Posted 27th February 2015 | 13 Comments

Northern, Transpennine Express details published

STORY UPDATED 09.28, 09.40

THE delayed Invitations to Tender for the Northern and TransPennine franchises have been published today, and they confirm that the unpopular Pacer fleets are to be withdrawn during the next contracts. But the RMT union condemned the plans as a 'pre-election stunt'.

The continuing presence of the small Pacer diesel units, which were based on bus bodies and built in the 1980s as cheaply as possible, had been a point of contention in the region for years.

The plans published by the Department for Transport also include at least 120 new vehicles. Meanwhile, Northern has been making progress with the upgrading of ex-Thameslink Class 319 units, and the first examples have now been unveiled. In all, up to 86 four-car Class 319s will be available for the newly-electrified routes in the North of England over the next three years.

Other features of the new ITTs include 200 more services a day, capacity increased by a third, the modernisation of every Northern train remaining in service, an investment of at least £30 million in Northern stations, a new Customer and Communities Improvement Fund which will invest around £13.8 million, and free WiFi on all Northern trains by 2020 at the latest.

The deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is an historic moment for the North. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated. These old trains have been rattling across rails in the North for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.

“As part of my Northern Futures initiative I asked the people of the North what they wanted to build a stronger economy and transport was top of the list. So I fought hard to replace pacer trains as soon as possible.

“Today's plans include a new fleet of trains and improved services that will better connect our great Northern towns and cities. Modernising rail in the North will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the journey they deserve; one that is fit for a 21st century metropolis.”

His cabinet colleague, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, added: “This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region. That means more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains. Unlike the last Northern franchise in 2004, which included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand, this deal will maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.

“Together with the £1 billion investment we are making to improve the region’s railways and our plans to link east and west through HS3, our railways are making the region an economic powerhouse.”

The details in the ITTs were welcomed by Sir Richard Leese, who chairs Rail North. He said: "“We know from the consultation that passengers want to see a step-change in the quality of train vehicles, stations, more trains on Sundays and at off-peak times, and longer trains at busy peak times to ease overcrowding - and thanks to the hard work put in by Rail North, that's exactly what they're going to get.

"But this is only the starting point; the Invitations to Tender specify the minimum required from the new franchisees, and Rail North will continue to push for greater enhancements in future years which will help deliver regional economic growth by helping people get to jobs faster, in comfort and affordably."

First TransPennine Express managing director Nick Donovan hailed the issue of the tender documents as a 'significant step', while FirstGroup, which has the majority stake in FTPE, said it would now 'take time to study the detail'. A spokesman added: "We are currently in negotiations with the DfT concerning a direct award to continue this successful operation of First TransPennine Express to April 2016 and these talks are progressing well."

Meanwhile, the news gained a bleak reception from the RMT. The union's general secretary Mick Cash said: "These plans are being spun by Nick Clegg and the Tories in a pre-election stunt that they claim will modernise rail services in the North when in reality they will condemn passengers to poor quality, unsafe and destaffed services for years to come.
"The tender documents allow bidders to axe guards and move to Driver Only Operation, compromising safety in the interests of private profit. Any new trains are light years away with passengers forced to endure the misery of the clapped out Pacers, and the ancient London Underground rolling stock that's heading north‎, way off into the future.
"RMT is calling for a commitment from Labour that they will scrap the Northern rail carve up plans if elected and the union will make the continuing fight for jobs, safety and services a key election issue."

The Government had announced the shortlists for the franchises last August. For Northern, they are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. For TransPennine Express they are First Trans Pennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited.

A public consultation was launched in June, asking for the views of passengers and stakeholders on how the franchises should be improved. Alongside the ITTs, the government is publishing a summary of the responses to its consultation.

Bidders for the TransPennine Express franchise have until 28 May to submit their bids. For Northern, the deadline is 26 June.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Ian Hunter, Gee Cross, Cheshire

    The very fact that Class 442s are mentioned in the new TPE franchise requirement means that they are probably earmarked for convertion to overhead traction. It is no co-incidence that this has come about now as the Manchester Airport - Blackpool service will be completed in just about the time it will take to convert these units. Although this is obviously another DfT dodge to avoid buying new trains for anywhere north of Watford it would be a pity to waste what appears to an excellent unit . However if the 442s do come 'up north' it will unfortunately mean that the also excellent new Class 350s now in use on Manchester Airport - Scotland routes will be joining the rest of their cousins 'down south' as the Class of 24 442s could cover both the Scottish and Blackpool North services for which they would be, admittedly, ideal - but a very cheap alternative to the new stock the north so richly deserves! Politicians and journalists who know nothing about railways may be hoodwinked by the DfT but some of us know better. This will be yet another scandalous fob-off for northern England which will very likely be completely missed by the idiots from Westminster and the National Press!

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    To those who want new DMUs I suggest you look at the recent order by South West Trains for 30x4 trains which are a follow on order to the new Thameslink class 700 trains and it seems delivery won't occur until 2017.

    Now remember no new DMUs are being built and any built would need to meet new stricter emission controls which have caused a lot of problems for freight operators wanting new Diesel locomotives .

    Ironically the best way for the North to get DMU replacements for pacers is to fight for elimination of diesel operation on Southern and South West Trains thus releasing modern DMUs from where they spend most of the time on electrified routes but are needed to fill gaps or end of lines not electrified.

    Of course like in London with the Overground you could get your councils to invest millions in new trains instead of new roads ...!

  • Tim, Manchester

    The RMT is out of touch with reality (as usual).

