New rail plans to accomodate 5,000 extra Sheffield commuters a day

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An extra 5,000 Sheffield commuters will be accommodated each day and ‘rickety’ Pacer trains replaced by modern carriages in new plans .

Companies bidding for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises will be required to show how they will replace the trains which date back to the 1980s, introduce a new fleet and tackle crowding.

They will also be required to invest in stations to the tune of £40m, add new services and introduce free Wi-Fi across the whole of the north.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who announced the plans with Transport Secretary Patrick McLough, told The Star: “You get on these rickety old Pacer trains - I was on one the other day - and there is nothing pace-like about them. A lot of them were put together from old bus parts and stuck on wheels.

“These new trains will replace those, crowding will be reduced and its estimated that another 5,000 Sheffield commuters will be accommodated in the course of a morning and evening peak times - it is a big significant expansion.

“These Pacer trains wouldn’t be acceptable to commuters in London or the south, so they shouldn’t be acceptable to commuters in the north.

“These new plans are the minimum we expect from the new franchises - what we hope is that they will improve on that and come up with some of their own ideas.”

The new franchises begin in April, 2016 ad bids must be in by June this year.

Mr Clegg said that all old trains would be replaced by 2020 and the TransPennine franchise in particular would boost connections between major northern cities such as Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester - the key triangle focused on in plans for a Northern Powerhouse.

When asked about the timing of the announcement two months before the election, he added: “The existing franchises come to an end in 2016 so if we want to make sure that the new ones happen on time and in the right way we need to open the bidding process now.”

Both Northern and TransPennine services link Sheffield with other major cities and towns.

The Government now wants Northern to modernise every train operating on the franchise.

For TransPennine, the focus is on introducing extra capacity for passengers through more carriages, increased frequencies or more services.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the northern rail service would finally ‘match up to the booming economy in this region.’

A Campaign for Better Transport spokesman said the proposals offered ‘real potential for improvement’ and meant that ‘at last, the end of the line is in sight for the decrepit Pacers.’