Friday 28th May 2021
This weekend sees the withdrawal from service of Britain’s last Pacer trains. Northern Rail did the decent thing to their Pacer fleet last November while Great Western Railway followed in December.
The DfT’s derogation to use these trains with their outdated non-accessible features runs out on 31st May (having been extended twice from the original 31st December 2019 deadline) so the journey to their final terminus is just days away as Transport for Wales prepares to withdraw its fleet of Class 143s for good.
Since 2020 the concession to keep the trains in service has stipulated they must be coupled up to an accessible train of a different Class. But now even that arrangement has to end.
I paid a quick visit to Cardiff yesterday to have some last nostalgic rides
The interiors were nicely spruced up a while ago with the old style traditional bus seating that characterised these trains for so many years stripped away and replaced by rather nice looking comfortable seats.
Northern did the same with a few in its fleet too…
…as I’m pretty sure GWR did too.
This made them actually very pleasant to ride in particularly because of their large windows.
Pacers have been famed for their lightweight bus body construction but when you reckon they were given a 20 year lifespan when built in the early 1980s they’ve actually done the railway well for many more years than originally intended.
They could certainly give you a swaying and rocky ride gaining them the nickname “nodding donkeys” especially when travelling at speed and sported a special type of squealing sound when traversing points and around tight curves.
Their two flap doors with a single glass panel in each also had a unique opening and closing mechanism with a characteristic slam shut which could only ever be found on a Pacer.
And it was always interesting to see the slightly different locations of the door open and close buttons on the various Class variations.
There were five slightly different Classes – numbered 140 to 144 in two car format with 165 trains built in total.
Pacers were a very pragmatic solution in the 1980s with a low cost solution needed when budgets were tight and rural branch lines under threat.
In some ways it’ll be sad to see them disappear but new train fleets are now finally being introduced with all the modern features passengers expect these days.
Except it’s ironic that as these trains hit the buffers, Transport for Wales are introducing former Class 319 electric trains once used on Thameslink and now modified to run with a diesel engine (as Class 769) in partial Pacer replacement.
So much for being environmentally friendly.
Passengers now enduring the hard seats on Thameslink’s replacement Class 700 trains might look enviously at the comfort Cardiff Valley Lines commuters now enjoy, including the luxury of usb sockets.
However the seats are low down, as the ones they replaced were, and they’re not especially comfortable, but it did bring back memories to see that pillar once again!
Goodbye Pacers and thanks for your service.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement enjoy Britain’s splendid scenic delights travelling by bus and train, and commenting along the way.