services will be unaffected, and will call at Moorfields and Liverpool Central as normal.
Stephen Towley, Network Rail’s scheme programme manager, said: “This work is essential to maintain the safety and reliability of the network.
“Replacing the track and undertaking other maintenance can only be done when we can safely access the railway – which unfortunately means closing the railway to trains.
“Like the original 19th century pioneers, working conditions 40m underground are still hostile, and mean that lighting, water, ventilation and a supply of compressed air all need to be installed before work can begin.
“We have worked closely with Merseyrail and Merseytravel to plan the work to cause the least amount of disruption possible.”