10 years ago Pacer was deemed below standard over crash-worthiness, yet today it’s still in service

Old 'Pacer' train still in use despite being labelled dangerous a decade ago.
Old 'Pacer' train still in use despite being labelled dangerous a decade ago.
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TRAINS branded unsafe 10 years ago due to poor crash-resistance are still carrying passengers around South Yorkshire.

And there are no immediate plans to replace them, The Star can reveal today.

Lightweight ‘Pacer’ trains which are used for the bulk of local services provided by train operator Northern in South Yorkshire date back to 1985 and were built in the style of buses.

They are used on services between Sheffield and Leeds, Doncaster and Worksop as well as on the Penistone and Hope Valley lines.

Safety concerns arose in 1999 when a set collided with an inter-city train in Winsford, Cheshire.

The smash virtually demolished one of the Pacer’s two carriages although the express had braked to 50mph on impact.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said today: “I’m surprised that there is any rolling stock in use that doesn’t meet current crash-worthiness standards - in fact, I’m amazed.

“The reality is that in this country, we are far too slow to buy modern trains.”

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith said: “I am surprised that trains not considered safe or whose safety has been called into question are still on the lines. I will be writing to the chairman of the Transport Select Committee to ask if there can be an inquiry into this.”

Rail enthusiast David Goodison, of Stocksbridge, former chairman of Don Valley Railway, which is planning to restore trains between Stocksbridge and Sheffield, said: “If the trains are not meeting standards, they need to be replaced quickly.”

After the 1999 crash, Dr Bob Smallwood, of the Railway Inspectorate, said: “Clearly, Pacers were not built to current crash-worthiness standards and they don’t behave as well as more modern rolling stock.”

Concern focused on their use on main lines shared with much heavier inter-city and freight trains - which still happens on the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester, and on lines between Sheffield and Doncaster.

In 2009 John Pugh, Lib Dem MP for Southport, called the trains “unsafe” in Parliament - a claim denied by then transport secretary Geoff Hoon.

Sarah Roberts, of Hope Valley Railway Users’ Group, said today: “Our railways once impressed the world now we have to make do with carriages dating back to when Nelson Mandela was still in prison.

“The line from Sheffield through the Hope Valley should be a highly utilised commuter service as well as a wonderful way for tourists to arrive in the Peak District.

“Instead passengers have to make do with ancient, dirty overcrowded carriages.”

A Northern spokeswoman said: “We work closely with our leasing companies to maintain and refurbish our trains. They have invested in our improvement programme which means that we have refurbished the interiors of 200 of our fleet of 290 trains.

‘We want to operate a more modern fleet and are working with the Department for Transport and Passenger Transport Executives to find ways to fund additional carriages.

“We take the safety of our customers and employees very seriously. All of our trains meet industry safety standards, and they are rigorously maintained, checked and audited regularly in line with those standards.

“Pacer trains have a good safety record and our fleet is subject to a strict maintenance regime.”