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Today the department of Transport issued the ITT (Invitation To Tender) for the new Northern Rail franchise which is due to start on April 1 2016. The ITT sets out the minimum requirements which must be included by bidders in their proposals. Not entirely unexpected was the ITT committing the franchise winner to withdraw all the 4 wheel ‘Pacer’ DMUs (class 142 & 144). Originally the DfT had resisted this idea due to the extra cost to the franchise (over £200m*) but Ministers have decided to override the DfT.

You can find the full ITT here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/northern-franchise-2015-invitation-to-tende

This means the BR built Pacers will be phased out of Northern service by 31st December 2019. However, it’s not the end of the road for them as they might just possibly be cascaded elsewhere – unless other ITTs (such as the future one for Wales) also prohibit their use. As it is, Pacers will remain in use with Arriva Trains Wales & First Great Western – for now.

Interestingly, the ITT also contains this:

‘5.4.2.2 The Department requires a Franchisee who will procure and bring into service, no later than 1 January 2020, a minimum of 120 new carriages that are capable of being used to operate Passenger Services on non-electrified routes. They must be designed with future demand and users’ needs in mind, with a clear focus on passenger comfort and with a thoroughly modern passenger environment and exterior look. These must be newly-built (not re-using components from existing rolling stock) and, unless the Bidder intends for them to be hauled by a locomotive, must be capable of operating under their own power for significant distances on non-electrified routes’.

Does this preclude Serco-Abellio from signing up to use Vivarail’s ‘new’ DMUs which would be converted from former London Underground D78 stock? Earlier this week I was chatting to Northern’s MD Alex Hynes who certainly can’t be described as a fan of the converted trains. He wouldn’t be offering them in any future ITT. The question now, is – would anyone else?

The announcement also pulls another rug from under anti Hs2 campaigners. They’ve always tried to suggest that Hs2 will suck investment money from the existing network. The Northern ITT has proved how hollow their claims were.

* A letter from Permanent Secretary to the DfT Philip Rutnam to Transport Minister Patrick McLaughlin asks for formal guidance on the issue of Pacer replacement. In his letter, Rutnam states the cost of Pacer replacement will be ‘just under £250m over the life of the franchise’. The letter can be found here; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/407753/dft-permanent-secretary-to-sos.pdf