Outdated and uncomfortable “Pacer” trains are to be axed from rail services in the North and replaced by 120 brand new vehicles, the Government has announced.
The decision to scrap the trains, which have been compared to cattle trucks, was made by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin as he launched the contest inviting rail operators to bid to run the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises.
It brings to an end speculation that the vehicles could stay, or could be replaced by second hand trains from another part of the country.
But it also emerged that Mr McLoughlin faced a battle with civil servants – who argued that the £250 million cost of the new vehicles was poor value for money.
The Transport Secretary was forced to issue a “written directive”, a formal note confirming that he had been advised against requiring new trains but wanted his officials to go ahead anyway.
Mr McLoughlin told his staff that scrapping the Pacers was essential, warning: “I do not think that the continued use of these uncomfortable and low quality vehicles is compatible with our vision for economic growth and prosperity in the North.”
He also said that many Northern lines were unlikely to be electrified, so it was important to ensure new diesel trains were built because there is an industry-wide shortage of diesel vehicles.
It means the decision will now be scrutinised by a Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, but while this could potentially criticise Mr McLoughlin it does not have the power to over-rule him.
Pacers were introduced in the 1980s as a short-term solution to a lack of rolling stock. Their future had been unclear until now, with senior Ministers including the Prime Minister promising they would go, while a series of official Government documents stated they could instead be refurbished and remain in use.
The Northern franchise operates local, commuter and rural services throughout the region, and a number of long distance services linking major cities.
As well as replacing the pacers with new trains, the winner of the franchise will be expected to modernise other vehicles on the route, double the number of services on may routes, provide more off-peak and Sunday services, invest at least £30 million to improve stations and introduce free Wi-Fi on all Northern trains by 2020 at the latest.
Bidders for the franchise are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. They have until 26 June to submit their plans.
The TransPeninne Express franchise provides longer distance intercity-type services, connecting the major cities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Manchester Airport.
Improvements the government wants the bidders to introduce include introducing extra capacity for passengers through more carriages and more services; providing earlier and later services and more services on Sundays; considering options for new services such as extending Newcastle services to Edinburgh, and introducing free Wi-Fi on all TransPennine Express trains by 2020 at the latest.
The bidders are First Trans Pennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited, and they must submit their proposals by 28 May 2015.
Both new franchises are due to start operating in April 2016.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Feb 2015
I’m writing a book about work and am looking for people who are willing to share their experiences of Workfare or Mandatory Work Activity.
The book is called *All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work*, and it
will come out from Profile Books next spring, before the election.
I’ve been visiting and interviewing people all over the country about their work – potters in Stoke on Trent, call centre workers in Hull, ballerinas at
Covent Garden – and I want to include the experience of someone who has
been on the government’s work programmes.
I’d like to find out a bit more about what the work was like: What did you do? How did you feel about it? How did the workers around you react? Anonymity and discretion guaranteed.
I’m a writer for the *London Review of Books* (where I also work), the
*Observer*, the *Sunday Times* and the *New Yorker*.
I can be contacted on
Yet the death toll linked to the horrific Atos run Work Capability Assessment grows ever higher with a spate of tragic suicides reported throughout December. Life is cheap under neo-liberalism and neither the Tory Party, or Labour – who merely say they will replace Atos but the assessments will continue – are opposed to this terrible regime facing sick and disabled claimants.
Barely any of those found ‘fit for work’ by Atos have actually found jobs, despite Iain Duncan Smith’s magical Work Programme. The number of successful appeals against decisions made to throw people off benefits remains sky high. The stress and suffering caused by Atos is more than well documented by hundreds, if not…
View original post 200 more words
Old Tory policies die hard – or perhaps they (like Labour, LibDems, UKIP, etc) just dont have the depth of imagination to think up new innovative ones.
Whatever, another Thatcherite policy rears its ugly head again. All the way from the days when they seriously considered cutting cities like Liverpoool adrift to die, comes a reprise of Norman Tebbit’s “on yer bike” advice.
An article in The Economist titled Some towns cannot be preserved. Save their inhabitants instead informs us that –
“Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hartlepool, Hull and many others were in trouble even before the financial crisis. These days their unemployment rates are roughly double the national average, and talented young people are draining away. Their high streets are thick with betting shops and payday lenders, if they are not empty.
“Under the last Labour government these towns were propped up on piles of public money. Some built museums and arts centres in an attempt to draw tourists, though this rarely worked. All became dependent on welfare.
“But there is little money for grand projects these days. And cuts to welfare, enacted by the Conservative-led coalition government in an attempt to balance the books, are falling brutally there. In Hartlepool the cuts amount to £712 for every working-age person. In Guildford, a middle-class commuter town south of London, they add up to just £263.”
So, nothing we didn’t already know. Can you guess what the remedy is going to be ?
“Governments should not try to rescue failing towns. Instead, they should support the people who live in them.
That means helping them to commute or move to places where there are jobs—and giving them the skills to get those jobs.”
Ok, right – so that means we all have to uproot and head for the South East ? And, if/when we manage to scrabble to the top of the heap and win the coveted prize of a minimum wage service industry job, where are we going to live ? Some London boroughs are already enacting what amounts to economic cleansing of the poor when it comes to housing.
Still, perhaps we’ll see the esthablishment of squatter camps outside the city limits, from where those with jobs can be bussed in every day to labour for their pennies.
Actually, the article may have been thinking along similar lines – “…new communities can be created in growing suburbs fringing successful cities. It has happened before.”
It certainly has. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Finally, I’d like to quote one of the comments published in response to the article, which I think succinctly sums up the problems that the piece’s author evidently failed to forsee –
“The obvious consequence of this article is that you support the people by moving them from “dead” areas to “live” areas like, er, London and the Greater South East. Obviously in leaving a dead area you will get very little for your house (after all it is being effectively abandoned), so you will have to be subsidised in the South – or live on the streets – something I don’t think the locals in London like.
Then of course the problem is London
– The motorways are clogged (despite having more lanes than anywhere else in the country),
– the railways are apparently a hell hole (despite having better rolling stock than the rail-buses we still have where I live and despite getting the Crossrail investment and tube extensions),
– the airports are apparently even worse (despite or possibly because of a hogging of international connections)
– Housing is a nightmare – made worse apparently by immigrants (you wait until the Northerners arrive!)
– Key workers are not available (probably because they cannot afford to live in central London and cannot afford to travel into London)
– There are water shortages (which will probably get worse when the people from Hartlepool, Burnley, Hull Middlesbrough et al arrive)
Actually being unemployed and living on the Durham coast sounds like quite a good life in comparison – and will probably cost the exchequer less than solving all the additional problems London would have if you moved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from “dead” areas to London.”
Economist, 12 Oct 2013 http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21587790-city-sicker