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Upgraded Pacers for use past 2020 on track for April launch

Porterbrook is moving forward with plans to upgrade Pacers for use beyond 2020, with a ‘Class 144e’ prototype expected to be up and running by April.

The first train to be converted into the new Class 144 Evolution line was delivered to Derby’s Rail Vehicle Engineering Ltd (RVEL), which is carrying out the work for Porterbrook, in January. The interior has been stripped and Porterbrook told RTM that they are in the process of fitting the Universal Access Toilet and passenger information system.

The changes include an improved exterior and an upgraded and revitalised interior design and layout.

Received wisdom previously held that it would be unviably expensive for the Pacers to be converted to meet PRM TSI requirements (the European standard on disability access), which are mandatory from 2020. But Porterbrook has been keen to show that such a conversion is possible.

The toilet is to be re-located to the driving end, allowing it to be made a universal access toilet. It will have a new Controlled Emission Toilet (CET) tank with sufficient capacity to allow three to four days of operation before emptying.


Two new wheelchair spaces and emergency call buttons will be added and adjustments to the door well area will allow a standard single piece wheelchair ramp to be used.

The interior will be refurbished in tonal blues and the overhead luggage racks removed. LED lighting, new seat shells and grab handles will also be installed.

A combined large luggage stack and bicycle storage will be fitted, and Poterbrook is also adding information display screens and wi-fi. The cabs will also have forward-facing CCTV to capture trackside events.

The new design will have a seated capacity of 78, while standing area will be increased to 25.5 metres squared.

The project is said to be costing Porterbrook £800,000 but it is expected that the full Class 144e specification will cost about £175,000 per vehicle, or £350,000 for a two-car unit.


In January RTM interviewed Adrian Shooter, the mind behind the Vivarail D-Train, a likely competitor to the Class 144e.

The ex-London Underground stock being bought up for potential use on Northern routes and on under-served branch lines is being re-engineered so extensively that it will be “effectively a new train”, according to Shooter.

Both plans are now focused on getting their first prototype units up and running in the next few months. Competition appears to be heating up to provide a short term diesel alternative while waiting for electrification.

(Image source: Alvey and Towers)

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


Rupert Le Bere   23/02/2015 at 19:05

Is this an early April Fool stunt or are you just trying to scare us. They can do what they like to the interior of these trucks (sic) but short of throwing away the wheelsets and replacing them with bogies, all Porterbrook will achieve in doing is prolonging passenger (sorry - customer) agony. The only acceptable PACER is a stationary one.

David Faircloth   23/02/2015 at 23:26

About 18 months or so ago, I travelled on a class 143 'Pacer' in Devon, 142 'Pacers' from York to Harrogate and back and between Meadowhall and Sheffield, class 150s,153s, 156s, 158s, 'Meidians', Mk IIIs at various locations throughout the network, and on a 'Javelin' between Stratford and St Pancras; both versions of Pacer were far superior to the 'Javelin' - the hunting of the latter was atrocious, far worse than anything I have ever experienced on a Pacer, even on jointed track. Personally, I don't mind travelling on a "nodding donkey"; however, I believe the passenger ambience on a class 143 or 144 is far superior to a class 142, even when the latter class have been re-seated (I must admit I was surprised that the one I returned to York on from Harrogate still had its original bus seats - I thought all 'Pacers' had been reseated with higher backed ones, installed in a 2+2 layout). So if class 143/144 'Pacers' can be made suitable for life after 2020, then I think it is a sensible way forward until sufficient cascaded EMUs are available to replace them (and the many other DMUs which are starting to get a bit long in the tooth)

Ptd673s   26/02/2015 at 09:28

No, it's not an April fool stunt.

Ptd673s   26/02/2015 at 09:28

No, it's not an April fool stunt.

Neil Palmer   02/03/2015 at 07:21

Maybe if Porterbrook added a steering wheel and put rubber tires on them they could sell them back to bus companies.

Fred Whiting   01/05/2015 at 07:46

Maybe some clever suspension mods could be incorporated. Revised springs and dampers?

David Carlisle   28/05/2015 at 23:44

Common sense approach and the Pacer units are already proven with maintenance staff. The "Pacer Evolution" using the expertise of RVEL Derby looks an exciting concept and the far sensible option rather than the unknowns of converted LT D78 Stock to diesel electric power with unproven equipment.

Jon Story   22/10/2015 at 11:21

I don't care how pretty it is, the fact is that these things are basically paper mache and are simply not safe. They were only designed with a short lifespan (long since passed) and then after an accident they were meant to be removed from service. But apparently a lick of paint and a new toilet is enough for us Northerners, while Billions are spent on Crossrail 2....

Andrew Campuzano   11/12/2015 at 22:19

Just get rid, these are the worst trains every build and they should all be scrapped. The day when they scrap the last pacer I will be jumping for joy. Having to ride on these on the Chester to Manchester line is torture.

Andy   08/05/2016 at 12:37

I live next to the line on the outskirts of Barnsley in the Sheffield direction, we have 158's, 150's, 2×153, 142's and 144's all day everyday......the pacers noise on the line with rubbing flanges is extremely excessive to the point it wakes my son up later in the evening , its ridiculous, they need to go

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