Nodding Donkeys – The Pacer, a bus on railway wheels, is still sadly with us

A Pacer at Preston Station

I came across the You Tube video (see link below) pretty much by chance even though it’s on a matter I have blogged about a number of times before i.e. the infamous ‘Nodding Donkeys’ of the railway world made from bus bodies and freight van trucks. However Southport rail campaigner Eric Woodcock is on the video explaining in straight forward terms how the much derided Pacer trains came about. It’s an interesting watch……

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucA5xIgjZBc

Inside a down at heel Pacer on the Ormskirk Preston Line

My good friend and former MP for Southport John Pugh campaigned to rid us of these terrible trains and here’s a link back to his work on the matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/07/pacers-are-thankfully-on-their-last-legs-or-is-that-wheels/

There’ll be standing room only in the Valleys

I’ve just spent a week in the Brecon Beacons and took the opportunity to try a Transport for Wales train from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff.

Ebbw Vale Town Station (the end of the line) is very basic and very exposed; a ticket machine, a one train per hour frequency and a small shelter is about it – a far cry from say Merseyrail with it’s 15 minute frequency and staffed stations with ticket offices/toilets. The ticket machine, whilst working, needed quite a hard pounding on its keyboard for it to take any notice of what you were trying to tell it. At busy times you get the impression that folk would not bother queuing up to use it as it takes too long and you could easily miss your train as a consequence because the turnaround time of incoming trains to outgoing is very short indeed. I noticed quite a few fellow passengers buying their tickets from the guard and having used the ticket machine I know why.

The outbound train was a 2 car Class 150 (see photo above at Ebbw Vale Town Station) and I’d say that it was 2/3rds full throughout the journey which started at 11.37. Of course, this made me wonder what rush hour services would be like (having heard they were normally overcrowded) but more on that aspect later on in this posting.

The ride was very smooth on the 150 but it was regularly hitting overgrown branches which were clearly in need of being cut back. The stations called at along the line seemed to be as basic as Ebbw Vale.

The journey each way takes almost exactly an hour and a day return, which can be used on any train, is presently (Oct 2019) £8.40.

The return journey was at 16.34 from Cardiff Central and within 5 mins of the set time of departure it was standing room only on the elderly 2 car Class 142 ‘Nodding Donkey’ which had an onboard toilet (I’m guessing that the 150 must have had one too but did not notice). People remained standing until the station call about 30 mins into the ride up the valley. Like the 150 the 142 was regularly hitting over hanging branches. The ride back was not bad for a 142 (seen below at the exposed Ebbw Vale Town Station) but obviously not as smooth as the 150 and there was quite a bit of wheel screeching from the 142.

I noticed that the station platforms along the branch seemed capable of taking 4 car trains but whether 4 cars are ever provided I could not tell. My guess is that when 4 cars are finally a reality they will fill to capacity very soon and 6 car trains probably need to be the Transport for Wales aim.

Oh and one final thing, which fits with a recent posting of mine about Merseyrail’s Maghull and Maghull North Stations. The car parking provision at Ebbw Vale Town Station whilst being reasonably significant across 2 car parks was unsurprisingly not enough and I had to park some distance away from the Station.

Both trains were clean and punctual. Marks out of 10 for Transport for Wales – 7.

A photo from my train ride can also be seen on my Flickr page at:- www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Nodding Donkeys to Village Halls – Pacer Trains to have a new future?

A Pacer at Preston Station

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48434379

I had a laugh when I read this BBC website article (see link above) about the coming end of the hugely unpopular ‘Pacer’ trains and that they could have a potential future use as village halls, cafes etc.

Of course the obvious question is why, as it’s often commented upon within railway circles about what bad condition many of these old diesel units are actually in. And why this class of old train? Many classes of old railway stock are being replaced at present due to them being life expired, for example Merseyrail (which gets a mention in the article) is replacing all it’s Class 507/508 rolling stock from 2020 – are they to be suggested for reuse as public buildings too?

