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Anger over 'cattle truck' trains U-turn

Ministers have said trains may be refurbished, rather than replaced, by Steve Craddock

A Northern Rail Pacer Train at Southport Station.

Rail enthusiasts and passengers have spoken of their frustration after a government U-turn over Pacer trains.

The old trains, which run from Southport through West Lancashire to Manchester, have been described by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald as “cattle trucks”.

They were due to be replaced as part of a new contract in 2016. But now ministers have said they may be refurbished, rather than replaced.

Tony Kuivala, treasurer of the Friends of the 502 group, said Pacers were built in Workington where British Leyland manufactured buses, and combined a bus body with a four-wheel express freight wagon chassis.

He said: “It’s long past the time they were replaced and it’s a waste of money refurbishing them - they should spend some money on new rolling stock.”

Michael Walton, from Southport, uses the Pacer trains several times a week to get to and from university in Manchester.

Michael, 24, said: “They’re awful. The old ones are really rickety and, when I’m coming home at about five o’clock, there’s not very many carriages, so people cram in.

“A few months ago, people were complaining on the train because we were so packed in but the conductor told us there was no legal limit to how many people can get on it.”

Alan Fantom, chairman of the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA), said: “Our response said quite categorically that we expect a replacement for the Pacer.

“One reason they’re still around is that by comparison they are quite cheap, but they carry up to 30% less passengers and are run beyond capacity.

“The quality of the service and the safety are serious concerns.”

Mick Cash, RMT rail union acting general secretary, said: “The ditching of the pledge to replace the Pacers as part of the new Northern Franchise shows clearly that, despite all the rhetoric from George Obsorne, this Government is waging all-out war on rail passengers in the North.

“Taken alongside the abolition of off-peak fares, the axing of guards and the assault on services and ticket offices, there can be no other explanation.”

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