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    If the TOC’s could have co-operated and ran trains formed ONLY of Pacers from London to Blackpool the day before a political party conference held there, they would have been replaced years ago.

    Typical tiresome effluent spewed by Mick Cash and the RMT. I’m sure they’d even find a reason to be against giving food to starving children.
    What would their reaction have been if the ITT said Pacers would NOT be replaced? You can’t please all the people all the time, but it seems you can’t please the RMT, ever.

    Mick complains the trains are ‘light years’ away. Wrong Mick, what is light years away is any sensible comment from you. Of course they may take a few years, what does he expect? Does he possess some magic power to pull a DMU or EMU out of a hat that no one else has? He also has another go at the VivaRail D train proposal without waiting to see a prototype, showing yet again what a closed mind he has to pretty much anything. Surely if the D trains can be provided quickly, as an INTERIM cover on some SUITABLE lines (someplace limited to 60mph anyway, where their superior acceleration will bring a benefit) while the delayed electrification projects continue, then don’t they make a better solution than keeping Pacers? If not I again invite Mick to put his money where his mouth is and donate RMT funds to helping cover the cost gap between the D train proposal and new build DMU’s that will have no (or little) future earnings potential once electrification is completed.

    He also spouts the tired old nonsense about Driver Only Operation. What he fails to mention is that allowing drivers to control the doors while the guards are retained and busy selling tickets (as it would cost more to staff all the un-staffed stations Northern has) would eliminate many delays on Northern, not to mention reduce revenue loss. A half minute delay in door opening at a station or two can easily make a train miss its path at a junction, increasing delays across the network. Also in the off chance a driver is available but a guard isn’t it will eliminate the need to cancel a service. The fact money was spent modifying the 319s shipped up north to remove already existing DOO capability was nothing short of stupidity.

  • Moomo, Wirral

    It's a measure of the low expectations in the North that repainted 319s are considered a major upgrade. Let's not forget that they're being scrapped by Thameslink because they aren't thought fit for purpose.

    (Strictly, they are being withdrawn from Thameslink because they do not possess the acceleration characteristics which are required to maintain 2.5min headways through the core Thameslink section.--Editor.)

  • Dave, Durham

    As for TPE tho, indications are the class 442 5-wes units are heading north. Whille i personally like the units, where is the third rail? Its OHLE they are stringing up!

    Suggestion perhaps they really haven't thought things through?...

  • Lutz, London

    The usual rubbish from the RMT cadres; the new vehicles have to be in place by 2020, so that is less than four years from start of the franchise.

    Guards are surplus to requirements now, and only add to the cost of operation of the railways; given that human error is a significant contributing factor to rail accidents, any action that eliminates human involvement in the repetitive day-to-day operations will reduce the risk of accident occurring.

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    Judging by the various recent announcements on rail investment (particularly by George Osborne), this is obviously another pre-election giveaway and, like Chris Neville-Smith, I will not complain. I tend to agree with Mick Cash that any new DMUs will be some years away and therefore, many passengers in the North will have to endure Pacers for some time to come. Whilst most users totally detest Pacers for various reasons, I personally think they have at least one good point - wherever you sit, you can see out of the windows. This is in contrast to the equally awful class 150s with their poor interior layouts, resulting in seats from which a view of the passing scenery is impossible. Therefore, when it finally comes to new diesel trains I only hope that Northern obtains the views of passengers before placing orders.

  • Andrew Gwilt , Basildon Essex

    It's a Farewell to the Class 142, Class 143 and Class 144 Pacer trains that they served 30-40 years across Southwest England, most parts of Wales, Liverpool & Merseyside, Greater Manchester, County Durham, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, Lincoln, Grimsby, parts of East Midlands, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, York, Hull, Newcastle, Sunderland, Tyneside, Cardiff, Swansea, Cornwall, Devon, Weston-Super-Mare and Bristol.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    So Pacers are to be abolished ?

    Firstly , one TOC is currently investing in upgrading a trial train to see what is possible and to bring the train into line with disabled regulations.
    Secondly, we have District line D78s being converted into class 278 with brand new Diesel engines , toilets added and new seating, in fact only the bodyshell will be of original build given hoe London Transport and TFL have maintained these trains during their life.

    As for talk of " ancient Pacers" well they are youths compared to the Metropolitan Line A trains that lasted 50 years and PEP stock which millions of commuters in London and Merseyside use which was introduced in the 1970s and is thus 40 years old !

    As for calls for new DMUs well simply look at Manchester and see the sucess it's had with Trams to see how trams and light rail are a better option for many lines which don't have large carryings and recent tests of a BEMU ( Battery EMU) show another way forward for some lines .

    In fact, some tram systems are now replacing 1st generation trams so why not use these to convert some lines to tramways using tram style electrification and with possibility of extending service into town centres from remote stations ?

    Finally, electrification is spreading in the north and with the class 319s providing more capacity then train operators will need to use this capacity to generate more income to reduce the massive deficit northern lines now return and thus make new trains more viable .

  • Lutz, London

    Never mind, the money will have to be clawed back some way - more jobs to go down the line.

  • Rob , Gateshead

    I don't why the unions are being so quick to attack the VivaRail trains. If they get them right, these could be very good and cost-effective units.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    No surprises that Pacers are going. They are about as popular as Windows 8.

    I am surprised, however, that they've committed to new-build trains on non-electrified routes, which means new-build diesels. That's an outright U-turn on current practice to only build new electrics and cascade the displaced diesels. This move goes way further than I expected - I was expecting the ITT to, at the most, keep options open on new rolling stock provided it got rid of Pacers.

    If this is a pre-election giveaway, I'm not complaining.