Northern Rail: Pacer Trains

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

What steps he has taken to ensure that Northern Rail removes from service all Pacer trains by the end of 2019.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We have seen positive progress, with the introduction of the first brand new trains on routes across the north for a generation. There are currently nine in passenger service; the hon. Lady may be interested to know that they will be serving Rochdale from autumn this year. Alongside the roll-out of new trains and the introduction of the refurbished trains, Northern Rail is working to remove Pacers from the network. The first of them will be removed in August—only a few weeks away.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The National Railway Museum in York wanted to put a Pacer train in its history section this year. It was unable to, because Northern Rail is still using them. Is it not time that Northern Rail stopped treating its passengers like second-class citizens and consigned Pacer trains to their rightful place in the museum?

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

That, of course, is exactly what is happening across the network of the north: the new trains have to come in before the old ones can come out. The hon. Lady will be aware of the engineering issue with the manufacture of the new trains, announced in April. That was all resolved, which is why the new trains are in service now. The fleet changeover has been delayed by a few weeks, but the majority of the fleet of old 142 Pacer class trains will be removed by the end of this year. A small number of the newer 144 class will be retained for a few weeks to maintain a smooth and reliable service.

But let us fast-forward a few months: there will be new train fleets from TPE, new and refurbished trains from Northern Rail and the roll-out of Azumas on the east coast main line. No Transport Minister in a generation has been able to say what I can say now: we will have new trains across the north. That has been delivered by the Conservatives, catching up on the no-growth franchise that Labour gave the north and that served from 2004 until 2016.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Thankfully, Cleethorpes does not rely on too many Pacer units, but the Saturday-only service from Sheffield to Cleethorpes is provided by Pacers, and as they approach Cleethorpes station, they cross over the now-famous Suggitts Lane level crossing. The Minister is well aware of the problems that the high-handed actions of Network Rail have caused disabled people and local businesses. It now proposes to spend hundreds of thousands to resolve that. Would that money not be better spent elsewhere on the network where there is more danger and on reopening Suggitts Lane?

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend is ingenious in the way he brings Suggitts Lane into all Transport question sessions. He is a most diligent campaigner on this issue. Since it was last raised, I have met Network Rail and the regulator to discuss the issue, and I know that he has also recently met Network Rail. I look forward to seeing the output of those conversations, and we will take up the issue.