Yesterday, the DfT issued a press notice asking for suggestions/volunteers to make use of redundant, soon to be removed Pacers from rail services in the north. According to the DfT’s proposals, they are launching a competition for community groups to provide ideas and plans to take one of these vehicles – no they don’t actually say if they mean a single vehicle or a 2-car set – into a new “public space”.
In their lives to date, those Pacers have indeed created public spaces, but I wonder how this “initiative” will pan out.
Any takers out there for a garden shed?
The Rail Minister (Andrew Jones) actually said this:
“The Pacers have been the workhorses of the north’s rail network, connecting communities for more than 30 years, but it is clear that they have outstayed their welcome.”
Really?! He might have added that they have been a source of misery, complaints, discontent and overcrowding for about the same length of time. An opinion piece in the Guardian put it rather more interestingly:
The Managing Director (David Brown) of Arriva Rail North made this interesting comment too:
“Northern is introducing 101 new trains worth £500 million, the first of these new trains will be carrying customers this summer, and at the same time we will start to retire the Pacer trains. Using a Pacer as a valued community space is a very fitting way to commemorate the service they have provided since they entered service a generation ago.”
Ironically, just a short while before the Metro Mayors of Greater Manchester and Merseyside both called for Northern to have its franchise terminated immediately. According to a report in the Guardian today (29th May), both Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham believe:
” ….has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements …”” ….has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements …”
It is perhaps ironic too, that the first of the “Pacers” were out to work 34 years ago in May 1985, in the Greater Manchester area, although as is common knowledge, a number of prototypes were built before a major order was placed. Officially, they were described as lightweight diesel multiple units, developed for use on lightly loaded and suburban services.
The first days went reasonably well – apart from the ‘blacking’ by the rail unions of a later design – but quite soon after their introduction they ran into some operational challenges. They were also used after privatisation on longer distance workings, including one between Middlesborough and Carlisle – a distance of over 100 miles, and well out of their intended working. When these twin-units were sent to the south west, they were nicknamed “Skippers”, and reportedly ran into difficulties keeping to time on the South Devon banks.
Whilst the entire fleet had their Leyland engines replaced by a Cummins design in the 1990s, some ‘refurbishment’ was carried out on each of the classes, from Class 142 to Class 144. The original prototype was initially preserved, and BREL did try to sell this idea to various countries around the world, from the USA to Malaysia – but there were no takers.
Perhas fitting that some should be turned into garden sheds or community facilities, where people can reminisce about the good old days of travelling by “Pacer”.