Government U-turn on pledge to scrap hated 'cattle truck' Pacer trains

Government U-turn on pledge to scrap hated 'cattle truck' Pacer trains

LOCAL ENGINE: A Pacer train at Bishop Auckalnd station. Picture: ANDY LAMB (9602673)

LOCAL ENGINE: A Pacer train at Bishop Auckalnd station. Picture: ANDY LAMB (9602676)

LOCAL ENGINE: A Pacer train at Bishop Auckalnd station. Picture: ANDY LAMB (9602668)

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

MINISTERS have dumped a flagship pledge to scrap the North’s hated ‘Pacer’ trains, to the fury of MPs and passengers.

The decrepit 30-year-old vehicles – condemned as “cattle trucks” – were due to be replaced as part of a new contract to be introduced on local lines in 2016.

But the department for transport (DfT) has admitted to The Northern Echo that Pacers may be “modernised” instead, to keep them running for at least another decade.

Industry insiders say the U-turn is being considered because new trains may not all be ready for 2020, when the 90 remaining Pacers will fall foul of disability discrimination laws.

Furthermore, it is likely diesel trains will be “cascaded” down to Northern Rail routes after electrification schemes on other lines – schemes with uncertain completion dates.

The potential move is embarrassing for the Government, after it promised – in a Commons debate earlier this year – that Pacers would go.

Stephen Hammond, since replaced as rail minister, told MPs: “We expect to ask bidders for the Northern franchise to put forward proposals for the removal of Pacers from the area.”

The revelation comes after news that most rail fares across the country will rise by 3.5 per cent in January, with some soaring as much as 5.5 per cent - largely to fund better, more comfortable trains.

Labour MPs Iain Wright (Hartlepool) and Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) have led protests that Pacers are noisy, cold, uncomfortable, dirty and prone to break down, while lacking modern facilities.

Mr Wright said: “The Government is letting down the region again. If you travel on a train in the South-East, you get adequate seating, modern facilities and digital displays to show where you’re going.

“Here in the North-East, on the Pacer trains, it’s like being in another country."

Mr McDonald said: “Pacers are way beyond their shelf life and are not fit for purpose. No amount of refurbishment can change that.

"These outdated cattle trucks should be scrapped and replaced with rolling stock fit for the 21st century.”

Brought in as a stop-gap in the mid-1980s Pacers consist of a bus body mounted on a freight wagon chassis.

Northern Rail accepts they need replacing, but warned a new train will cost about six times as much in leasing charges.

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.

Andrew Allen, its policy analyst, said: “We want to see a firm timetable to see these old trains taken out of service before 2019 and the consultation doesn’t commit to that.”

In a statement, a DfT spokesman said: “We recognise that they fall short of many passengers’ expectations.”

However, he added: “We will specifically ask bidders for the franchise how they will replace, or modernise, these trains to give passengers a better experience.”

A three-strong shortlist was announced last week for the new Northern Rail franchise. The winner will be revealed late next year and the contract awarded in February 2016.

Comments (16)

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9:59am Mon 25 Aug 14

David Lacey says...

Yet another politically motivated article. This is work in progress. The Pacers MAY be modernised. Perhaps not. But can we expect that Labour will intervene and reverse a decision (when its made) should they win in 2015? Let's hear from someone in the party who has the power to speak. Their shadow Transport Minister for example.
Yet another politically motivated article. This is work in progress. The Pacers MAY be modernised. Perhaps not. But can we expect that Labour will intervene and reverse a decision (when its made) should they win in 2015? Let's hear from someone in the party who has the power to speak. Their shadow Transport Minister for example. David Lacey
  • Score: -22

11:23am Mon 25 Aug 14

Count Jim Moriarty says...

Another politically motivated comment from Mr. Lacey. You can always rely on him to parrot the government line, whatever somersaults and u-turns they perform, no matter how much they lie.
Another politically motivated comment from Mr. Lacey. You can always rely on him to parrot the government line, whatever somersaults and u-turns they perform, no matter how much they lie. Count Jim Moriarty
  • Score: 21

11:54am Mon 25 Aug 14

HH1954 says...

Try traveling "cattle class" from time to time Mr Lacey then perhaps your comments would be taken more seriously rather than supporting half truths and lies of a party that's about to come off the rails.
Try traveling "cattle class" from time to time Mr Lacey then perhaps your comments would be taken more seriously rather than supporting half truths and lies of a party that's about to come off the rails. HH1954
  • Score: 26

1:35pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Counterview says...

The electorate will decide in 2015. Why this article is deemed "politically motivated" escapes me. It is about a local issue. It is about a change of stance. That is newsworthy. It is called a U turn. We've all lost track of the U turns since 2010. However the number of U turns admitted so, remains static. - absolutely ZERO.

