Posted 15th July 2019 | 3 Comments

Pacers set to miss withdrawal deadline

A GOVERNMENT minister has admitted that it might not be possible for Northern to withdraw all its Pacer fleet by the end of the year.

From 1 January 2020 the Pacers will no longer comply with regulations concerning accessibility and the discharge of toilet waste on the track, and are being replaced by new or refurbished units of other types.

Until now, the withdrawal deadline of 31 December has been maintained as official policy.

On 9 July, rail minister Andrew Jones replied to a question from Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves that ‘the first Pacers are due to be withdrawn from service in August and operators are working to remove all of them by the end of the year. No application for dispensations with regard to rail vehicle accessibility standards in respect of the Pacers operated by Northern has been submitted to the Department to date.’

Since then, there appear to have been some developments behind the scenes. In the House of Lords yesterday, Lord Scriven asked why it will not be possible to complete the removal of Pacer trains from the Northern rail network by 31 December’.

Transport minister Baroness Vere replied: ‘Northern Rail is planning to remove the first Pacer in August, and is working to remove all of the Pacers by the end of the year. Due to delays in manufacturing of new trains, a small number of Pacers may continue on the network into the beginning of the new year to ensure a stable service for passengers.’

This relevation poses further questions about the legality of keeping Pacers in service in 2020, unless a temporary derogation from the new regulations is granted.

Two days after Andrew Jones had given his assurance in the House of Commons, he launched a new competition at Bolton station, in which community groups were invited to suggest new uses for Pacer bodies once they had ceased to be trains.

An early response came from children attending St Catherine’s Primary School in Bolton, and one nine-year old suggested that a Pacer could be converted ‘into a greenhouse to grow vegetables’.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    Surely every 'Heritage' Railways should have a pair. Cheap to run and easy to start. There are Days when getting a Steam Engine ready is not worth it for the dozen or so people who will ride on the line. I have some nostalgia for the Pacers but I agree that more than a 30 minutes journey is not the most pleasant - even if its superb countryside you are going through.

  • Lee, Manchester

    "From 1 January 2020 the Pacers will no longer comply with regulations concerning accessibility and the discharge of toilet waste on the track, and are being replaced by new or refurbished units of other types."

    I have noticed over the last few months that a number of refurbished class 150 Sprinters do not have toilet water retention tanks. Presumably these will have to be removed from service again while the tanks are retrofitted, adding to the delay withdrawing Pacers?

    As for the new Civity class 195 DMUs, a few are now in regular service, on the Barrow and Liverpool to Manchester Airport services, yet there do seem to be a number of cancellations of these trains. I know they have had a number of technological issues that have delayed there introduction and the same is also true of the Transpennine Mk5 rolling stock. It seems to me, at the risk of raising an old issue, that modern trains seem to take a lot longer to get into fleet service than their less technological counterparts did. Perhaps this should be built into the delivery timescale for all future rolling stock commissioning to avoid future delays?

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    Perhaps rather scrapping the Pacer Bus-rail trains (Class 142, Class 143 and Class 144). Why not convert them into homeless shelters for the homeless people, cafes & bars, school classrooms, greenhouse and many more and to keep one Pacer train at the National Railway Museum in York.
    [The NRM is to get a Pacer and alternative uses have been suggested -- as this story reports.--Ed.]