MP’s concerns over rail fleet

TRANSPORT minister and Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill has spoken of his concerns after it was revealed a fleet of ageing trains at the end of their intended life is to be used in increasing numbers.

Northern Rail operates 95 elderly Pacers in the north and the number is set to grow in December when the company receives a further 50 carriages that have been allocated by the department for transport.

In Yorkshire, the trains are used on the coast line between Scarborough and Hull and on commuter services around Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Harrogate, Wakefield and York.

Mr Goodwill said stringent maintenance schedules should be carried out to compensate for the fleet’s age.

He said: “It’s disappointing they are not intending to replace some of this old rolling stock, and obviously if they do continue with these old trains they need to make sure the maintenance programme is sufficiently intensive to ensure safety and reliability. If they start to lose reliability and run late, people will give up on trains and use their cars and that’s not what we want to see.”

The Pacers were built between 1985 and 1987 by British Leyland, and are essentially a bus body mounted on a freight wagon with a diesel engine slung underneath.

Although there is no suggestion the trains are currently unsafe, their prolonged use has alarmed National Rail watchdog, the Office of Rail Regulation.

A spokeswoman for Northern Rail said: “Pacer trains have a good safety record and they, along with all the other types of train northern operates, are subject to strict regular safety and maintenance checks.

“With the renewal processes that we have also undertaken, the mechanics of all these trains are no more than five years old.”