I wonder if the former MP for Southport (John Pugh) would like an old Pacer for a garden shed as he (quite rightly) campaigned along with many others for Pacers to be taken out of service?:-) See link below from a 2014 posting of mine:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/09/30/nodding-donkeys-in-southport-well-class-142-pacers-anyway-but-dont-tell-john-pugh-mp/

Inside a down at heel Pacer

With thanks to Lydiate photographer Keith Page for the lead to this posting. Keith also links the future of these unloved trains to our lack of public toilets in communities up and down the land:-)

Pacers are thankfully on their last legs or is that wheels

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42937218

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

An alternative title for this posting could ‘Well John Pugh are you happy now?’ because during his time as MP for Southport John fought to get the appalling Pacer Trains replaced. To be fair many, many other people were on a similar track (sorry about the pun) but John made it onto a BBC North West TV programme about his fight to rid the rails of Pacers.

John has now returned to his political roots as a Sefton Councillor and leads the opposition on Sefton Council.

My previous relevant posting (amongst many!) about Pacers, because it links to the BBC TV programme that John Pugh appeared in, is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2013/01/01/calling-for-the-end-to-the-use-of-class-142-pacer-trains-on-our-railways/

John’s contribution to the programme is at about the 12 minute mark.

And here’s a video of the new trains being built in Spain:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-42946339/northern-to-replace-pacers-with-21st-century-trains

Pacers! Their history and why we got the damned things

www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35725299

The BBC magazine has the story on the BBC web site – see link above

Pacer

I have covered the campaign to get rid of these trains a number of times previously on this blog site but this bit of history is interesting. One of my previous postings on the subject can be accessed via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/09/30/nodding-donkeys-in-southport-well-class-142-pacers-anyway-but-dont-tell-john-pugh-mp/

OPSTA – Another report from the pages of Rail User Express

Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – two cars better than one!

It’s ironic that OPSTA should be celebrating the allocation of much-criticised 2-car Pacer units to the Ormskirk-Preston Line, but they say this does restore much-needed seating capacity – the group has long argued that the single-car Class 153 units are inadequate and effectively suppress demand.

With new housing nearby, the numbers using Burscough Junction are growing and OPSTA is continuing to carry out passenger counts. Results from the Burscough Demand Study, commissioned by Merseytravel, are eagerly awaited, but in the meantime OPSTA has been invited to a meeting to go through the findings.

The group is confident that the campaign to retain booking office facilities at Burscough Bridge will prove to have been a success.

OPSTA is working with the Southport Rail Transport Forum to secure the best possible deal for the Southport-Manchester rail service in the new Northern franchise. The two groups are planning another platform survey at selected stations along the route in the autumn – an impressive 75% sample rate was achieved in last year’s survey.

Campaigners are pleased that new customer-information screens have been fitted at various stations on the route.

OPSTA’s committee has been invited to participate in a service-development exercise to be hosted by Transport for Greater Manchester.

Northern Rail is taking the issue of fare collection very seriously and has recruited additional revenue-protection staff. However, the company’s claim that ticketless travel is at 6% and falling is disputed by OPSTA and other groups who fear this is a gross under-estimation. The group has set up a dedicated email address for members to report instances of poor revenue protection.

Another issue for concern has been lineside litter, scrap metal and rampant vegetation – the group acknowledges that Network Rail has made some effort this year to tackle the situation.

Four OPSTA members attended Vivarail’s presentation of their refurbished “D” train at Long Marston and found the experience thought-provoking: “nothing indicates this cannot work and a solid engineering approach means Vivarail deserves to succeed, but a lot of work is still required to prove it can.” The question as to whether the units will be suited to rail services for Ormskirk, Preston and Southport remains to be answered.

Some provocative articles in the previous issue of OPSTA’s magazine “Connections” have stirred up correspondence from members – the Editor is very pleased to have received a number of “impassioned responses”!