Asian finance company buys new trains for the north of England

A Pacer train: Photo: Northern Rail.PHASED OUT: Pacer trains introduced in the 1980s are to be phased out by 2018. Photo: Northern Rail.

THE UK’s crazy privatised railways structure means that new trains for the local franchise for the north of England are having to be bought and financed by an Asian leasing company.

The Everstholt Rail website says the firm is: ‘is owned by UK Rails SARL, a company jointly owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Limited and Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited.’

The Arriva division of Germany’s state-owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) takes over the Northern Rail franchise from the joint venture between outsourcing giant Serco and Netherlands Railways’ overseas division Abellio in April. Arriva’s headquarters are in Sunderland, in the north east of England.

Arriva DB’s application for the franchise included a commitment to replace 30-year-old ‘Pacer’ units.

The new units will be manufactured in Spain by CAF.

Arriva says the new 100mph trains will include air conditioning, audio and visual on-board passenger information systems, tables and power sockets, cycle racks, digital CCTV systems and free wi-fi.

The order is made up of 31 x three-car and 12 x four-car electric multiple units (EMUs) and 25 x two-car and 30 x three-car diesel multiple units (DMUs).

All should be in service by December 2018.

Eversholt’s website says: ‘The Group’s passenger rolling stock portfolio consists of 19 separate fleets comprising around 3,500 passenger vehicles, of which over 3,100 have electric motive power.

‘These … range from 75mph suburban electric multiple units (EMUs) to 140mph high-speed intercity trains. The business also owns a significant number of the UK’s most modern diesel and diesel-electric multiple unit (DMU and DEMU) fleets.

‘The combined diesel and electric fleet ranges from well–established rolling stock, that has benefited from continuing Eversholt Rail investment, through to some of the newest fleets introduced Eversholt Rail’s rolling stock fleets operate exclusively in the UK.’

Pacers were built by British Rail as a stop-gap in the 1980s as a stopgap between older DMUs being retired and plans for new rolling stock with working lives of no more than 20 years.

According to Simon Bradley, writing in the Yorkshire Post, after elderly Pacers were tested in countries as far from the UK as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, redundant stock was bought by Iran.

‘Until recently,’ he observed in October 2015, ‘the suburban lines around Tehran were the stamping ground of these fuel-efficient, non-air-conditioned units, a surprising initiative by an oil-rich country with maximum summer temperatures approaching 100F.’

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