Saturday 28 February 2015

Replace a Pacer? (1 of a series)

A Universally Reviled Train
These trains were introduced in the eighties as a cheap way of "modernising" services on quieter branchlines. Based, initially, on the Leyland National bus ...
... the units are still in full service in the North and in South Wales.

Campaigner for Better called Steve
Wants discomfort on trains to relieve
"I really must say, sir,
I just loathe the Pacer,
They're awful, too bad to conceive!"
Stephen Joseph, Executive Director
Campaign for Better Transport

Joseph said, "There's a consensus that a key part of improving the economy in the North of England must be better public transport, within and between the cities. The Pacer train embodies our transport woes."

So, it is good news from him:-

George Osborne, a great politician (?)
When faced with some public attrition
Said, "What I will say, sir,
We'll replace the Pacer.
Those trains are in awful condition!"
George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer

Chancellor George Osborne told the Commons: “I can confirm today that we will tender for new franchises for Northern Rail and the TransPennine Express; replacing the ancient and unpopular Pacer carriages with new and modern trains.”

And the PM joined in:-

We heard from our noble Prime Minister
"Our plans are great and not sinister.
I'm happy to say, sir,
We'll replace the Pacer.
It'll all be so great when we've finshed, sir!"
a much loved Prime Minister

As reported on 7 November last year David Cameron said: "We all want to see Pacers go, and bidders for the Northern franchise will be required to propose plans for the removal of Pacers when they submit their bids in 2015. Those trains are going, there will be a progressive upgrade of trains right across the system."

But things were not so clear from the Transport Minister:-

Then up pops McLoughlin, our Paddy,
A respected political laddie.
"I feel I must say, sir,
We'll be keeping the Pacer!"
So is it "the good cop" and baddie?
Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin

But since then the disappearance of the Pacers hasn't seemed quite so certain. So when the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin arrived on a visit to Teesside this week, I was keen to ask him about their future. Would he guarantee that we were about to see the back of those pesky Pacers? The answer wasn't entirely clear. He said: "There may be odd routes where they will still have a role but overall the Pacers have had their day, and they need to be replaced."

Nick Clegg had a word to say:-

Then depute Prime Minster, Nick
Spoke out; a political trick?
"I can firmly say, sir,
Fond farewell to the Pacer!"
By year '25? That's hardly slick!
deputy Prime Minister Clegg

Mr Clegg said: “I want significant improvement, government money to buy better rolling stock to improve commuter routes in the north, by 2025. Ancient rolling stock and lines that have not been upgraded in 30 years are not fit for a 21st century metropolis. Decrepit trains such as the Pacers, which are literally ancient buses on rails, are not a fair way for people in the North to get to and from work.”

So another ten years of rocking and rolling?

But the Company that owns lots of Pacers and leases them to the train operators has an alternative view.

With a name from a small Sheffield stream,
Porterbrook have revealed their dream.
What we will say, sir,
Well upgrade the Pacer.
These trains, we'll make them the cream!
Porter Brook, Sheffield

Paul Francis, managing director, told Transport Select Committee MPs on October 27: “We are doing a Pacer vehicle in Derby, with RVEL [Rail Vehicle Engineering Ltd]. We are going to put £800,000 into a Pacer vehicle. Notwithstanding everybody’s dissatisfaction, we want to show stakeholders, whether they are people from Northern, people from DFT or politicians, whoever wants to come and see it, what you can genuinely do with that Pacer vehicle to modify it.
an alternative solution?

Confusing, isn't it?

More on the dreaded Pacers later thus week.
Western Greyhound "New" Web Site
This site, offering nothing "new" compared with the old, finally burst forth on an unsuspecting world last week. In the "FAQ" section we read:-

Who is Western Greyhound?
Western Greyhound is a locally-based, family-run business that has been operating since 1998. We run an extensive bus network throughout Cornwall and into Devon, offering services which frequently connect together to provide excellent journey opportunities in the region. Our fleet can be identified by a smart green and white livery and our routes are numbered in the 500 series. Our buses are reliable because we take immense pride in ensuring a high quality of service, resulting in us recently receiving the prestigious national award for Operating Excellence for Small Fleets for two years running. The company continues to grow from strength to strength, having just taken over the Corlink service and also beating off stiff competition to earn the new Truro Park and Ride tender.

