Will the North West's new £500m trains ease the problems on our congested lines?

A Lancashire MP says the replacement of the dreaded Pacer trains on the North West rail network 'cannot come fast enough.'

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19th February 2018, 1:15 pm
Updated Monday, 19th February 2018, 1:25 pm

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The £500m new trains heading to the North West

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard was reacting to the news that train operator Northern is investing nearly £500m in 98 new trains.

The electric and diesel trains are now being built at the CAF plant in Zaragoza, Spain.

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David Brown, managing director of Northern, pictured at Zaragoza

The first could be in service calling at Lancashire stations by December.

Mr Maynard said: “I am very pleased to see these new trains taking shape, a further sign of the significant investment being made in the railways around Blackpool.

“Not only will these trains improve the experience for passengers on key routes linking major communities across the North of England, they will also allow Northern to end the use of uncomfortable Pacer rail buses.

“Having travelled on these trains myself I am keen as anyone to see them replaced with new rolling stock. It cannot happen fast enough.”

Train tracks

Northern has promised to oversee the complete removal of the ageing Pacer trains in its fleet by the end of 2019.

The new electric and diesel trains will provide brand 281 new spacious and comfortable air-conditioned carriages with wi-fi, power points, and reserved seating.

Northern will run regional and commuter services across the north until March 2025.

It is aiming for a 40 per cent increase in capacity on the network.

David Brown, managing director of Northern, pictured at Zaragoza

Meanwhile Network Rail is upgrading the busy railway route between Manchester and Blackpool as part of a multi-billion pound investment in the north to deliver cleaner, quieter and more reliable journeys.

The 17 mile route between Preston and Blackpool North will be fully electrified paving the way for better trains with more seats.

The work is expected to conclude in March.

Work includes the replacement of 84 signals and moving the signalling control to the Manchester rail operating centre. Blackpool North and Kirkham & Wesham stations are also being remodelled.

Train tracks

Train services between Blackpool South Station and Preston were resumed in January.

Blackpool North MP Mr Maynard, a former transport minister, said: “We are at the dawn of a golden age for Blackpool’s rail link, following a transformation on a scale not seen since the Victorian age, and I am excited to see what the next few years delivers for passengers.”

Lorraine Norris, Chief Executive of Preston City Council, said of the new trains: “This is fantastic news for commuters.

“Coupled with the electrification of the line this will ultimately offer a much more comfortable journey for commuters and visitors alike.

“Hopefully this will also encourage more people to consider taking the train as an alternative to the car.”

But Network Rail has announced that “poor ground conditions” have delayed the completion date for the electrification project between Preston and Manchester from May to Summer 2018.

That is a source of frustration for long-suffering commuters and Northern itself, which is overseeing the completion of 98 new trains at the CAF plant in Zaragoza, Spain.

They are determined to meet their deadlines – with the first new electric or diesel CAF train in service in Lancashire by the end of the year.

CAF is now looking to set up a UK plant in Newport in the near future.

The next major step to improve rail travel in the North will be HS2 on the West Coat Main Line and then HS3, which will mean faster journey times between London and Manchester and therefore Lancashire. Preston station is likely to need upgrading to take advantage of the new high-sped trains.

Here are some of your views on rail travel in the North West:

“The train companies need to get the basics right. Filthy, over crowded and expensive train travel cannot and should not be tolerated.

“Investment in infrastructure, stations and fleet is required now before it’s too late.”

Sabri Marsoui

“Beautiful!! More than enough room to stand up.”

Lee Smart

“Only trouble is nobody will be able to afford the tickets ,the cost will be too high.

Anthony 1946

“New trains great. Constant fare increases put people off and they will continue to use the car.”

Martin Judge

“So when are the cattletrucks being replaced on the Blackpool/Leeds/York lines?”

Bob Northover

“I see the trains are being built in Spain - why not buy British,no wonder the country is going to the dogs​”

Colin Walker

“Shame they couldn’t have found a British company to make the trains.”

Stacy Cousin

“Used to be built in Preston before the French bought GEC and shut it down.”

Andrew Bell

“It’s new carriages they need, some are in a right state.”


“Just adding to the costs to rail passengers. Owned by one company, used by another! “Fragment the railways and make it harder to re-nationalise!”

​John Lomax