Rail operator Northern is launching the first of a £500 million fleet of 100 new trains, which will take over the routes serviced by the 1980s diesel trains. However, the phasing out of the Pacer trains could be delayed due to a design flaw with their replacement.
The hopes that by the end of the year the Pacer trains would be gone might not become reality as some could still be in operation next year. The first nine new trains have entered service today.
“At the start of the year, we identified a small mechanical design issue that required a fix. We worked with CAF to find a solution but this coupler problem had a regrettable and adverse impact on train delivery, testing and driver training,” said a Northern spokeswoman.
“The new fleet of 101 trains, costing £500m, will provide a huge improvement in the on-train experience for customers, with features including air conditioning, free WiFi and power sockets. The introduction of the first new trains from July means we will retire the first Pacer train in August. We are working hard to remove the Pacers by the end of the year. Our top priority is to deliver a reliable train service for passengers, and we are therefore keeping our plans for the final date of Pacer operation under review as we bring the new trains into service.”
All but one of Northern’s 102 Pacer trains breach new rules, which will come into force in January, requiring better accessibility for disabled people, reports the Sunday Times.
“Pacer trains are a clear symbol of the chronic under investment in northern transport by successive governments,” the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said. “We have repeatedly been told they’ll be off our rails by the end of the year and it now looks like they will still be screeching and trundling across the North into next year. The fact that passengers will still have to travel in these museum pieces in 2020 is unacceptable.”
The first nine trains of the new fleet will come into operation on routes between Cumbria and Manchester Airport, Liverpool and Manchester Airport, and between Doncaster and Leeds on Monday morning.