Dec 27 2007 by Alan Weston, Liverpool Daily Post

THE new head of Merseyside’s train service last night pledged a major overhaul of Liverpool’s ageing Loop Line underground stations.

The £32m Liverpool South Parkway station, one of the most modern in Europe, is being seen as the benchmark for how the stations could look.

The improvement programme is one of the first major projects to be undertaken by Merseyrail’s new managing director Bart Schmeink, 39, who took over from his predecessor, Patrick Verwer, in November.

Mr Schmeink said the station revamp was the logical follow-on to the refurbishment of Mersey-rail’s entire fleet of trains in 2004, which brought them all up to a uniform standard.

He said he would draw on his knowledge of station upgrades in his native Netherlands, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, for those in Liverpool.

He is also seeking the assistance of other partners, such as the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, for help with improvements to the quality of life around the stations.

Mr Schmeink said: “City centre stations and station environments are a problem.

“There is not the same consistency in station quality across the network. Station facilities are one area where passengers want us to do better.

“The four city centre stations are a priority – that’s where most people go through, and where most people are affected by the quality of the stations.”

Such improvements are regarded as essential if Mersey-rail is to carry on the momen-tum gained since it was known as “Miseryrail,” and to cope with future increases in passenger numbers.

The area outside James Street is already in the process of being upgraded. The latest phase will see the environment of Liverpool Central, Lime Street, and Moor-fields underground stations being given a makeover.

In the case of the busiest station, Liverpool Central, Merseyrail is seeking ways to expand passenger capacity from around 35,000 a day to 50,000.

Merseyrail stress that changes would be made only to the “look and feel” of the stations, in order to minimise disruption to passengers.

Mr Schmeink added: “We are looking to other organisations, such as the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, to help improve the wider surroundings.

“The detail is really important. Just the basics won’t be enough in a couple of years’ time. We have to provide additional services, and a safe, clean environment. Liverpool South Parkway is how future stations should look like. .”

The changes are part of the wider transformation of the area, with work about to start on the £160m Central Village development on land adjacent to the station.