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07.11.14

Electrification not going fast enough so more diesels needed, say TOCs

Northern Rail boss Alex Hynes has said the Pacers on his network have “got to go” but that the north’s rail network needs more diesel stock because of the slow pace of electrification.

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Speaking at RTM’s High Speed 2 The Northern Hub Dinner last night, Hynes said: “When I talk about creating a network that’s HS2-ready, I’m talking about capacity and the quality of rolling stock. Both of those issues will start to be addressed in February when we start operating four-car electric trains beneath the wires between Liverpool and Manchester. That will free up diesels which we can use elsewhere on our network to operate more services and longer services. So we’re on with that: but there needs to be a lot more of it.

“But electrification is not moving fast enough or far enough to enable us to rely on that as a solution, so we need more diesel trains.

“Pacers were launched by British Rail for a particular purpose and they have had a good life , but we probably shouldn’t be using them for peak commuting into Leeds and Manchester. They’ve got to go.”

895 Pacer, Class 144. c. Alvey and Towers

Hynes has previously expressed his deep disappointment that Network Rail’s electrification of Manchester to Liverpool has been delayed until at least February, meaning the original plan to launch new refurbished electric Class 319s this Christmas had to be scrapped. Those trains are currently being refurbished at Wolverton and Allerton, and driver training is ongoing. They previously operated Thameslink services. 

Hynes’ comments on electrification and rolling stock were backed up by Nick Donovan, managing director at First TransPennine Express, who was also speaking on the panel.

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Donovan said: “We are in a very difficult short-term crunch position in terms of rolling stock across all the UK. That crunch sits right across the north of England at the moment. So electrification will come, all the rolling stock cascades will come, but we have to find solutions that will deliver more capacity in the short term. We also need to sustain the capacity that’s already in place across the network.”

Hynes also said operators should be involved at an earlier stage of infrastructure projects. He said: “One of the things we do not get right currently is that we plan the infrastructure, and worry about the services and the train later. We still haven’t decided [as an industry] how we’re going to use the capacity released by Northern Hub and the trains to operate it. That’s something the operator, or the future operator, has to be involved with.”

More from the Q&A panel session, and the dinner, in the next edition of RTM. Photography: Alvey & Towers

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