Chief Executive of Transport Focus experiences a Pacer

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aformeruser

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Anthony Smith said:
An hour on an all-stations Pacer train felt like a lifetime!
20th June 2016

Much has been written and said about Pacer trains. More than 30-years old, these odd bus bodies stuck on rigid frames were a pragmatic, cost-effective British Rail solution to the need for new trains on some lines at a time when rail travel was declining and subsidy being cut. However, despite being well past their travel by date they are still in use on Arriva Trains Wales, Northern and Great Western Railway services. They are all due to be replaced in the next few years.

I have made short journeys on them before – but never a longer one – so last week was an eye-opener. Going to a funeral in Cheshire, my sister and I changed off the Virgin train at Stockport and witnessed what can only be described as a monsoon! Whatever you think about Virgin’s Pendolino trains – I strongly dislike them, but my sister, a less regular train traveller, thought it was great – they are at least cool and vaguely comfortable.

We were heading to Greenbank on the Stockport to Chester line – the “Mid Cheshire Line”. The line serves a wide variety of communities, including Altrincham and Knutsford. The two-carriage Pacer train arrived on time and we all piled on with our luggage. It was very, very hot on a muggy day. No air conditioning. The ride was very hard – it felt as if there were no suspension. Poor seating layout with hard bench seats in a cramped two and three seat layout – as a six-foot person I had trouble fitting in! Slow – the trains accelerate at a slow pace. At each station the conductor has to release the door lock which then allows passengers to press the open button. The conductor then has to shut the doors. The conductor is also selling tickets as many station are unstaffed and have no ticket machines (or real-time information as we found on the return journey from Delamere station). You could see some passengers with change ready who were never reached – a free ride!

What is astonishing is that, despite all this, the train was pretty much full. It is remarkable how the market has borne up despite the product – must also say something about the choices people have? It certainly shows the value of the efforts of the Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association and the Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership to promote the line.

So will the replacement trains coming later in the new franchise make a difference? Yes, but it will take more than simply replacing the Pacers. Better frequency, by December 2017 there is to be an additional hourly train between Manchester and Northwich, and better live information would help. The layout of the refurbished trains will also be important – worth more research on the lines of that we did with Merseytravel? Do different parts of the country need different solutions?

But better trains will mark a big step in the right direction.

http://www.transportfocus.org.uk/ne...hour-stations-pacer-train-felt-like-lifetime/

No prizes for guessing which type of Pacer he was on:



Unfortunately, it wasn't the funeral of a Pacer he was going to. ;)
 
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crehld

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He should have a go on one between Skipton and Lancaster. He could then get a feel for what it's like being on a busy ex-Merseyrail pacer over 30-odd miles of jointed track ;)
 

aformeruser

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He should have a go on one between Skipton and Lancaster. He could then get a feel for what it's like being on a busy ex-Merseyrail pacer over 30-odd miles of jointed track ;)

Well he did pick a route with 75mph running, a very sharp bend and some farm crossings so he almost got the full Pacer experience and just needs a lengthy section of jointed track to complete it.
 

DarloRich

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the poor lamb.

BTW how can the chief executive of Transport Focus (The watchdog for transport passengers and road users in the United Kingdom - based in Manchester!) be considered serious when he hasn't even traveled long distances on what must be the most complained about train type in the UK? How can he grade the information given to him by correspondents?
 

aformeruser

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BTW how can the chief executive of Transport Focus (The watchdog for transport passengers and road users in the United Kingdom - based in Manchester!)

Passenger Focus was based in Manchester in the past before it was relocated to Southend-on-Sea and after it moved from Warrington. Transport Focus seems to have it's main office in London (where Mr. Smith is based) and a second office in Manchester.
 

crehld

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BTW how can the chief executive of Transport Focus (The watchdog for transport passengers and road users in the United Kingdom - based in Manchester!) be considered serious when he hasn't even traveled long distances on what must be the most complained about train type in the UK? How can he grade the information given to him by correspondents?

Yes I was wondering this too!
 

DarloRich

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Passenger Focus was based in Manchester in the past before it was relocated to Southend-on-Sea and after it moved from Warrington. Transport Focus seems to have it's main office in London (where Mr. Smith is based) and a second office in Manchester.

Stiil! I assume the Chief Executive has visited his out stations. Surely you would be out and about testing transport systems as part of that role and testing what your petitioners told you.

( I am guessing it is a part time role with little or no reward - if not there is no excuse.)
 

Bishopstone

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Are the Pacers slow to gain speed, or just noisy in gaining speed? (Versus other diesel units intended for non-IC services, 0-50 mph.)
 

aformeruser

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Surely you would be out and about testing transport systems as part of that role and testing what your petitioners told you.

Agreed. However, it might be difficult to organise longer Pacer journeys if you have to arrange your journey around meetings. I've caught many services which are booked to be 150s or 156s where a 142 has turned up and others where it should be a 142 but a Sprinter turns up.

