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Pacer trains in North may be ‘modernised’ rather than replaced – DfT

Rail commuters in the North of England could face further years of travelling on Pacer trains, which have been described as ‘cattle trucks’, following an apparent U-turn by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Earlier this year, the former rail minister Stephen Hammond told MPs “we expect to ask bidders for the Northern franchise to put forward proposals for the removal of Pacers from the area”.

However, a DfT spokesperson has said that the trains may now be ‘modernised’ rather than replaced, as part of awarding the new contract for the local lines in 2016.

He said: “The Pacer trains have served the railway well, but we recognise that they fall short of many passengers’ expectations. That is why we will specifically ask bidders for the franchise how they will replace or modernise these trains to give passengers a better experience.

“We will continue to take account of passenger views on a range of issues including the future of the Pacers as we develop the specifications for the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, which will be published later this year. No decision will be made without taking these views into account.”

In response to this, shadow industry minister Ian Wright has said he will demand answers in Parliament about when ageing rail carriages will be replaced on the line.

“If you travel on a train in the South East, you get modern facilities. In the North it’s like being in another country,” he said.

The Campaign for Better Transport said it was “ludicrous” to contemplate re-fitting the Pacers – especially when billions are being spent on new trains for the Thameslink and CrossRail routes, in London.

Rail Union RMT also slammed the government for “launching an ‘all-out war’ on rail in the north”.

 Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, said: “The ditching of the pledge to replace the “Pacer’s” as part of the new Northern Franchise shows clearly, that despite all the rhetoric from George Obsorne, this government is waging all-out war on rail passengers in the North.”

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


Tim   27/08/2014 at 17:18

Sloppy journalism, photo accompanying article is not a Pacer type train. How the government/leasing companies can even contemplate spending considerable sums of money on stock that is approaching 30 years old is a disgrace, these units appalling to travel on and should have been withdrawn years ago.

Paul   27/08/2014 at 21:29

"That is why we will specifically ask bidders for the franchise how they will replace or modernise these trains to give passengers a better experience". You can't polish a turd.

Mikeyb   28/08/2014 at 17:27

@Tim. I agree with your views on sloppiness - many media organisations use library pictures and will publish any picture of a train, hoping that the majority of readers will not notice. My local evening paper, Liverpool Echo, is notorious for using incorrect photographs to accompany articles. Recently, they carried a story on the electrification and other planned improvements to services out of Lime Street to Manchester and Wigan. The photograph used was of a Class 507 Merseyrail EMU. Another blunder was the story about the naming of the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by a photo of HMS Illustrious.

Spotter   29/08/2014 at 13:33

Nope you are wrong, the pic IS definitely a Pacer - there are vairous types but they all run on 4 wheel wagon chassis coupled in pairs

Nonsuchmike   29/08/2014 at 14:02

Oh! For goodness' sake get rid of the Pacers. They are an embarrassment to our rail system, our public "face" to visitors as well as to the regular commuters who have to be sardined in them on a daily basis. Replace them all next year through leasing; by all means keep them in reserve in case of emergencies - update them if you want to waste your money - but give people in the midlands and north the longer trains plus style of comfortable carriages we enjoy in the south. Then you will see passenger numbers really increase exponentially on local and cross country routes instead of creeping up scarcely in line with population increases as at present.

Robin Wickenden   29/08/2014 at 14:03

May I also add my voice on sloppy journalism. I really do wonder, at times, whether the publishers know anything about railways at all. Can I add to the list of errors mentioned above, the habit of using the word 'commuter' to mean 'railway passenger', and 'tube' to mean the entire London UndergrounD, to name but two? Moving on to Pacers, it's not only in the North that these ancient heaps seem to drag on and on; the West and South Wales also suffer from them. And, more widely, we seem, nowadays to be expected to tolerate what has become a total disregard of passenger comfort. Airline-style seating, even on long-distance express trains (and even in so-called first class accommodation), completely inadequate provision for luggage, the almost complete abolition of train catering (those useless trolleys carrying only snacks and junk food AREN'T catering!) seem nowadays to be regarded as an acceptable way to treat the fare-paying public. I notice that the much-vaunted Railway Industry Awards include no category at all for passenger facilities and experience - it's just completely overlooked now.

Peter Gordon   29/08/2014 at 14:39

One of the reason why the South East got the new trains was that they replaced slam door stock which was considered to be unsafe. A lot of trains in the SE also have cramped seating. Could you refurbish them with air conditioning etc? Maybe reduce the seat pitch. Given the relative level of overcrowding in the SE & much lower level of subsidy (and higher fares) per passenger you can understand why most of the investment goes down south. My solution would be new trains & to use the pacers during the peak only. Its also a question of cascading trains as the more lines are electrified. There is a fleet of 165 about to be displaced by Crossrail. I don't know if their 23m length is a problem but they could go up north. Where London (though maybe not the rest of the SE) leads is with buses. London has a newish fleet of low floor buses, comprehensive services and fares have decreased in real terms. If I were a Northern mayor I would be pressing for something to be done to improve bus services up north. P.S. Aren't the terms north & south a bit over-generalised? I've just come back from Scotland (further north?) & they seem to have smart trains.

Lesf   29/08/2014 at 15:16

Pacers may be coarse and unloved, but should we be throwing them away just when there's an urgent need for more stock? They could make it viable to reopen branch lines such as Wisbech and Fleetwood. Remove the toilets and use the space for luggage/bikes. Reduce the seating to 2+2 with wider gangways. Replace the wobbly folding doors with drawbridge ramps. And maybe add automatic train control and one-man operation.

John   30/08/2014 at 14:03

I agree, the truly horrid "Pacers" are an insult to the fare paying passengers!! Time for the scrap heap for them, along with the older "sprinter" type DMU's.

Tim   03/09/2014 at 02:34

Mr Spotter, when the article first came out, the accompanying picture was of a class158, it has subsequently been changed.

RTM   03/09/2014 at 09:09

The picture was replaced, apologies for the earlier error: a library issue. Mr Wickenden, 'the Tube' has long been a common and colloquial shorthand for the London Underground network, and in some news stories I see no problem with that widely-understood usage. In technical or specific articles, we are of course more particular with our terminology, and whether we are referring to the deep Tube lines, sub-surface lines, London Overground, and similarly with the various 'companies' involved: LUL, LOROL, Tube Lines Ltd, etc. We sometimes prioritise the word commuters in articles about fares and especially fare rises, not unreasonably. But the vast majority of our articles, whether news or technical, refer more generically to passengers. On Pacers more generally: we agree entirely. We're a Manchester-based company and some of our staff use them every day!

Scarpa   17/09/2014 at 11:22

Pacers also cause damage to railway lines running edge.Civil engineers would like them replaced.

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