Farewell to Northern’s Pacers

The end of the line for Northern's Pacers. 142004 at Manchester Victoria with (L-R) community and sustainability manager Becky Styles, managing director Nick Donovan, driver Jason Ward and regional director Chris Jackson.

Northern’s last Pacer train in passenger service has been retired after just over 35 years of continuous service in the north of England, during which it travelled three million miles.

Pacer 142004’s final journey, from Kirkby to Manchester Victoria, ended at 17:45 on Friday 27 November 2020.

Much criticised by some in recent years, yet seen with affection by others, Pacers were introduced to the North of England in 1985 as ‘railbuses’ for branch lines. They had simple, diesel-powered railway underframes fitted with bus-derived bodies in a modular design to keep costs down and availability high.

Northern and its predecessors had 102 of them, 79 Class 142 and 23 of the later Class 144. They were used all over the network in their time, but latterly came in for criticism for poor passenger comfort. As they also don’t meet the latest Persons with Reduced Mobility Technical Specification for Interoperability (PRM-TSI), Northern started to phase them out from 2019.

Chris Jackson, Northern.

Northern regional director Chris Jackson said: “The Pacers have kept millions of northerners on the move and, while they have served us well and provided some communities with rail services they may have otherwise lost, it is time to give them a well-earned rest.

“Northern has overseen significant modernisation in recent months and the retiring Pacers have made way for a fleet of 100 brand-new trains which are already servicing people across the north of England.”

The Pacer fleet has been gradually removed from service as new and refurbished trains have been introduced. Northern’s new trains are more comfortable and have features the Pacers did not, including free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, at-seat power and customer information/media screens with real-time information. They are also more spacious and fully accessible, with spaces for wheelchairs and cycles.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant commented: “The Pacer fleet has connected communities on the Northern network for over 30 years, but today marks the sun finally setting on trains that have become loved by some, but hated by many.

“This marks a new era of transport in the North, with passengers enjoying a brand-new fleet of trains, delivering more modern services and creating a more reliable network across the north.”

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