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17.10.14

Higher fares and pacer trains may be in store for the north under Labour

Labour may not be able to reverse the government’s controversial plans for pacer trains and higher fares in the north even if it wins the next general election, the shadow transport secretary has admitted.

Government ministers claim that local fares are higher in the south and have proposed to wipe out the difference by raising ticket prices on cheaper northern routes.

However northern transport bosses say that the difference is justified due to lower incomes in the region and the older trains passengers must use.

According to reports in the Northern Echo Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said she couldn’t condemn the move as those decisions are made on the advice of civil servants, which she is not party to.

But she added that if Labour’s plans to devolve decision making to local transport authorities went ahead halting the process may not be impossible.

Earlier this year the Department for Transport announced that the 30-year-old Pacer trains – which have been condemned as “cattle trucks” – would be ‘modernised’ rather than replaced, as originally planned, as part of awarding the new contract for local northern services in 2016.

Creagh said that this would be difficult to change quickly, as it takes six to seven years from planning to delivery to get new trains and planning time has been lost due to the franchise arrangements being pushed pack.

She said: “I don’t want to upgrade the Pacers – I’m not sure you can. They’re not disability compliant. However, they have the enormous advantage that they exist – unlike better trains for the future that don’t exist yet.”

When contacted to confirm what was said, the Labour party instead stressed how they would reform the railways. These plans include:

  • Creating a new guiding mind to oversee and plan for the railways. Bringing Network Rail and passenger rail services closer together;
  • Reforming the franchising system better to meet the needs of passengers and communities and devolving regional and local services to encourage economic growth;
  • Legislating to allow a not for profit public sector operator to take on rail lines;
  • Tackling the monopoly market for rail rolling stock (trains).

In December the specifications for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises are due to be published, which could include the potential fare hikes and retaining of Pacers.

Northern transport leaders have warned that if these provisions are included it will be seven to nine years before any of the hoped for improvements can be made.

(Image: c. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Nonsuchmike   17/10/2014 at 15:29

As a matter of interest, how long does it take to build one five or six car modern electric, diesel or bi-mode train? From the above, and other "noises off" that have been made by this current administration, one would assume a minimum of two years. This cannot be right, can it?

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