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Osborne confirms Pacer replacement, not just ‘modernisation’

The DfT’s surprising suggestion in August that ageing and widely-hated Pacer stock serving north of England routes might be “modernised” instead of replaced has apparently been overturned in the Autumn Statement.

Chancellor George Osborne told the Commons: “I can confirm today that we will tender for new franchises for Northern Rail and the TransPennine Express – replacing the ancient and unpopular Pacer carriages with new and modern trains.”

The wording of the official Autumn Statement itself is slightly less confident, saying merely that the government will “encourage bidders to replace the outdated Pacer trains with modern, better quality trains”.

It had long been assumed that the Pacers, originally a stopgap solution and never intended to serve the sorts of routes they do today, would have to be replaced because of the difficulties and costs of getting them compliant with modern disability access rules.

The DfT said earlier this year it expected that replacing the Pacers would be a condition of the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises – but then appeared to go back on that in August when it said franchisees could look at ‘modernising’ them instead.

The Invitations to Tender (ITTs) for the two franchises have been delayed and will now not be given to each set of three shortlisted bidders until next year. Reports suggest this may be because of uncertainties at the DfT about the best way to handle the current TPE franchise extension, and the delays in Network Rail's infrastructure and electrification upgrades in the region. The negotiations over the Pacer replacement may also be a factor.

Porterbrook has had a plan in place for how to upgrade its own Class 143/144 Pacers, which it showed to DfT officials in more detail recently, though Angel Trains has not made public any such plans if it has them.

Porterbrook says: “The expected modifications are: Seat back handles – New design required with wider grip; Priority seats – some fitted at refurbishing but more required; Second wheelchair space required (both spaces to be near toilet); Call for aid buttons to be fitted in toilet and wheelchair spaces; Door sounders – required in all external door control panels; Universal Toilet to be fitted (assuming service requires the facility); Passenger Information System to be fitted.

“It is an obvious concern that providing these facilities would result in an unacceptable loss of seating however an innovative proposal has been made to optimise the interior layout for the new facilities. It is proposed to fit a new gangway which will be suitable for wheelchair use, opening out the inner-end of the vehicle and providing a common circulating area between the two doors. This arrangement means the toilet can remain in the same place with wheelchair spaces in the adjacent vehicle and exterior doors accessible on both sides.”

Speaking at RTM’s High Speed 2 The Northern Hub Dinner last month, Northern Rail boss Alex Hynes said: “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.”

Pacers also remain in service on some First Great Western and Arriva Trains Wales routes.

Osborne’s announcement has been welcomed by campaigners and politicians in the north.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Mikeyb   03/12/2014 at 15:32

It is good news that George Osborne is now promising new trains for the North of England. We can only hope that he does mean "straight-from-the-factory" trains and not merely more cast-offs from elsewhere. With regard to Pacers, I know that I'll get shot down in flames by many correspondents when I say that some should be kept and modernised. My reason for saying this is because, with their excellent windows which give all-round vision, they would be ideal for use on various scenic routes. In fact, I would rather travel in Pacers than those abysmally cramped Class 150s, which be withdrawn as soon as possible.

Tim   03/12/2014 at 15:53

You've got a point there Mikey. As long as they're never again used for commuter / suburban or inter-city services, I'm happy! Reading Porterbrook's brochure about them, linked to above, you'd think they were the best thing since sliced bread...but what it boils down to is: they're cheap to run + sod passenger comfort!

Crinkle   03/12/2014 at 19:53

Soooooo, are the SW losing their poocers too? haha poocer

Kevin J   03/12/2014 at 20:09

Good riddance to the tin-worm infested 142's but id rather see the back of the similarly constructed designed by a dwarf 155 which I find much inferior to the 144 three car pacers which on straight track are fine. I wonder how that leaves the people who have or were purchasing some ex LT D stock for fitting of Ford Puma (Fords) transit engines. To me the wrong train and defiantly the wrong engine for this app. Better to hang a couple of Cummins under a class 313 or similar. That would be the true go anywhere train (diesel/ 25KV/ 3rd rail). Aluminium so not too rusty too. Kev

Matthew Read   03/12/2014 at 22:25

The Pacers have always been unpopular the oldest one are more than 30 years old and look very decrepit and on the whole they are rubbish trains the sooner they are gone the better

Andy   03/12/2014 at 23:11

The pacers are a shambles. They are the most dated, cramped, uncomfortable trains I have used in living memory. The fact these trains are still being used on busy commuter lines into Manchester and Leeds is nothing short of a disgrace. They were originally a stop gap and never meant to be used on the sort of routes they now find themselves on, or indeed for going on 30 years. I wonder what they will be replaced with and how one this will take, their is little demand for this sort of diesel unit these days it would seem.

Greyoldgrumpy   04/12/2014 at 01:35

All well and good to talk about new DMUs, but can someone please tell me where suitable diesel engines are coming from? As I understand it, currently there aren't any diesels suitable for placing beneath the floor of a demu available - there aren't any which meet current EU and US emission standards and fit within the space envelope available. So after the general election, we'll probaly get a message from government saying something like "don't blame us - we tried to replace the Pacers but those nasty people at Porterbrook etc wouldn't play ball." I understand it would be ok to build a new DMU with engines recovered from the Pacers though; emmission rules relate to the procurement of new engines, and there aren't any reasons why a good old EE 12CSVT can't carry on belching out exhaust fumes indefinitely.

Ray   10/01/2015 at 11:02

All the pacers should be immediately transferred to serve routes out of Waterloo or London Victoria so that commuters in the South can see what they are like. Boris Johnson has recently been campaigning at a Pub in Colne-bet he didn't travel from Preston by train(Pacer)?

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