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Last of Northern’s Pacers departs later than planned

THE last of Northern’s ‘Pacer’ trains, which were built in the 1980s by British Rail to replace ‘first generation’ diesel units on local lines, has been withdrawn almost a year later than had been hoped. The Class 142 unit carried passengers from Kirkby to Manchester Victoria late on Friday afternoon.

The low-cost Pacers, which were placed in Classes 140 to 144, use components from bus bodies and have a fixed wheelbase, like a freight wagon.

Although cheaper to build, their wavering ride gave them the nickname ‘nodding donkeys’ and made them unpopular with many passengers, while they ceased to comply with new accessibility regulations at the start of this year and had to be granted a derogation which allows them to stay in service if they are coupled to another, compliant unit. In any case, they have lasted a lot longer than BR had intended, which had given them a provisional life of just 20 years.

A few of the units are going to heritage railways and one has been presented to the National Railway Museum, while others are being converted for static use after a government competition. One is to be used as a science laboratory by a primary school while another is becoming a kitchen for a charity, where men with mental health problems can be taught how to cook.

Northern regional director Chris Jackson said: ‘The Pacers have kept millions of northerners on the move and, while they have served us well and provided some communities with rail services they may have otherwise lost, it is time to give them a well-earned rest.

‘Northern has overseen significant modernisation in recent months and the retiring Pacers have made way for a fleet of 100 brand new trains.’

Although Northern has bid its Pacers farewell, they are set to continue running on some Great Western Railway and Transport for Wales lines for a few weeks longer.

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