A Teesside MP has warned that the Government’s Transport Ministry may look to replace Northern Rail’s Pacer trains with equally ageing former London Underground trains.
Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has joined in calls for improvements on routes served by the trains, which go no faster than 60mph on Northern and Trans-Pennine Express routes.
Easington MP Grahame Morris has called for a firm commitment from the Government on replacing the “outdated, uncomfortable and cramped” trains after Chancellor George Osborne said the re-franchising of the East Coast mainline next year would include “a substantial package of upgrades including new services and modern trains”.
Now Mr Blenkinsop, who uses the trains which operate from Middlesbrough and Darlington to Nunthorpe and Saltburn, said:
“The influential railway industry source, the Rail Business Intelligence Bulletin has become aware of a proposal to convert London Underground District Line D78 units – that were already 30-years-old and being decommissioned by London Underground – into diesel engine carriage sets for use on North of England commuter lines like the ones in my constituency.”
Mr Blenkinsop said the only winner if a deal was brokered would be London Mayor Boris Johnson “who will get a Christmas present of some cash for trains he was going to scrap anyway”.
“This worries me as a local rail service user, we don’t want to see veteran trains replaced by equally ageing old London Underground trains which will be nothing more than vintage carriages with a diesel engine bolted on to them.
“I have a simple message to coalition transport ministers – just get rid of the Pacers.
“They are an embarrassment to our rail system and the regular commuters who have to be sardined in them on a daily basis.
“Give people on Teesside the longer trains and comfortable carriages enjoyed in the south. Only then will you see passenger numbers really increase on local routes instead of today’s steady decay.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 16 Dec 2014
The Government’s treatment of North rail passengers is “nothing short of scandalous”, it is claimed today, amid fears that outdated Pacer trains won’t be replaced.
Easington’s Grahame Morris is calling for a firm commitment on replacing the “outdated, uncomfortable and cramped” trains, which go no faster than 60mph on Northern and Trans-Pennine Express routes.
The line is set to be re-franchised in 2015 and George Osborne said the new deal would include “a substantial package of upgrades including new services and modern trains”.
But Mr Morris said doubt hangs over the claims and the Chancellor could be backtracking.
He said Government documents show bidders are simply being ‘encouraged’ to replace the Pacers and, when quizzed in Parliament this week, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin offered the North no cast iron guarantees. Now, the County Durham MP is calling for swift action.
“Like thousands of my constituents I travel on these outdated, uncomfortable and cramped trains every week,” Mr Morris said.
“On top of all the other things hitting North East commuters we now have the prospect of continuing to use these totally inappropriate trains for the foreseeable future. I am writing to the government to point out that North East passengers are suffering enough without this new threat. I shall be seeking guarantees from the government about this.”
It had long been assumed Pacers, originally a stop-gap solution, as they are outmoded and expensive to repair.
The MP added:
“The North has a tiny fraction of money spent on it on infrastructure, compared to London and the South and the amount spent in the North-East is even less. All we want is fairness, North-East travellers deserve their fair share.”
He also said rising fares and the Coalition’s move to re-privatise the East Coast Main Line are unacceptable and the region is not getting the deal it deserves.
He said re-franchising services would spell job losses and companies like Stagecoach and Virgin – who as InterCity Railways won the East Coast Main Line franchise would be “laughing all the way to the bank”.
East Coast, under public ownership, had moved into profit and had high approval ratings from customers.
“The way rail passengers in the North-East are treated is nothing short of scandalous,” said Mr Morris.
“In the last 20 years we have seen a fragmented, privatised rail network fail passengers, with high fares and poor service, all in the name of the free market. It is clear we need, as happens in most other countries, a publicly owned and managed rail service aimed at providing a safe, affordable and efficient service for passengers.
“The decision by this government to force the East Coast mainline back into private hands, despite the public company running it consistently achieving top marks on all measures, including passenger satisfaction and value for the taxpayer, only goes to show it’s all about political ideology, not what’s right for the public and taxpayer. Of course the private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank.”
Source – Sunday Sun, 14 Dec 2014
Rail union campaigners opposing Government cuts to jobs and services are calling on local authorities in the region to support them.
The RMT is warning fares will rise under Government plans for the refranchising of Northern and Trans-Pennine Express trains.
Now, RMT boss Mick Cash is calling on MPs to back an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, put forward by Stockton North MP Alex Cunninghgam, rejecting the Government’s consultation on the plans and setting out concerns about the line’s future.
So far, North East Labour MPs Pat Glass, Stephen Hepburn, Mary Glindon and Dave Anderson have signed the motion.
Mick Cash is asking councillors and local authorities to back their campaign against rail cuts as it sends out 10,000 postcards throughout the region to raise awareness.
Liverpool City Council has officially registered its opposition to the Government’s plans and the union is hopeful others will follow suit.
It comes after Northern Rail opted to slash some of its off-peak fares in a move the union claims was motivated “purely in the name of profit”.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said demand for rail travel is growing and claimed any plan to cut jobs made no sense.
He said: “The fight to stop the outrageous carve up of jobs and services under the Northern and Trans-Pennine Express franchise plans is gathering pace by the day and is sending out the clearest possible message to the Government and Rail North that they need to scrap this attack on transport services.
“Let’s not forget that the core of the Government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, restrict services, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate.
“That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun with the abolition of off-peak fares and only an all-out and coordinated fight can stop the savage assault on rail in the North.
“RMT today launches the next phase of the fight to both inform the public and fight the savage cuts being lined up for these Northern rail franchises, and to get MPs signed up to EDM 174 opposing this carve-up.
“It is absolutely essential now that we keep up the pressure.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Oct 2014
Rail campaigners have called on the Government to give Northern train services a once in a decade chance of investment.
Transport groups have said it is time services such as Northern Rail benefited from the same approach which has handed cash to rail in London and the south east in recent decades.
The Campaign for Better Transport has warned that a Government consultation on the future of Northern Rail and Trans Pennine Express looks set to do little to improve east-west links to and from the North East.
They say the plans as they stand give “only a vague indications of when the outdated 30-year old train diesel Pacer train will finally be replaced,” raising the possibility rail operators will not be forced to make much needed improvements.
In its consultation document on the new franchise the Government makes clear that it will accept limited rolling stick improvements if the cost would mean money diverted from other services.
The Department for Transport document says: “We firmly believe the rolling stock on Northern services needs to be improved so that passengers recognise a step change. But the more expensive the trains (and brand-new trains are likely to be the most expensive option of all), the harder it will be to justify current service levels where demand is low, and to afford to improve services where demand is increasing.”
The Department for Transport also makes clear that new operators would be allowed to cut back on off peak services, including reducing the number of trains calling at less popular stations.
There is some good news for Northumberland, with the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line looking set for a return thanks to Northumberland County Council cash.
But while Ashington-Blyth and Tyne is mentioned, schemes like the Leamside reopening though the south of the region are not and potential operators wouldn’t need to consider them in their bids.
Also causing concern is a clear expectation that the northern services will not attract significant investment.
Campaigners say that the consultation is missing an sign that a new operator will be forced to invest in trains, track and stations. “This is a counterpoint to the investment-heavy approach to growing the railways used in the South East,” the campaign group said.
Stephen Joseph, chief executive at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The North East’s railways are at a junction. The Government is talking about trade-offs with the winners potentially getting newer trains and better stations while the losers could end up with higher fares and reduced services. Getting real investment into rail is essential to the region’s economy and we’ll be working with others to campaign for railways in the north to get the kind of support other parts of the country have seen.”
The Government consultation runs until August 18.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 23 June 2014