Yorkshire transport boss says comparing Pacer trains to buses is an insult to buses

A Pacer on a Leeds to Selby service
A Pacer on a Leeds to Selby service
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The director of a Yorkshire bus operator has revealed his frustration at constant comparisons between the much-maligned Pacer trains and buses.

Alex Hornby, who is chief executive of Harrogate Bus Company, a subsidy of Transdev, hit out on Twitter during the ongoing debate about the delayed scrapping of the 1980s-era trains, which are still in service on routes operated by Northern.

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The transport boss said: "More talk of Pacers in the news. I’m tired of commentators saying that Pacers are terrible because of the awful 'bus' feel they have. When was the last time these people went on a bus? Or rather one of our buses."

The Harrogate Bus Company is known for its investment in a fleet of ultra-modern luxury buses serving destinations such as Leeds and Ripon, which boast heating, leather seats, USB ports and even on-board libraries.

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Pacers hit the headlines again this week after Northern revealed they would remain in service throughout 2020 due to 'industry-wide' problems which had delayed the introduction of new rolling stock.

The trains - known for their rattling motion, cold, dated interiors and noisy engines - have been running for over 30 years and were initially meant to be a stopgap solution. They were created by attaching bus bodies to rail bogies, and the passenger experience is frequently likened to being on board a bus.

Many Pacers have had new seats fitted to replace the original bus-style seating, but their interiors remain dated

Many Pacers have had new seats fitted to replace the original bus-style seating, but their interiors remain dated

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Council leaders from across Yorkshire told Northern that the temporary retention of Pacers was an 'insult' to passengers, and Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield City Region, said they should be 'consigned to transport museums'. In a letter to the under-fire franchise, they said:-

“As we are forced into accepting the temporary retention of Pacers, we expect you to commit, as a matter of urgency, to appropriate financial compensation to the passengers affected. A reduction in fares on the affected routes throughout the period of Pacer retention is the very least that could be done.”

Northern had already released plans to allow bids for retired Pacers from community groups, who will be able to turn them into public spaces such as soft play areas, cafes and community centres.

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The National Railway Museum in York have also expressed interest in putting a Pacer on display as an exhibit alongside the likes of the Mallard and Stephenson's Rocket, accepting that it has played a role in rail history.

Pacers still have the folding doors found on 1980s buses

Pacers still have the folding doors found on 1980s buses