Mayor Dan Jarvis has demanded compensation for rail passengers, after news that Pacer trains will continue to run in the region into 2020 – long after they should’ve been retired.
In a letter sent to Northern Rail managing director David Brown, jointly signed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Leeds City Council Leader Judith Blake, the leaders express their “deep disappointment and frustration” and say passengers have the “right to expect a reliable, quality service.”
The letter asks Northern to commit to reducing fares on those routes on which Pacer trains remain in operation, until the trains are replaced with upgraded trains next year.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “This is yet 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. I expect Northern to do the right thing and compensate its passengers.”
Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Lead, said: “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.
“Passengers must be compensated as they continue to wait for the arrival of new trains and the service they have been promised by Northern.”
Pacer trains were introduced in the early 1980s, originally as a short-term solution to a lack of rolling stock. However, they remain in service on many routes in the North and, despite pledges that all units would be retired by the end of this year, Northern has admitted they will still be running on a small number of routes – including in the Sheffield City Region – into 2020.
The leaders state in their letter that retaining Pacer trains in the North “underlines the widening disparity between transport investment in the North, compared to the South.” The Government’s own figures show that for every £1 spent on transport in Yorkshire and the Humber in 2017-18, £3.20 was spent on London’s transport networks.
Since the Northern Powerhouse was introduced by Government in 2014, transport spending has gone up twice as much in London as in the North.
This latest news comes after, last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Transport Select Committee that the first steps had been taken towards renationalising the Northern rail network, due to the numbers of late and cancelled trains.
Mayor Jarvis added: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State shares these concerns and is considering taking action to prevent Northern from continuing to let its passengers down with cancellations, delays and poor-quality trains.”
Since becoming Mayor of the Sheffield City Region in May last year, Mayor Jarvis has made it a priority to make the region’s transport network fit for the 21st century. Read his Integrated Rail Plan online here.