This is not a party political point - same with Labour as well. As I have said before duplicity and politics are inseparable bed partners.
The electorate will decide in 2015. Why this article is deemed "politically motivated" escapes me. It is about a local issue. It is about a change of stance. That is newsworthy. It is called a U turn. We've all lost track of the U turns since 2010. However the number of U turns admitted so, remains static. - absolutely ZERO. This is not a party political point - same with Labour as well. As I have said before duplicity and politics are inseparable bed partners. Counterview
  • Score: 8

3:43pm Mon 25 Aug 14

David Lacey says...

Of course it is a very thinly veiled attack on the Government. My question is perfectly valid. Let's hear the response of the other party.
Of course it is a very thinly veiled attack on the Government. My question is perfectly valid. Let's hear the response of the other party. David Lacey
  • Score: -17

3:47pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Voice-of-reality says...

As one who sometimes uses the Pacer trains before joining East Coast I find jounreys on them quite illuminating.
1. They are passed their best and backward looking
2. They tend to have seen better days
3. They reaffirm the importance of hardwork so that one does not have to use them
4. They lack the finesse of trains used in other parts of the country

All in all, they quite accurately reflect the political ideology of the majority of the region and encapsulate why it still fails to move forward. If they were also powered by coal - their mirroring of the dominant (but outdated) concerns of the north would surely be complete.
As one who sometimes uses the Pacer trains before joining East Coast I find jounreys on them quite illuminating. 1. They are passed their best and backward looking 2. They tend to have seen better days 3. They reaffirm the importance of hardwork so that one does not have to use them 4. They lack the finesse of trains used in other parts of the country All in all, they quite accurately reflect the political ideology of the majority of the region and encapsulate why it still fails to move forward. If they were also powered by coal - their mirroring of the dominant (but outdated) concerns of the north would surely be complete. Voice-of-reality
  • Score: -23

4:47pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Counterview says...

Voice of Reality. Why not move forward across the border into North Yorkshire? Still part of the region but much "nicer" ideology. There's even a vacancy coming up there that may be of interest. How can anyone move forward with U turns every few metres?
Voice of Reality. Why not move forward across the border into North Yorkshire? Still part of the region but much "nicer" ideology. There's even a vacancy coming up there that may be of interest. How can anyone move forward with U turns every few metres? Counterview
  • Score: 1

4:47pm Mon 25 Aug 14

theWorkerScum says...

I like them.
I like them. theWorkerScum
  • Score: 3

11:17pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Counterview says...

Voice of Reality. Your reference to "coal" is a touch ironic. The old steam hauled trains were 100 better than the current rattle traps.
Voice of Reality. Your reference to "coal" is a touch ironic. The old steam hauled trains were 100 better than the current rattle traps. Counterview
  • Score: 6

7:50am Tue 26 Aug 14

oliviaden6 says...

All i will say is for the moment there is a train service of sorts to cover this area, make no mistake if there is an opportunity to cut services these train companies will take it, yes the trains in my opinion are awful and need modernising and updating but it just won't happen in the short term.
All i will say is for the moment there is a train service of sorts to cover this area, make no mistake if there is an opportunity to cut services these train companies will take it, yes the trains in my opinion are awful and need modernising and updating but it just won't happen in the short term. oliviaden6
  • Score: 2

9:11am Tue 26 Aug 14

ferroequine says...

Again, the North and, in particular, the North East gets the mucky end of the stick. I am heartily sick of the South East, and in particular, London getting such a disproportionate share of transport investment. Can you imagine the outrage if Pacer trains were transferred to the South East?These trains may have served their purpose 30 years ago when they were first introduced on lightly loaded services but since then there has been a huge increase in rail travel and these trains are just not good enough for us. Time for some devolution for the North East!
Again, the North and, in particular, the North East gets the mucky end of the stick. I am heartily sick of the South East, and in particular, London getting such a disproportionate share of transport investment. Can you imagine the outrage if Pacer trains were transferred to the South East?These trains may have served their purpose 30 years ago when they were first introduced on lightly loaded services but since then there has been a huge increase in rail travel and these trains are just not good enough for us. Time for some devolution for the North East! ferroequine
  • Score: 10

9:59am Tue 26 Aug 14

JDPuss says...

The article makes a valid point but misses out just how much is spent in London and SE compared to ALL of the rest of the country, The Thameslink line is currently receiving its SECOND lot of new trains in the last 5 years and even they are seen as a stopgap until the THIRD lot of new ones arrives in 2017 ...meanwhile the oldest version of the thameslink units the 319s are being sent up North for our NEW electrification scheme - and they are not even being refurbished first !!!!
The article makes a valid point but misses out just how much is spent in London and SE compared to ALL of the rest of the country, The Thameslink line is currently receiving its SECOND lot of new trains in the last 5 years and even they are seen as a stopgap until the THIRD lot of new ones arrives in 2017 ...meanwhile the oldest version of the thameslink units the 319s are being sent up North for our NEW electrification scheme - and they are not even being refurbished first !!!! JDPuss
  • Score: 8

4:43pm Tue 26 Aug 14

mangad says...

