Third extension for Welsh Pacer trains is a ‘disgrace’ say Welsh Lib Dems

These trains are on display in the National Rail Museum and Iran has ditched them, yet Welsh passengers will continue to use them daily.

Following the announcement today from the Department for Transport that Class 142 trains have been given their third dispensation in just over a year to continue in service, Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on Transport for Wales and Ken Skates to apologise to travellers across South Wales.

Pacer trains were built by British Rail in the early 1980s with a planned lifespan of 15-20 years. Following decades of under-investment in rolling stock, they were given extension after extension but were finally due to be disposed of last year as they did not meet disability regulations that came into force on 1 January 2020. Yet passengers in South Wales face many more months of travel on these unsuitable trains.

British Rail sold 12 pacer trains to Iran in 2001, where they served Tehran’s suburban lines continuing in service before being scrapped around 2005.

The Department for Transport has now given the Welsh Government its third extension in 2020 due to a failure to secure replacement stock.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Rodney Berman said:

The news that passengers will continue to travel on these dilapidated and unsuitable trains for many more months will be a blow to thousands of passengers who have been let down time and time again with the promise of replacement trains.

South Wales is now the only part of the UK and indeed the world where these pacer trains are in use. They are so old that one is currently on display at the National Rail Museum in York!

Before the COVID pandemic passengers were regularly complaining of overcrowding and the Welsh Government have had years to prepare for this yet are no closer to scrapping these trains once and for all.

Passengers are owed an apology.

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10 Comments

  • Yes, it’s terrible they’re still running, but it’s not that simple.

    Blaming the Welsh Government for this shows a distinct lack of understanding about the rail network in Wales, and is populist nonsense.

  • I seem to remember that the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson (and former Coalition Minister at Westminster) Baroness Jenny Randerson who wrote on LDV back in 2015 : “What we will certainly not do, is to call for the Government to spend tens of billions of pounds to buy back the railways from the private sector.”.

    Well, what else could you expect from a privatised railway company owned by a subsidiary of nationalised French and Spanish railway operators ?

    It’s time Lib Dems sorted out just what they believe about the railways instead of loudly just opposing whatever happens to be a passing clapped out railway bandwagon at the time.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 28th Dec '20 - 11:05pm

    David,

    It is a privatised company that will be effectively nationalised on 7 February, so I rather suspect that the Welsh Government aren’t entirely innocent here and, as they awarded the franchise in 2018, I also suspect that they specified the demise of the Pacers as part of that franchise award.

    Odd thing, this devolution, isn’t it? You’d almost think that what Wales chooses to do is different to what Scotland does…

  • Peter Martin 28th Dec '20 - 11:06pm

    “What we will certainly not do, is to call for the Government to spend tens of billions of pounds to buy back the railways from the private sector.”

    Anyone who says this doesn’t understand economics.

    The process of Nationalisation is a simple asset swap. Govt stock is swapped for shares. It doesn’t cost anything. This is how the post war Labour Govt managed to nationalise the railways, plus a lot of other industries too, when many were saying the country was virtually bankrupt after WW2. That wasn’t true but there were economic problems.

    Conversely the privatisation process doesn’t raise any extra spending money for Govt. The Govt doesn’t actually need spending money. It can spend what it likes subject to inflationary constraints.

  • This seems to be a non-issue…

    According to this article:
    Transport for Wales rail services to be nationalised

    “Ministers pledged to honour commitments worth more than £1bn to buy new trains and build the south Wales Metro.

    James Price, chief executive of Welsh Government quango Transport for Wales which oversaw the franchise and shared branding with it, said that rolling stock is “on the way” and “in essence is paid for already”.

    The only issue I can see is given the way rolling stock is effectively purchased by the government and then leased to the operating companies, is why (Westminster?) Ministers haven’t already ordered the new trains.

  • Peter Martin 29th Dec '20 - 7:21am

    You’ve got to hand any prizes for quirkiness to Lib Dems. Here we are, just a few days away from totally leaving the EU and the issue being discussed is a few Pacer trains on regional lines. I never really noticed Pacers on my local line until there was a lot of fuss about them. I was just happy to see any train roll up to my platform!

    I suppose I could ask why, if we did so well out of the EU, we’re still using them but the Iranians who aren’t even members of the WTO could afford to scrap them years ago?

  • George Thomas 29th Dec '20 - 10:13am

    A reminder that Welsh rail is highly unlikely to benefit from HS2 (I expect there will be a small, indirect benefit) but neither does Wales receive any additional financial support as rail infrastructure is not devolved in Wales.

    On top of this, the Department for Transport (DfT) figures estimate the south Wales economy could lose out by £200m per year once HS2 is finished due to inferior transport infrastructure. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-51460737)

    Oh, and the post-Brexit UK trade law means that decisions that cement this and similar inequalities are more able to and (probably) more likely to be taken.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 29th Dec '20 - 10:26am

    @ Peter,

    It’s a Welsh press release, issued on a subject of importance to the population of South Wales, many of whom use trains. Besides, I thought that you wanted everyone to move on from Brexit.

    Although, of course, you don’t seem capable of moving on. The European Union doesn’t determine what rolling stock decisions are made by privatised rail operators, so I’m presuming that you know that but don’t care other than as an opportunity to stick the knife in again.

  • Post coalition the Cardiff-Swansea and Valleys electrification schemes were dropped (along with other schemes in England) by the Tories.
    (Note: not too sure as to where the dividing line is on transport between Westminster and Cardiff Bay, but this bit was a Tory decision).
    This may well have been connected with this Pacer decision to extend their life, it generally shows a marked reluctance to tackle probably the worst funded commuter rail system in Britain. I live in the NW and that’s not brilliant but at least the Pacers have now gone, and a good chunk of the network has been belatedly electrified.
    Sooner or later the success story of the Valleys Commuter rail network, in attracting passengers en masse and away from cars, should be rewarded with a decent service, using modern electric trains not clapped out diesels or some light rail option (the distances are too long for that to be popular among users).
    Finally, these trains are (probably) the last to dump human waste on the track, bear a thought for the track workers who these days shouldn’t have to put up with it!

  • Peter Martin 29th Dec '20 - 11:47am

    @ Mark,

    If you want to discuss trains I might just say that the continued existence of Pacers, some 40 years after their first construction, is testament that the model isn’t a total flop. It’s cheap to run, and more like a tram or a bus but it’s not a Trabant on Rails.

    I like the idea that the windows can be opened. It bothers me that this is not possible on modern trains. I wonder where the air is coming from and if its as fresh as it should be, or if it’s just stale air which has been crudely filtered and recycled. No doubt with a lot of recycled viruses too!

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