Northern rail has taken the first of its Pacer trains out of service but admitted that some of the ‘outdated and unpopular’ buses on rails will still be operating next year, despite earlier promises.
The train entered service on 20 February 1987 and was retired on Monday (12 August) after carrying passengers between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge.
The Pacer, which was based on a bus design, has become a symbol for the failings of the rail network.
Northern said that as new trains come into service, Pacers will ‘start to be retired from the network on a phased basis over the coming months’.
However, a spokesperson told the BBC that a small number of Pacers will still be in use into next year, despite repeated pledges that they would all be taken out of service by the end of 2019.
In January 2017, a Northern spokesperson said: ‘By 2020 everyone travelling on the Northern network will benefit from brand new or completely refurbished trains through our multi-million-pound fleet investment. All the unpopular Pacer trains will be gone by the end of 2019.’
On Monday, Northern managing director David Brown (pictured, right) described the retirement of the Pacers as ‘at the heart of our transformation for customers’ but did not mention the delay in phasing them out entirely.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris put a brave face on the failure. He said: ‘I am delighted to see the start of the Pacer trains retiring from the Northern network. This is a milestone moment for passengers in the north, as part of our commitment to delivering more comfortable, frequent and reliable journeys.’
David Sidebottom (pictured, centre), director at Transport Focus said: ‘Passengers won’t be sorry to see these outdated and uncomfortable trains depart for retirement.’
Northern said a further six Pacers are being taken out of daily service and will be stored at one of its depots. ‘They will be maintained so they could be made available to use if required in exceptional circumstances, such as for special events.’
Transport Network has approached Northern for comment.