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  • First of Northern's much-maligned Pacer trains retires

    Henry James

    THE first of Northern’s much-maligned Pacer trains to retire made its final journey on Monday, August 12 after travelling more than three million miles in 32 years of service.

    The train – unit 142005 – entered service on February 20, 1987 and bowed out after completing its final day of operation by carrying Northern customers between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge.

    According to Northern, all Pacers – including those on the Southport to Manchester line - are scheduled to be gone by the end of this year.

    Northern is introducing 101 new trains, a £500m investment in improving customers’ experience – 15 new trains are already in service. An additional £80m investment is also being made to refurbish and improve the quality of Northern’s remaining fleet.

    As the new trains come into service, Pacers will start to be retired from the Northern network on a phased basis over the coming months. The new trains are being introduced on longer-distance routes, allowing existing trains on those routes to be redeployed and replace the retiring Pacers.

    Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “I am delighted to see the start of the Pacer trains retiring from the Northern network. This is a milestone moment for passengers in the north, as part of our commitment to delivering more comfortable, frequent and reliable journeys.

    “We are now starting to see brand new, comfortable, modern trains in their place, alongside the 2,000 extra services a week that have already been delivered.”

    David Brown, managing director at Northern, said: “The Northern network is busier than it has been for a generation – more than 100 million customer journeys will be made on Northern services in 2019 – and the introduction of new trains and the retirement of the Pacers is at the heart of our transformation for customers.

    “We have 15 brand new trains carrying customers, with 91 more to come throughout 2019 and into 2020. In all, we will introduce 101 new trains, a £500m investment in rail in the North. These fantastic new trains will give our customers a genuine step-change in journey experience.”

    David Sidebottom, director at Transport Focus, helped bid farewell to the retiring Pacer as it departed Manchester Victoria on its last day of service. He said: "Passengers won’t be sorry to see these outdated and uncomfortable trains depart for retirement.

    "Pacers have become a potent symbol for the need to invest in better transport infrastructure across the North. Their replacements cannot arrive too soon, though it’s now equally important that the railway improves punctuality and reliability of services, so passengers see every possible benefit from each new train.”

    The retirement of Pacers and the introduction of new trains is part of Northern’s wider plan to “improve and modernise the railway”. A spokesman for Northern said: “This programme includes the full refurbishment of Northern’s existing trains, improvements at stations, more ways to buy tickets and great new offers for Northern customers.”

    In addition to the Pacer retiring, a further six are being taken out of daily service and will be stored at one of Northern’s depots. They will be maintained so they could be made available to use if required in exceptional circumstances, such as for special events.

    Meanwhile a consortium of FirstGroup and Trenitalia have been awarded the West Coast Partnership by the government.

    The contract, which is currently run by Virgin and Stagecoach, will start in December. Major changes are being planned for December 2022, when 263 extra services will be added.

    Subject to approval from the Office of Rail and Road, two trains per hour will run between Liverpool and London.

    It will also invest £117m in a major refurbishment of the current Pendolino fleet, “providing more comfortable seats and additional luggage space”.

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