Hartlepool MP launches stinging attack on Northern Rail’s ‘cattle trucks’ service

A Northern Rail train at Hartlepool Station
A Northern Rail train at Hartlepool Station

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright likened a rail company’s ageing carriages to “cattle trucks” during a Parliamentary debate.

Mr Wright launched a stinging attack on Northern Rail’s rolling stock saying they are “totally unsuitable” for a modern network.

Northern Rail ferries thousands of passengers a year on its services to Middlesbrough in the south and Newcastle in the north.

Mr Wright said the company has the oldest fleet of rolling stock in the franchised railway at almost 25 years old.

He said it was crucial that rolling stock is modern, clean, accessible and comfortable for passengers if the rail network is to improve and help economic development.

Northern Rail admits it has some of the oldest trains on the network but says it’s campaigning for newer trains.

Mr Wright said: “If the age of rolling stock is seen as an indicator of comfort for passengers, Northern Rail, as we have heard, is lacking.

“Things are bad on that line, particularly for Hartlepool commuters, because, as we have heard, Northern Rail is still operating the old Class 142 Pacer trains, which were built as a stopgap in the 1980s.

“They are little more than cattle trucks and are totally unsuitable for a modern rail network.

“A constituent who commutes to and from Newcastle for work every day wrote to me about Northern Rail services, which she described as ‘dilapidated.’”

Mr Wright told MPs that Hartlepool and Seaton Carew stations had almost 580,000 passengers last year and Hartlepool is the sixth busiest station in the North-East.

The Pacer trains have been described as “like buses on wheels” by Vic Branfoot, the secretary of the Coastliners rail users group, which campaigns for better services along the Durham coast.

Mr Branfoot, from Hartlepool, added: “We campaign for their removal, although at the same time we understand why they are used.

“Although they can be uncomfortable for the passengers, they are very reliable.

“They will have to be replaced eventually to tie in with future changes to legislation.

“That is still likely to be some years away and we would like to see them replaced by more Sprinter trains beforehand.”

Regular rail user Susan Connor, of Rossmere, Hartlepool, uses Northern Rail trains four days a week to get to work in Newcastle.

She said: “The rolling stock is pretty uncomfortable with anything from leaky carriages to not being able to control the temperature.

“They have improved and have refurbished a number of trains, but not all of them.

“But re-covering seats doesn’t guarantee a better service for the customer.”

A Northern Rail spokesman said: “We are known to have some of the oldest trains on the rail network and thanks to the hard work of our engineers; more and more of these carriages are in service on a daily basis, keeping customers on the move.

“We are working closely with stakeholders to campaign for better and newer trains.

“In the shorter term, electrification projects outside the North-East will make diesel trains available to provide additional capacity elsewhere.

“As Mr Wright rightly points out, rail is critical to economic development.

“Independent research shows that our services generate £650m for the northern economy every year, a two to one return on current subsidy.

“In the future a fleet of trains that caters for growing passenger numbers and delivers a quality journey experience can only aid further economic development.”

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