\r\nContracts are due to be signed next year and assembly will be carried out at Stadler Rail plants in Switzerland. Deliveries will begin in mid-2019 with the fleet entering passenger service from 2020-2021.\r\nThe articulated 750V dc third-rail trains will replace Merseyrail\u2019s fleet of 59 class 507\/508 EMUs, which date from 1978-1980.\r\nAt 65m in length the Stadler trains will be 3m longer than the EMUs currently used on the Merseyrail network.\r\nWhile the existing trains\u2019 performance has improved by 50% since Merseyrail took over the concession in 2003, modern trains are expected to provide a much higher level of availability. Combined with improved journey times, Merseyrail says it will be able to provide the same level of service with seven fewer trains.\r\nThe trains will also be lighter at 99 tonnes, compared with 105 tonnes for a class 507 and each set will accommodate up to 486 passengers. \r\nMerseytravel says direct ownership of the trains significantly reduces the financing costs and provide access highly competitive finance opportunities.\r\nWith the arrival of the new train fleet Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) will be introduced on the Merseyrail network. The Merseytravel Committee put forward a motion at its meeting on December 15 to guarantee continued employment for guards, some of whom are expected to accept new onboard customer service positions. This means staff will still be on hand to assist passengers at key locations and times.