The current franchise holder of the Northern Rail set up will shortly be bidding farewell to running trains in the northwest. No tears will be shed. The operator has managed to draw out the lifecycle of their 'Pacer' units to well beyond their intended operating span - by some twenty odd years, and no doubt reaping especial profit from the lease costs of these third world trains. Northern Rail have leased/acquired 'Pacer' coaches numbering nearly a third of their total fleet
Originally designed (and built) with the involvement of British Leyland (remember them?) the Pacer utilises the bodywork concept for that company's Leyland National single deck bus of the 1980s with rudimentary running gear that is clearly evident on any journey.
Brought into use as a stopgap budget train intended for lightly loaded services - the Pacers have brought discredit in their later life to the reputation of the companies which continued to operate them. Remarkably the rail leasing firm Porterbrook came up with a remodelling interior design with the aim of extending the lease life of Pacers on their books - possibly into the next millenium. This sleight of hand rebranding however has fortunately not passed muster.
Northern Rail has managed to keep a substantial fleet of these superannuated vehicles on its services across the northwest throughout the full life of its franchise. No doubt its affinity with lowest cost third hand equipment has paid dividends. Not so for rail users condemned to changing trains at Preston for Blackpool bound services from Virgin Trains and having to face the rest of their journey to the Fylde on a ramshackle 'Pacer' which shows its age immediately upon entry.. The signage should read 'Welcome to the Fylde Coast - part of the Northern Poorhouse'.
Quite apart from being an indictment of the folly of rail privatisation - at least in this part of the country - the insistence of a rail operator in retaining obsolete, noisy and rough riding passenger equipment has been the equivalent of sticking two fingers up at its 'customers'. Not to mention the fare levels charged for the privilege. Is there no one who can rid us of these malignant trains ?
Waiting for its next call to duty - morbid paint job lousy equipment. Blackpool North on March 3rd Image : John Woodman