Bradford rail passengers 'livid' as Ministers dump pledge to scrap hated ‘Pacer’ trains

A pacer operating a service between Bradford Interchange and Leeds

A pacer operating a service between Bradford Interchange and Leeds

First published in News
Last updated
Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by

MINISTERS have dumped a flagship pledge to scrap the district’s hated ‘Pacer’ trains, to the fury of passenger groups.

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

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

Passengers have long protested that Pacers are noisy, cold, uncomfortable, dirty and prone to break down, while lacking modern facilities.

Yet they are used on the Caldervale Line between Bradford and Manchester and, sometimes, as short-term substitutes for modern units on the Airedale Line, between Bradford, Shipley and Skipton.

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.

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

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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.”

Moreover, big fare hikes are – controversially - being considered on Northern Rail routes with the justification that passengers will be enjoying better, more comfortable services in the future.

And, to add to the political headache, Chancellor George Osborne has made transforming Northern trains a personal priority, as a vote-winner for next year’s general election.

James Vasey, chairman of the Bradford Rail Users Group, said: “I think passengers will be livid when they hear this.

“Pacers are noisy, uncomfortable, overcrowded and the ride quality is terrible – people get buffeted from pillar to post.

“They would be spending an awful lot of money on making these trains complaint for disabled people, but disabled people still won’t want to use them.”

Brought in as a stop-gap – way back in the mid-1980s – Pacers consist of a bus body mounted on a freight wagon chassis, with a diesel engine slung underneath.

Because they fit so poorly to the track, with slow acceleration and a need to brake early for station stops, delays are all-too common in autumn and winter.

Northern Rail has accepted they need replacing, but warned a new train would cost about six times as much as a Pacer in leasing charges.

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

In a statement, a DfT spokesman said: “The Pacer trains have served the railway well, but 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 (19)

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8:31am Mon 25 Aug 14

Davyb16 says...

The less Northern pay in lease fees the more money for their shareholders it makes economic sense for them to do this. Unfortunately it's the travelling public and the train crews who have to put up with this situation. As long as the service is run Northern have fulfilled their part of the franchise. The loacal Passenger Transport Executives should be stipulating when rolling stock should be replaced and if not reduce the amount of subsidy that they pay to the train operator, then perhaps things would happen to improve the rolling stock.
The less Northern pay in lease fees the more money for their shareholders it makes economic sense for them to do this. Unfortunately it's the travelling public and the train crews who have to put up with this situation. As long as the service is run Northern have fulfilled their part of the franchise. The loacal Passenger Transport Executives should be stipulating when rolling stock should be replaced and if not reduce the amount of subsidy that they pay to the train operator, then perhaps things would happen to improve the rolling stock. Davyb16
  • Score: 37

8:31am Mon 25 Aug 14

llos25 says...

You never believe a politician to keep heir word.
You never believe a politician to keep heir word. llos25
  • Score: 24

9:06am Mon 25 Aug 14

Grumpygirl says...

This is a Tory Government doing what it does best and breaking its promises so that their rich friends can make even more money. They are doing with the same with the NHS, a service they promised not to privatise.
This is a Tory Government doing what it does best and breaking its promises so that their rich friends can make even more money. They are doing with the same with the NHS, a service they promised not to privatise. Grumpygirl
  • Score: 30

9:21am Mon 25 Aug 14

mad matt says...

Anybody who believes anything that politicians promise is an IDIOT !
Anybody who believes anything that politicians promise is an IDIOT ! mad matt
  • Score: 27

10:08am Mon 25 Aug 14

gj6ygj says...

Our son-in-law works for Bombardier in London, he just can't believe that these units were removed from down there a long time ago (as unfit for further service), but are still being used up here, how many years have Northern Rail been having extra on to fare rises to "PAY FOR NEW TRAINS", but yet never buying any??
Our son-in-law works for Bombardier in London, he just can't believe that these units were removed from down there a long time ago (as unfit for further service), but are still being used up here, how many years have Northern Rail been having extra on to fare rises to "PAY FOR NEW TRAINS", but yet never buying any?? gj6ygj
  • Score: 33

11:17am Mon 25 Aug 14

pcmanners says...

As a privatised company Northern Rail's only duty is to maximise shareholder value. Passenger comfort should not take precedence over profit. If passengers don't like the carriages they can take their custom elsewhere. Market forces will then force Northern Rail to modernise, but until that day the Board would be foolish to waste money on new trains.
As a privatised company Northern Rail's only duty is to maximise shareholder value. Passenger comfort should not take precedence over profit. If passengers don't like the carriages they can take their custom elsewhere. Market forces will then force Northern Rail to modernise, but until that day the Board would be foolish to waste money on new trains. pcmanners
  • Score: -18

11:37am Mon 25 Aug 14

Count Jim Moriarty says...

