UNIONS and the Government are in dispute over allegations refurbished 30-year-old London Underground trains will be used on Wigan’s railways.
Rail union the RMT says it is concerned re-fitted Tube trains from the 1980s could be put into service on the region’s railways after being converted to run on diesel.
The union has reacted furiously after rumours suggested the old underground trains could be used to plug a gap in the North West’s rail provision after newer rolling stock was bought by more lucrative rail franchises in the south of England.
However, the RMT’s claims have been roundly rejected by the Department for Transport (DfT), saying Westminster is committed to improving the region’s railways.
Routes running through Wigan Wallgate to Southport and Manchester already operate a number of Pacer trains, which were built in the 1980s and consist of a body based on a bus fitted onto a freight wagon chassis.
The RMT claims the possibility of using further old rolling stock in the region raises serious safety fears and is urging major investment in the railways to reflect rising demand for public transport.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “While George Osborne has been spouting a stream of rhetoric about a Northern Powerhouse the real truth is that the whole region can expect a sub-standard, bodged-up service for many years to come.
“We now know that the pledges to replace the clapped -out Pacers have been exposed as nothing but hot air as the Government strategy for rail across the north unravels before their eyes and that they are also being forced to consider replacing one lash-up with another by press-ganging 30-year-old London Underground stock into service, raising serious safety issues.
“In New York they are dumping clapped-out subway trains in the sea. In Britain they are threatening to dump them on the railways of the north.”
The union has been holding a series of protests at Wigan Wallgate and other stations across the north campaigning to scrap plans for trains which are only operated by a driver, keep ticket offices open and stations staffed and oppose further fare hikes.
The Department for Transport (DfT) issued a strongly-worded statement hitting back at the RMT’s claims.
A spokesman said: “There is no government proposal to replace Pacer trains with old London Underground trains.
“We are committed to improving services for passengers across the north. We recognise that Pacers fall short of passengers’ expectations, which is why we will be specifically requiring bidders for the next Northern franchise to phase these outdated trains out. These bids must include improved rolling stock.
“The industry is best placed to tell us how more modern, better quality trains can be introduced, and it is only right that we look to them as we push ahead with our ambitious plans to transform the North’s rail network.”