Northern delays in axing 'unacceptable' Pacer trains

Image caption Pacer trains have previously been dubbed "buses on train wheels"

Northern's much-criticised Pacer trains may still be in use next year despite a pledge to replace them with a new £500m fleet by the end of the year.

It comes as the firm, owned by Arriva Rail North, is due to roll out nine new trains on Monday.

As reported by the Sunday Times, design faults on new trains mean a "small number" of Pacers - dubbed "buses on train wheels" - may be used in 2020.

Northern said it was "working hard" to scrap Pacers by the end of 2019.

'Museum pieces'

The much-derided Pacer trains were built in the 1980s from the body of a bus frame and intended to have a maximum lifespan of 20 years.

Passengers having to travel in these "museum pieces in 2020 is unacceptable", said Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

He added: "We have repeatedly been told they will 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."

"This delay is yet another broken promise to people of the North."

He said: "But what is worse is the fact that Northern will fall foul of new laws on disability access next year as a result."

Image copyright Northern
Image caption The first nine new trains will be rolled out on Monday

Northern said in a statement the final date for the removal of all Pacers was "under review".

"At the start of the year, we identified a small mechanical design issue that required a fix," it said.

It said a "coupler problem [has] had a regrettable and adverse impact on train delivery, testing and driver training".

'Manufacturing delays'

It said the first Pacer train would be retired in August and it was "working hard" to remove them all by the end of the year meaning it would avoid new legislation on accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Department for Transport said: "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."

There were calls for Northern to be stripped of its franchise after "carnage" following the introduction of new timetables in May 2018.

Its franchises cover the North West, Yorkshire, parts of Derbyshire, and the North East. They are due to run until 2025.

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