pcmanners wrote:
As a privatised company Northern Rail's only duty is to maximise shareholder value. Passenger comfort should not take precedence over profit. If passengers don't like the carriages they can take their custom elsewhere. Market forces will then force Northern Rail to modernise, but until that day the Board would be foolish to waste money on new trains.
There speaks the caring, considerate Tory party. Maximise profit and stuff everybody else. A perfect example of why the railways need to be re-nationalised. It's the only way there will ever be a decent service with affordable fares.
[quote][p][bold]pcmanners[/bold] wrote: As a privatised company Northern Rail's only duty is to maximise shareholder value. Passenger comfort should not take precedence over profit. If passengers don't like the carriages they can take their custom elsewhere. Market forces will then force Northern Rail to modernise, but until that day the Board would be foolish to waste money on new trains.[/p][/quote]There speaks the caring, considerate Tory party. Maximise profit and stuff everybody else. A perfect example of why the railways need to be re-nationalised. It's the only way there will ever be a decent service with affordable fares. Count Jim Moriarty
  • Score: 28

3:07pm Mon 25 Aug 14

genius1991 says...

If anyone was caught in Leeds on Monday/Tuesday when the Shipley line was down and was forced to take this train to Bradford interchange to get home - you'll know why they HAVE to be scrapped. I haven't had a strange woman stood that close to my face since I ended up on a night out in Halifax by sheer (bad) luck a few months ago.
If anyone was caught in Leeds on Monday/Tuesday when the Shipley line was down and was forced to take this train to Bradford interchange to get home - you'll know why they HAVE to be scrapped. I haven't had a strange woman stood that close to my face since I ended up on a night out in Halifax by sheer (bad) luck a few months ago. genius1991
  • Score: 11

3:28pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Reality50 says...

Until we have a separate Northern Parliament just like Wales and Scotland have,we will always get the crumbs. Northern Parliament YES,English Parliament based in London NO thanks.
Until we have a separate Northern Parliament just like Wales and Scotland have,we will always get the crumbs. Northern Parliament YES,English Parliament based in London NO thanks. Reality50
  • Score: 11

3:32pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Reality50 says...

I am no Tory but people have short memories. Public transport in the North was just as bad between 1997 and 2010 under a Labour government. Both major parties are as bad as each other on transport policy. UKIP too have nothing positive to say on public transport and are very pro car,the Greens and Lib Dems are stuck in the past on the issue as well. There are no political parties out there with a clear positive vision for public transport north of Watford.
I am no Tory but people have short memories. Public transport in the North was just as bad between 1997 and 2010 under a Labour government. Both major parties are as bad as each other on transport policy. UKIP too have nothing positive to say on public transport and are very pro car,the Greens and Lib Dems are stuck in the past on the issue as well. There are no political parties out there with a clear positive vision for public transport north of Watford. Reality50
  • Score: 5

4:35pm Mon 25 Aug 14

llos25 says...

But the conservatives promised with a pledge to get rid of this scrap.A positive move which they have gone back on.
But the conservatives promised with a pledge to get rid of this scrap.A positive move which they have gone back on. llos25
  • Score: 7

5:06pm Mon 25 Aug 14

AAA.Happy.Man says...

But LONDON must come 1st, 2nd and 3rd for all expenditure
Is it any wonder that the Scots want their country back?
But LONDON must come 1st, 2nd and 3rd for all expenditure Is it any wonder that the Scots want their country back? AAA.Happy.Man
  • Score: 9

6:03pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Class_War says...

Re-Nationalize and run as not-for-profit providing a free service. It's ridiculous that we're expected to pay for public transport in this day & age after all the wealth this country has generated from our labour over the past 500 years. All transport & communications, plus power & water should be free.
Re-Nationalize and run as not-for-profit providing a free service. It's ridiculous that we're expected to pay for public transport in this day & age after all the wealth this country has generated from our labour over the past 500 years. All transport & communications, plus power & water should be free. Class_War
  • Score: 5

6:44pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Alhaurinrhino says...

Class_War wrote:
Re-Nationalize and run as not-for-profit providing a free service. It's ridiculous that we're expected to pay for public transport in this day & age after all the wealth this country has generated from our labour over the past 500 years. All transport & communications, plus power & water should be free.
In your case they are, we taxpayers provide you with everything.
[quote][p][bold]Class_War[/bold] wrote: Re-Nationalize and run as not-for-profit providing a free service. It's ridiculous that we're expected to pay for public transport in this day & age after all the wealth this country has generated from our labour over the past 500 years. All transport & communications, plus power & water should be free.[/p][/quote]In your case they are, we taxpayers provide you with everything. Alhaurinrhino
  • Score: -9

7:34pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Davyb16 says...

