A Department For Transport press release this week trumpeted “8,800 extra spaces for busy trains on key routes“, and confirmed that Northern will receive 22 carriages no longer required by First Great Western and London Midland in December this year.
Any measures to tackle the chronic over-crowding on Northern services, particularly in Manchester and Leeds, has to be welcomed, no matter how small – but it has to be said the improvement offered here is indeed pretty small.
The 22 carriages will be hand-me-downs made available by the brand new fleet of class 172 trains currently being delivered to London Midland. As a result Northern will receive 8 class 150 carriages and 14 more of the widely-unpopular class 142 Pacers.
This deal continues the trend for Northern to be saddled with some of the oldest trains in the country while southern and Scottish franchises enjoy much more modern fleets. Most of Northern’s trains are fast approaching their designed life span of around 30 years, and it is greatly to the credit of Northern’s engineering teams that their reliability has actually improved as Northern have patched up old trains that were only built to cheap specifications in the first place.
Meanwhile it seems the promise to deliver 180 new carriages to Northern will never be fulfilled.
Meanwhile the Transport Minister Norman Baker admitted that between 2005 and 2011 the DfT had an employee responsible for procurement of trains who received a salary greater than the Prime Minister’s. Go figure.