I wonder if he did the journey he writes about via Altrincham deliberately. Greenbank is only 1 mile from Hartford station, which is a short ride on a 350 from Crewe but he describes catching a Pendolino to Stockport and then the slow Mid-Cheshire service. If the funeral was at Hartford church then it's mid-way between Greenbank and Hartford, but if it was in Weaverham then the onward bus operates from the Greenbank Hotel (next to Greenbank station.)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Are the Pacers slow to gain speed, or just noisy in gaining speed? (Versus other diesel units intended for non-IC services, 0-50 mph.)

Pacers are noticably slower than Sprinters at getting from 15mph to 75mph after Skelton Junction. If a Manchester bound service is operated by a 150 or 156, it leaves Navigation Road on time and doesn't get held by any signals then it faces a minimum 3 minute wait before being allowed to proceed to a platform at Stockport, if it's a Pacer in the same conditions it's around a 60 second wait.

There's actually less engine noise when a Pacer is accelerating than when a 150 or 156 is accelerating. However, if the track isn't straight or there's crossover points there's more track noise when it's a Pacer.
 
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Bishopstone

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Pacers are noticably slower than Sprinters at getting from 15mph to 75mph after Skelton Junction. If a Manchester bound service is operated by a 150 or 156, it leaves Navigation Road on time and doesn't get held by any signals then it faces a minimum 3 minute wait before being allowed to proceed to a platform at Stockport, if it's a Pacer in the same conditions it's around a 60 second wait.

Thanks. I had assumed 142 performance was broadly on a par with 150/156.
They feel lively enough, in my experience, but then again I once owned an old Volvo which sounded/felt as though it was going fast, but the speedo said otherwise...
 

deltic

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Stiil! I assume the Chief Executive has visited his out stations. Surely you would be out and about testing transport systems as part of that role and testing what your petitioners told you.

( I am guessing it is a part time role with little or no reward - if not there is no excuse.)

Full time post on around £125k a year
 

bramling

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http://www.transportfocus.org.uk/ne...hour-stations-pacer-train-felt-like-lifetime/

No prizes for guessing which type of Pacer he was on:



Unfortunately, it wasn't the funeral of a Pacer he was going to. ;)

The uncomfortable seating is more to do with the type of seating installed in the Merseyrail examples.

Just last week I did the whole run from Saltburn to Bishop Auckland in a Northern Spirit interior pacer, and the experience wasn't bad at all to be fair. Certainly more comfortable than many variants of class 150.

I would prefer a lightly-loaded Pacer to being on something better which is overcrowded.
 

bramling

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A Pacer is 10m shorter than a 150 so if you get a 142 instead of a 150 you're less likely to get a seat.

Yes but not if the train is 2x142 or 150+142.

Which is precisely the point. We don't want to be in the position of withdrawing serviceable trains and then finding overcrowding occurs due to insufficient stock.
 
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Bletchleyite

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Are the Pacers slow to gain speed, or just noisy in gaining speed? (Versus other diesel units intended for non-IC services, 0-50 mph.)

They're a lot *less* noisy than 15x, probably because of the thick underframe between the passenger compartment and the engine. It's more of a slow, frustrated wheeze.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Yes but not if the train is 2x142 or 150+142.

Which is precisely the point. We don't want to be in the position of withdrawing serviceable trains and then finding overcrowding occurs due to insufficient stock.

Precisely. Withdrawing serviceable rolling stock is not sensible when there are standing passengers.
 

aformeruser

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Precisely. Withdrawing serviceable rolling stock is not sensible when there are standing passengers.

When we've got over 300 diesel trains which were built in the mid 1980s and many of them built on a low budget, having a rolling stock strategy which requires them all to be in service until they are 40 years old does not seem sensible either. They could start proving non-economically viable to remain in service and we'd have no option but to spend huge sums on trains which are about to be withdrawn or withdraw them 'early' and face overcrowding.
 

Sprinter153

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Transport Focus said:
At each station the conductor has to release the door lock which then allows passengers to press the open button. The conductor then has to shut the doors.

This bit stuck out to me. Perish the thought that there should be a person actually operating the doors on the train. Call the cast of Time Team, it's positively archaic!

Seems like even Transport Focus are banging the DOO drum here.
 

30907

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This bit stuck out to me. Perish the thought that there should be a person actually operating the doors on the train.

Seems like even Transport Focus are banging the DOO drum here.

More likely it's much more obvious when the responsible member of staff is busy issuing tickets - it's certainly not a Pacer-specific issue.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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This bit stuck out to me. Perish the thought that there should be a person actually operating the doors on the train. Call the cast of Time Team, it's positively archaic!

It is quite comical how clumsy the door arrangements on Pacers are though.
There are no controls in the cab and the conductor has to push people out of the way to get to the door and do his thing.
And the passenger button is usually hidden away on the wrong side of the pillar!
But it's the same in 158s for that matter - very poor control layout.
I still don't know why we don't have remote electronic door release like on virtually every car nowadays.
 
