New trains - why Harrogate rail passengers have to wait longer
Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP has been talking about his frustration at the latest delay to £500 million rail improvements described as a “generational change” for train travel in the North.
Rail minister Andrew Jones said that an earlier pledge to replace all the unloved Pacer trains, including those on the Harrogate line, with brand new rolling stock by the end of the year would not now happen.
Mr Jones said: “Any delay is frustrating. I am pressing the rail operator for detail on what is happening. I expect Northern to be doing everything they can to get the new trains introduced as quickly as possible.”
The latest wait for weary rail passengers comes after Northern admitted mechanical issues meant a “small number” of new trains might not be in service until the beginning of 2020.
Mr Jones said the replacement of Pacer trains was part of a massive “generational change in rail transport across the North” in terms of capacity and services after years of no growth of investment from 2004 to 2016.
The MP said he understood the scale of the improvements the Government had asked the rail operators to undertake but he said everyone was “busting a gut” to complete the task.
Although he said he was confident the last Pacer would be sent to the scrapyard by early next year, he was unable to give any specific date or guarantee.
Mr Jones, who said he was focusing on doing real work during the drawn-out Brexit process, said: “We will be doing all the heavy lifting on this in the autumn. Everyone is busting a gut to get this done.“Altogether, Northern has 101 Pacers and we will be introducing the new trains two per week.“One year from now the travelling public will be enjoying significantly better journeys.”
The replacement of the tired old Pacers started last autumn under the leadership of Transport Minister Chris Grayling who hoped it would be achieved in a matter of months, not years.
At the time, a small number of trains on the Harrogate line were replaced by superior quality second-hand trains.
But progress has stalled this year for commuters on the over-crowded, much-criticised York-Harrogate-Leeds line.When asked how many Pacers would still be in service by the end of the year, Mr Jones said: “It really is a work in progress."It could be five or it could be 50. Just last week we launched a new set of electric trains in the North.”