Try posting up to date information not out of date misinformation!

"Route Maps" are useless:-
And WG's former excellent PDF timetables are replaced with a link to Traveline.
Not very good. And there's at least one of these!
Why bother to change? The tulip is still wilting!
 Next "varied" blog : Sunday 1st March 


  1. still a far better website than the previous 90s western greyhound site. all you've done is pick at the negatives, says a lot about your attitude towards the future of western greyhound!

    1. Except it's not the '90s' Western Greyhound site, it is a template that's 7 years old and has had minimal if any updating since then. WG have redesigned their website at least twice in the time they've been trading, something you'd know if you bothered to do your homework.
      All the 'new' site is doing is rehashing the same old information, rather than doing something different. An ideal example of fiddling about and doing nothing substantive.
      I assume Anon poster you have some connection the new owners? Why not undertake a basic course in English grammar and apply that learning to the backs of your vehicles. Messages about 'use our bus or lose it' are put across poorly and are exceptionally patronising.
      Sad to say it, but it might just have been better for WG to have shut down rather than be taken over and run down by people who have questionable histories in the industry, and that is putting it politely.
      Western Greyhound needs turning around, and quickly. The track record of the new owners fills me with little confidence in their ability to do this.
      Can they arrest the decline and build for the future once it's sorted? First have bigger pockets.

    2. Steady on! I was merely stating that the previous design was very dated and needed improvement. I'm fully capable of writing proper English, if you want to get serious then fine! Actually I'm just a 525 regular. Whilst I'd agree that a lot of the information is dated I welcome a fresh new design and think it's a nice gesture from the new owners (now they just need to update some of the dated info). I also see that a news post on their site states that they are releasing a mobile app soon, that is definitely something I'm definitely interested in, you've got to give them something for making an effort to bring the company into the 21st century!

  2. A great pity that Western Greyhound in relying on Traveline for its own timetables. The timetables and maps don't match up with the route description. For example the 593 is shown as Plymouth - Liskeard - etc - Newquay.

    The 593 is now split at Liskeard with the Plymouth end being operated by Go Cornwall. The timetable doesn't have any mention of the route or timings east of Liskeard, nor does the map show anything towards Plymouth.

    What is the public to make of that ? Are there through fares or not ? What time do you have to leave Plymouth to make a connection at Liskeard. No idea !

    1. There is a high likelihood of WG's timing points not mating up with traveline timetables, likewise with stops used en route.
      It's incredibly rare for an operator not to share their own timetables online, and to rely upon traveline. The previous ones were done in Excel, and basic free software like open office has a 'save as PDF' option on their spreadsheet and document functions, so there is little excuse for abdicating this responsibility. It isn't hard.
      It should be in an operator's interests to promote their high frequency services, and almost all progressive ones do this.
      It remains to be seen where WGL goes under it's new owners, and I very much hope that it will prosper, but I have my doubts.

  3. In the interests of preservation of your new Pacer, can I mention that WD40 is not the best lubricant to use with model railway engines. it can attack some plastics, and remove paint. Best to use a very light oil for lubrication, and IPA for cleaning and degreasing. That's ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL and not India Pale Ale, by the way.

  4. The new WG website is all style and no substance. No excuse for taking the old one down before the new one was launched and not even updating the information. In fact, if ti's judged on content alone it's actually worse, given those awful Traveline timetables. Just my opinion.

    On the plus side, I see they're now washing their buses - something that Old WG seemed incapable of.

  5. It seems they have actually been busy updating the site with new information, and old references to Devon etc have gone.

    To be fair to the new owners, despite the rumours, they do seem to be on the right track - painting buses, sorting destination displays out, modernisation etc.

    Certainly the standards of Buses Excetera have dropped since the managed moved down to Cornwall.

    1. Buses Excetera are in front of the traffic commissioner later this month, and if the information is true, it's WG's turn soon as well.

    2. Yes, although WG are long overdue an appearance - even prior to the new owners taking over.
      Arriva get shafted for one evening trip dropping off on the road outside a bus station, but the TCs have let WG not operate hundreds of journeys, continually, for months and months.