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aformeruser

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I still don't know why we don't have remote electronic door release like on virtually every car nowadays.

I wouldn't like to be the one who suggests that to the RMT, they'd still have firemen on trains if they had their way - never mind the fact they aren't needed for diesel or electric trains!
 

BestWestern

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It is quite comical how clumsy the door arrangements on Pacers are though.
There are no controls in the cab and the conductor has to push people out of the way to get to the door and do his thing.
And the passenger button is usually hidden away on the wrong side of the pillar!
But it's the same in 158s for that matter - very poor control layout.
I still don't know why we don't have remote electronic door release like on virtually every car nowadays.

Don't forget though that Pacers were intended for branch lines with presumably light loadings. Crush loaded rush hour services present more of a door logistics issue! As for 158s, much better to work than a 150 despite having to mix it with the punters at the doors. A set of controls at each door is far superior to having to rush back to the end of the train.
 

DarloRich

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I still don't know why we don't have remote electronic door release like on virtually every car nowadays.

a set of guards door controls at each door would be a good start!

I wouldn't like to be the one who suggests that to the RMT, they'd still have firemen on trains if they had their way - never mind the fact they aren't needed for diesel or electric trains!

of course they would, whilst in the real world.............. :roll:
 

aformeruser

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a set of guards door controls at each door would be a good start!

How that's a solution when the problem cited was

LNW-GW Joint said:
the conductor has to push people out of the way to get to the door

Or do passengers only crowd around the doors at the front and rear of the train?

of course they would, whilst in the real world.............. :roll:

Unfortunately the RMT don't live in the real world. They seem to think there's a bottomless pit of money to pay people to do that jobs which are no longer required and object to technological advances because they might threaten existing jobs, even if the advances will create additional highly skilled roles.
 

Bletchleyite

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It is quite comical how clumsy the door arrangements on Pacers are though.
There are no controls in the cab and the conductor has to push people out of the way to get to the door and do his thing.

There is no cab door, so they wouldn't be able to do it even if they were in the cab.

And the passenger button is usually hidden away on the wrong side of the pillar!

Agree this is silly, I've seen people miss their stop because of that "feature". Didn't one of the refurbs turn the panel through 90 degrees?

But it's the same in 158s for that matter - very poor control layout.
I still don't know why we don't have remote electronic door release like on virtually every car nowadays.

They are electronic, the panel just happens to be above the door. On the old folding doors it was even less conveniently placed, on the other side of the panel under where the passenger controls are.
 

387star

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[

ouch pink and yellow

but in all seriousness they do look absolutely dire
 
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DarloRich

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Unfortunately the RMT don't live in the real world. They seem to think there's a bottomless pit of money to pay people to do that jobs which are no longer required and object to technological advances because they might threaten existing jobs, even if the advances will create additional highly skilled roles.

With respect that is your view of them based on whatever bias (which we all have) you wish to bring to the table. I assume that as a member you are well versed with the work they do.
 

HSTFan57

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As a passenger the type of train that turns up is a long way down my list of priorities:
1) Does the train turn up at all? (Are Pacers substantially less reliable than other types?)
2) Is the train on time? (I guess Pacers are not as good at making up time as similar DMUs).
3) Is the service frequent?
4) Is the train full of rowdy/drunken/etc. people?
5) Can I get a seat? (Only really matters if the journey is longer than 30 minutes, but can be a problem on Pacers)
6) Is the train uncomfortably hot? (Only a problem when the air-conditioning fails on a train with few opening windows, so never a problem on Pacers)
7) Is the train a Voyager? (I don't like these because they block GPS signals and I like to know where I am)

For my travelling purposes, Pacers are not much inferior to any other kind of 75mph DMU.
 
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Parallel

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I used a fair few ATW pacers on the Valley Lines today, and I also occasionally use the Devon Metro. For anyone who is unaware, all ATW/GWR pacers have 2+2 Chapman style seating which is the same on their 150/2s, and most of their 153s, so seating wasn't an issue. Also, pacers work doubled up a lot of the day providing more capacity than the single 150s they share the same lines with, so capacity is usually better, as long as two pacers turn up. It's reasonably rare to see 2x150 working together, especially on a weekday, so with how the pacers are run, I can't really argue with capacity.

Pacers do make a squeal if they go over tight curves or brake but you get used to it. Most people on the platforms at Cardiff/Exeter I see don't even bat an eyelid when a pair of pacers come screeching to a stop!

The biggest issue I had today was how dirty some of ATW's 142s are, but that's not an issue with the class itself.

Obviously pacers aren't perfect trains, but they're not as bad as people make out. I'd rather board 2 x 14x over 1 x 150 given the choice, and that's often how they're run on busier routes, by ATW or GWR. I don't frequently use Northern, but I'm guessing a lot of pacers work services alone. I think it's less about the units, and more how they're run.
 
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