Northern Rail passengers still forced to use outdated Pacer trains must be offered reduced fares, politicians in the north have demanded.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Sheffield City region mayor Dan Jarvis and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said it was “unacceptable” that the trains would continue to be used into 2020 – despite previous pledges to replace them.
Pacer trains – which were built using bus parts – were introduced in the early 1980s as a stop-gap solution to a lack of rolling stock.
In a joint letter from the leaders to Northern Rail, Jarvis said the current arrangement was “another example of rail passengers in the North being treated like second-class citizens”.
“It’s unacceptable that people will have to continue to travel on these relics, which should have been consigned to a transport museum long ago,” he wrote.
“A reduction in fares on affected routes, throughout the period that passengers have to travel on what are essentially buses on rails, is the very least that could be done.”
Meanwhile, Blake said the withdrawal of Pacer trains was “one of the centrepiece commitments” made in the Northern franchise.
“The fact they will still be running in 2020 is symbolic of the broader issues with this franchise which continues to deliver an unacceptable level of service to passengers,” she said.
Last week, transport secretary Grant Shapps took the first step towards potentially stripping Northern of its franchise.
He told MPs he has issued a “request for proposals” from the firm and the Operator of Last Resort (OLR), which could lead to services being brought into direct government control and run by the OLR.
Giving evidence to the Commons’ transport select committee, he said the level of performance on the Northern network “cannot continue”.
He went on: “I entirely believe we cannot carry on just thinking it’s OK for trains not to arrive or Sunday services not being in place. That simply has to change.”
Northern, which is owned by Germany-based Arriva, has been contacted for comment in response to the letter.