Transform a Pacer competion now open

Northern 142049 at Burnley Central
Credit: RailAdvent

Groups in the North can now submit their plans and ideas on how an old Pacer carriage could be converted into a vibrant public asset, as the Department for Transport launches its Pacer competition in Bolton.

School children from St. Catherine’s Primary School in Bolton were among the first to pitch their ideas to Rail Minister Andrew Jones.

Freya, 9, showed the minister her idea for the ‘time traveller train’, a museum and classroom where people could learn about the history of Bolton.

Millie, 9, suggested using an old carriage for a kitchen and pizza stand, while Lauren, 9, wanted to convert a pacer into a greenhouse to grow vegetables.

After more than 3 decades of passenger service, Pacers are being retired from the rail network. New and entirely refurbished trains are now running right across the Northern network, serving Doncaster, Liverpool, Preston, Manchester, Cumbria and Harrogate.

DfT is encouraging community groups to submit creative and innovative ideas for converting these carriages over the summer.

The competition will run until the end of September and a judging panel, including heritage rail entrepreneur Pete Waterman, will pick the winners. The winners will be announced later this year.

What did the officials say?

Rail Minister Andrew Jones said:

The energy and ideas shown by the children today has been really creative and fun, providing some brilliant examples of how the Pacers could play a new, exciting role in our communities.

The Pacer trains have been carrying passengers for over 30 years, but they have outstayed their welcome and are being replaced by modern trains and extra services, creating space for thousands more passengers.

This competition is now open for ideas, and I look forward seeing a host of exciting proposals to provide them with a new home off the tracks.

Rail entrepreneur and judging panel Chair Pete Waterman said:

This competition provides a fantastic opportunity for community groups to actively engage with the rail network to make a difference to their local areas.

I’m delighted to be chairing the judging panel to oversee the proposals put forward ensuring they are realistic, credible and provide a real benefit to wider northern communities

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, said:

Porterbrook is delighted to be able to support the DfT’s innovative project to find a new, community based, role for 3 of our Pacer vehicles. It is fitting that this competition will seek to identify new ways in which these Pacer vehicles can continue meeting the needs of the communities they once served”.

Professor Paul Salveson, chair of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership, said:

We are delighted that Bolton station has been chosen to launch this exciting competition to find new uses for the ‘Pacer’ trains, which have been the mainstay of local rail services in our area for decades.

I can’t say that we’re not glad to see them going – we now have fast trains with more capacity and greater comfort. It’s a great idea to re-use the old trains for community projects and I hope this event will stimulate lots of groups to come forward with innovative ideas.

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Michael Holden avatar
I have had an interest in Railways for as long as I can remember. I am a member of a number of heritage railways and actively volunteer at 2 of them. I enjoy all types of railways, real life, model and simulations. I started RailAdvent in 2014 and am the main editor of the site.
  • Transform them into a café or a picnic area, that would generate a fair bit of cash for it’s convenience, i’d say

  • It will be good if the Pacers weren’t heading for scrap and to use them as pop-up cafes or bars, pop-up convenience shops, temporary homeless shelters, pop-up libraries and many more things that the Pacers could be used for once they have retired from operating on the railways. And perhaps use them on heritage railways in England and Wales.

  • I’d like to see some of the these Pacers … be saved for Preservation – Restored to their original former liveries of the WYMPE, SYMPE and Regional Railways (from the 1980s) and to find a new lease of life, on Heritage Railways across the UK.

  • I Truly Believe some (or at least 1, 2 3 or even 4 ) examples of the Class 142, 143 and 144 each … may have the potential of being bought and preserved.

    Seeing some Pacers being Rescued and Restored for further use on Heritage Lines … Could be A latest addition to the UK Railcar Preservation Movement.