Labour politicians have demanded train operator Northern Rail compensate passengers who are forced to continue using outdated Pacer trains.
Labour MP and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Sheffield City region mayor Dan Jarvis and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake have expressed to the company their “deep disappointment and frustration” at news that the trains will continue to be used into 2020 despite previous pledges.
The letter signed by the three leaders and sent to Northern managing director David Brown said the firm should reduce fares on routes where Pacers are being used until their replacements are brought into service.
Jarvis said the current arrangement was:
another example of rail passengers in the North being treated like second-class citizens.
It’s unacceptable that people will have to continue to travel on these relics, which should have been consigned to a transport museum long ago.
A reduction in fares on affected routes, throughout the period that passengers have to travel on what are essentially buses on rails, is the very least that could be done.
Pacers were built using bus parts and were introduced in the early 1980s as a stop-gap solution to a lack of rolling stock.
But their use has continued and Northern has said the trains will still be used in the Sheffield city region and some other routes into 2020.
The politicians said that the continued use of Pacers:
underlines the widening disparity between transport investment in the north, compared to the south.
The withdrawal of Pacers was one of the centrepiece commitments made in the Northern franchise.
The fact they will still be running in 2020 is symbolic of the broader issues with this franchise which continues to deliver an unacceptable level of service to passengers.
Northern, which is owned by Germany-based Arriva, has been contacted for comment in response to the letter.
Last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps took the first step towards potentially stripping Northern of its franchise.
He told MPs he has issued a “request for proposals” from the firm and the Operator of Last Resort (OLR), which could lead to services being brought into direct government control and run by the OLR.
Giving evidence to the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, he said the level of performance on the Northern network “cannot continue”.
He went on:
I entirely believe we cannot carry on just thinking it’s OK for trains not to arrive or Sunday services not being in place. That simply has to change.
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