One of the reasons the south east has new trains is because they replaced very old slam door stock which was a) life expired and b) didn't meet rules that passengers must not be able to open the doors away from stations. So yes, the south east got a lot of new trains because the old ones were not fit for purpose.

Thameslink is also getting new trains because the trains are being lengthened because of passenger demand. We're talking 12 car trains as routine for Thameslink. Waterloo services are moving to 10 car trains. And then there's all the other services.

Overall yes London gets a lot of money spent on public transport. Why? Because hundreds of thousands of people commute to the city every day and there's not enough road capacity and not enough parking spaces. 1% of people moving from train to car would cause gridlock on epic proportions. And the capital is growing massively in population all the time.

This is NOT to say that there should be spending outside of the South East. Of course there should. The Pacers are a wreck. Money should be found to solve this problem, but let's not think the South East is some transport utopia. Of the Top 10 most overcrowded trains in Britain, only one does not serve London. The most overcrowded train in 2012 was at 180% capacity. Almost double what it was designed for.
One of the reasons the south east has new trains is because they replaced very old slam door stock which was a) life expired and b) didn't meet rules that passengers must not be able to open the doors away from stations. So yes, the south east got a lot of new trains because the old ones were not fit for purpose. Thameslink is also getting new trains because the trains are being lengthened because of passenger demand. We're talking 12 car trains as routine for Thameslink. Waterloo services are moving to 10 car trains. And then there's all the other services. Overall yes London gets a lot of money spent on public transport. Why? Because hundreds of thousands of people commute to the city every day and there's not enough road capacity and not enough parking spaces. 1% of people moving from train to car would cause gridlock on epic proportions. And the capital is growing massively in population all the time. This is NOT to say that there should be spending outside of the South East. Of course there should. The Pacers are a wreck. Money should be found to solve this problem, but let's not think the South East is some transport utopia. Of the Top 10 most overcrowded trains in Britain, only one does not serve London. The most overcrowded train in 2012 was at 180% capacity. Almost double what it was designed for. mangad
  • Score: -2

5:33pm Tue 26 Aug 14

Counterview says...

Due to political dogma the railways were privatised years ago. Are we any better off for that? The answer seems to be an overwhelming NO. Too much "wealth creation" backed up with inadequate investment. The Thatcher legacy.
Due to political dogma the railways were privatised years ago. Are we any better off for that? The answer seems to be an overwhelming NO. Too much "wealth creation" backed up with inadequate investment. The Thatcher legacy. Counterview
  • Score: 1

8:15am Wed 27 Aug 14

cholmes005 says...

when are these awful trains going to be scrapped. They should have been scrapped years ago. Im sure they o had a shelf life o 20 years obviously meaning they're best. I was on one to morpeth yesterday an it was bumpy as hell and noisey but that was only a short journey. Could these short routes not be replaced with a single car train like the 153 they had a few year back which were better than 142's. what did happen to them? The south are always going to get better trains fro a few reasons like longer journeys (thamslink route is 2hour+) and more punters. Still we should have better than pacers which I also heard the cab could come off the chassis I a crash
when are these awful trains going to be scrapped. They should have been scrapped years ago. Im sure they o had a shelf life o 20 years obviously meaning they're best. I was on one to morpeth yesterday an it was bumpy as hell and noisey but that was only a short journey. Could these short routes not be replaced with a single car train like the 153 they had a few year back which were better than 142's. what did happen to them? The south are always going to get better trains fro a few reasons like longer journeys (thamslink route is 2hour+) and more punters. Still we should have better than pacers which I also heard the cab could come off the chassis I a crash cholmes005
  • Score: -1

10:33pm Wed 27 Aug 14

pilchrat says...

I suppose the question is does refurbishment mean a lick of paint, or actually some comfy seats and heating that works? Also, they are long overdue a deep clean; have you ever looked in the heating vents on the floor? More food, drink, and scut in there than I care to imagine. Yeuck. Also, a smattering of table seats and one or two power sockets might be nice too, if there's a refurbishment wish list.
I suppose the question is does refurbishment mean a lick of paint, or actually some comfy seats and heating that works? Also, they are long overdue a deep clean; have you ever looked in the heating vents on the floor? More food, drink, and scut in there than I care to imagine. Yeuck. Also, a smattering of table seats and one or two power sockets might be nice too, if there's a refurbishment wish list. pilchrat
  • Score: 1

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