As we all know England does not exist North of Watford Gap! The investment in the railway in the North doesn't exist apart from the Aire/Wharfedale valleys. They have the most modern units in the Northern franchise and they still complain. When they get one of the older units they stick their noses in the air and whine like no bodies business instead of supporting the rest of the area. I have witnessed this first hand on both services to Ilkley and Skipton. It's a case of I'm alright Jack.
The new franchise in 2016 is heading for shorter manning of manned stations, which means no assistance with enquiries or assistance with getting value for money. The next thing is the guard/conductor off the train as in driver only operated! So raising the possibility of assaults and robbery on services especially late evening on quieter trains all for the profits of the share holder. The upshot of this is at present these people pay tax and national insurance, if they are made redundant they then no longer pay into the system but instead have to take from the system. Surely the government want people in employment but this would appear not. The franchisee makes more profit at the cost of its former employees.
As we all know England does not exist North of Watford Gap! The investment in the railway in the North doesn't exist apart from the Aire/Wharfedale valleys. They have the most modern units in the Northern franchise and they still complain. When they get one of the older units they stick their noses in the air and whine like no bodies business instead of supporting the rest of the area. I have witnessed this first hand on both services to Ilkley and Skipton. It's a case of I'm alright Jack. The new franchise in 2016 is heading for shorter manning of manned stations, which means no assistance with enquiries or assistance with getting value for money. The next thing is the guard/conductor off the train as in driver only operated! So raising the possibility of assaults and robbery on services especially late evening on quieter trains all for the profits of the share holder. The upshot of this is at present these people pay tax and national insurance, if they are made redundant they then no longer pay into the system but instead have to take from the system. Surely the government want people in employment but this would appear not. The franchisee makes more profit at the cost of its former employees. Davyb16
  • Score: 4

2:01pm Tue 26 Aug 14

basil fawlty says...

It is no surorise that Bradford is once again the big loser when it comes to transport investment. But I would also not be surprised if this is a government tactic and they subsequently do a u-turn to give Bradford something as compensation for not electifying the Leeds-Bradford-Halif
ax-Manchester route.
It is no surorise that Bradford is once again the big loser when it comes to transport investment. But I would also not be surprised if this is a government tactic and they subsequently do a u-turn to give Bradford something as compensation for not electifying the Leeds-Bradford-Halif ax-Manchester route. basil fawlty
  • Score: 0

2:49am Wed 27 Aug 14

First1 says...

gj6ygj wrote:
Our son-in-law works for Bombardier in London, he just can't believe that these units were removed from down there a long time ago (as unfit for further service), but are still being used up here, how many years have Northern Rail been having extra on to fare rises to "PAY FOR NEW TRAINS", but yet never buying any??
I love the comment "my son works for bombardier in London and they was withdrawn down there years ago for being unfit for use"

1. Pacers have NEVER worked in London

2. Bombardier have nothing to do with pacers

3. Bradford have 333s units, one of the most modern trains on the network.
[quote][p][bold]gj6ygj[/bold] wrote: Our son-in-law works for Bombardier in London, he just can't believe that these units were removed from down there a long time ago (as unfit for further service), but are still being used up here, how many years have Northern Rail been having extra on to fare rises to "PAY FOR NEW TRAINS", but yet never buying any??[/p][/quote]I love the comment "my son works for bombardier in London and they was withdrawn down there years ago for being unfit for use" 1. Pacers have NEVER worked in London 2. Bombardier have nothing to do with pacers 3. Bradford have 333s units, one of the most modern trains on the network. First1
  • Score: 4

9:32am Wed 27 Aug 14

Pendolino390004 says...

Is there any wonder why us railway enthusiasts nickname them 'Nodding Donkeys'? They bounce around so much on the tracks that from the outside they look like a donkey's nodding head coming into the station!
Is there any wonder why us railway enthusiasts nickname them 'Nodding Donkeys'? They bounce around so much on the tracks that from the outside they look like a donkey's nodding head coming into the station! Pendolino390004
  • Score: 3

9:41am Wed 27 Aug 14

Pendolino390004 says...

basil fawlty wrote:
It is no surorise that Bradford is once again the big loser when it comes to transport investment. But I would also not be surprised if this is a government tactic and they subsequently do a u-turn to give Bradford something as compensation for not electifying the Leeds-Bradford-Halif

ax-Manchester route.
Not too long ago, the Airedale and Wharfedale lines through Bradford were given brand new shiny '333' electric units from Germany, which are essentially the same as the '332' units used on Heathrow Express services in London. In 2003 they were lengthened to four carriages and by mid-2009 all had been refurbished despite being only nine years old at the time. In fact, the '333s' are the newest trains in Northern's fleet today, so you can't say that we're always missing out on the luxury.
[quote][p][bold]basil fawlty[/bold] wrote: It is no surorise that Bradford is once again the big loser when it comes to transport investment. But I would also not be surprised if this is a government tactic and they subsequently do a u-turn to give Bradford something as compensation for not electifying the Leeds-Bradford-Halif ax-Manchester route.[/p][/quote]Not too long ago, the Airedale and Wharfedale lines through Bradford were given brand new shiny '333' electric units from Germany, which are essentially the same as the '332' units used on Heathrow Express services in London. In 2003 they were lengthened to four carriages and by mid-2009 all had been refurbished despite being only nine years old at the time. In fact, the '333s' are the newest trains in Northern's fleet today, so you can't say that we're always missing out on the luxury. Pendolino390004
  • Score: 0

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