Pacer Trains to Disappear

If you live in the north of England you’ll no doubt be familiar with the much maligned, nodding donkey ‘Pacer’ trains. With the introduction of new rolling stock across the Northern Rail network, they are due to be phased out between the end of this year and the beginning of 2020.

A saving grace for many rural and loss-making lines

The Class 142 Pacer has become an infamous northern icon; a symbol of the north-south divide even. The defamed trains are known in some circles as ‘bouncy castles’ or ‘nodding donkeys’ due to the shaking ride – a result of a basic and cheap suspension. They may be abhorred by commuters today but, at the time of their construction, the pacers were a saving grace for many rural and loss-making lines which would have risked closure had British Rail been unable to procure cheap new units.

In the 1980’s, British Rail turned innovators with the advent of the ‘Railbus’ – a British Leyland bus body placed upon a rail chassis. A quick and cheap solution balancing the need for new rolling stock on quieter lines with British Rail’s ever-present cash shortage. As a result of their bare-bones construction, they have never been seen as items of comfort. But, if it weren’t for the humble pacer; many more of us could have been faced with no train service at all.

In a strangely sentimental way, I’ll miss seeing pacers rattle through the North East bouncing over every set of points. They are iconic; whether you like them or not.

Starting from December of this year, new Class 195 (Diesel)  and Class 331 (Electric) will be rolled out across the North. Unfortunately, they won’t be making their way to the North East – Teeside, Tyneside and Northumberland will be receiving refurbished Class 158 and Class 156 units from Yorkshire and Cumbria. Whilst these units could be as old as thirty years they will be refitted to include Free Wi-Fi, USB sockets, new seating, and new lighting. We aren’t getting new trains but we are getting an upgrade, however you choose to look at it.