The Wirral Line reopens later this month – but rail commuters travelling to and from Liverpool are being warned there will be long queues at James Street Station.
The Liverpool city centre loop line has been totally closed since January 3, meaning no trains could run to or from Wirral, for a six-month upgrade.
It has caused inconvenience for commuters from the Chester and Ellesmere Port areas, though rail bosses have led a charm offensive by handing out snacks such as bacon butties to those using the rail replacement buses.
Now Network Rail, Merseyrail and Merseytravel say the work, which has seen engineers replace the ageing concrete-based tracks in the loop line and the tracks below the river, is on schedule, meaning weekday direct trains between James Street station and Wirral can start again from Monday, February 13.
But the transport bodies says the first week may 'present challenges' for passengers as just one James Street platform will be open.
Merseytravel says: “At busy times, there are likely to be long queues at James St, but we will endeavour to keep these moving as quickly as possible.”
From the following week, starting Monday, February 20, both platforms at James Street will be open again.
Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, said: “I hope passengers will welcome the fact that during this longer, middle phase of work, it will be possible to get a train directly to and from the centre of Liverpool, and experience from phase 1 shows that customers used their nous and adapted quickly to the changes.
“We do recognise that phase two will take a bit of getting used to, and rest assured we will have plenty of staff on-hand to help and guide people, with particular focus on James Street station.”
From February 13 to Monday May 29, all Wirral line trains will start and terminate at James Street station from Monday to Friday.
At weekends, all services will start and terminate at Birkenhead North and Birkenhead Central Stations. Rail replacement buses will run between Wirral and city centre stops.
But there will be 'special arrangements' for weekends over the Grand National Festival, Easter and the May Bank Holidays, with trains starting and terminating at James Street.
From Tuesday, May 30 until Sunday, June 18, the Wirral line will be completely closed for the final stage of repair work. As now, passengers will need to rely on replacement buses or alternative transport all week.
Merseytravel today issued advice for travellers looking to use James Street Station from Monday, February 13 to Friday, February 17.
* It says: “At busy times, there are likely to be long queues at James St, but we will endeavour to keep these moving as quickly as possible.”
* Assisted Travel: “All Wirral line trains will start and terminate at James Street Platform 2, which can only be accessed by stairs. If you require assisted travel, please contact Merseyrail’s Customer Relations Team to arrange alternative cross-river transport and to ensure staff are at either end of your journey to help.”
* Bikes: “Because of the limited platform space at James St, we will not be able to accept bikes in the morning and evening peaks between Hamilton Square and James St. Passenger with bikes are being asked to use the bike bus and Mersey Ferries to cross the river at these times.”
* New Brighton & West Kirby lines: “To prevent overcrowding at James Street station while only one platform is available, passengers travelling to Liverpool from New Brighton or West Kirby will have to change trains at Hamilton Square between 4pm and 6pm, Monday to Friday.”
For full information, visit the Merseyrail track renewal website here .