by Phil Marsh

Plans unveiled for rail passengers to benefit from raft of rail improvements in the north

Published: 27th February 2015

End of the road for ‘Pacers’ as the unpopular ‘Bus-Trains’ are to be replaced by 120 new carriages

The Department fort Transport (DfT) has announced that the new Northern rail franchise will see the replacement of the unpopular 1980s built ‘Pacers’ within the next five years. These trains are recongisable by their bus type body mounted on four wheels and have a unique ride quality and sound.

These fixed axle type trains transmit any track bumps or rail joints directly to the passenger seats while the well know rail/wheel squeal deafens passengers. This is because the axles do not move in line with the rails on anything more serious than a slight curve. On jointed track, they pick up the resonance of the rail joints and sway accordingly!

Low quality but branchline saviours

But, having acknowledged their faults, they did keep branch lines open as the trains were cheap to run and the track only had to be maintained to light axleweight loading standards.

And this is one area where the new replacement trains will be more expensive to operate as the track will need to be more robust to deal with heavier axle weights and stiffer suspebsion charateristsics.

If the trains are withdrawn, then this will avoid the conversion to make them compliant with Disabled Discrimination Act (DDA) legislation meaning there has to be a wheelchair space and a DDA compliant toilet.

The DfT Official Notice says that the 120 new carriages costing £250million will enable train operator Northern or their successors to get rid of the low quality and uncomfortable ride and will also banish the negative impressions the Pacers give. Around 200 more trains are also promised on a daily basis over the two franchises.

The announcement also included details of the new Transpennine Express (TPE) franchise short-list. Northern bidders will have to plan to replace Pacers, introduce the new modern train fleet and tackle crowding. This will be done by investing in stations and adding a third more passenger capacity over the two franchises and to provide free wi-fi by 2020.

They said:

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: This is an historic moment for the north. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated. These old trains have been rattling across rails in the north for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.

As part of my Northern Futures initiative I asked the people of the north what they wanted to build a stronger economy and transport was top of the list. Today’s plans include a new fleet of trains and improved services that will better connect our great northern towns and cities. Modernising rail in the north will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the journey they deserve; one that is fit for a 21st century metropolis.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region. That means more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains. Unlike the last Northern franchise in 2004, which included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand, this deal will maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.

Which trains are affected by the announcement?

The Northern franchise operates a mixture of local, commuter and rural services and also links with its long distance services Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, York, Manchester, Bradford, Preston and Blackpool.

The TransPeninne Express franchise has been hugely successful running long distance intercity-type services between Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Bidders for the TransPeninne Express (TPE) franchise have to include plans for introducing extra capacity with more carriages and more trains running earlier and later services and more services on Sundays.

TPE bidders will also have to look at providing new services linking Liverpool and Scotland, Crewe and Manchester Airport and also extending Newcastle services to Edinburgh. Network Rail (NR) was due to have completed several electrification schemes in these franchise areas but the projects are running up to a year for various reasons late so bidders will have to work with them to ensure the electrification of the Trans-Pennine Manchester to Leeds route is delivered effectively as will be the introduction of free wi-fi on all trains by 2020.

And the shortlist is:

The Northern franchise shortlisted bidders are: Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. For the TPE franchise, these are First TransPennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited and Stagecoach TransPennine Express Trains Limited.

TPE bids must be submitted by 28 May while Northern bidders have until 26 June

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