A few weeks ago I was taking one of my rare trips into work in Manchester and this sleek, long, clean modern and quiet new train arrived grandly into my local terminus, Rose Hill. The coronavirus and the lockdown has reduced commuting by rail into a real minority pursuit. As it glided into the station I took a quick photo, then scanned the length of this beautiful feat of engineering that I'd only ever seen on other Northern routes. I was looking for the green bike sign, so I could tie up by bike safely while I took my seat. As it happened there wasn't one, oh horror of horrors. I had to stand up with it for the half hour journey in the doorways, guessing which side it would open on as passengers tried to squeeze past me. I needn't have worried. Our branch line has also had a temporary closure imposed on it due to the need to train up new staff on these new trains. Just as there was hardy anyone on our platform, the few people who did get on at the other stations could easily get on board. But in that fleeting moment I had to check myself and pause before being dragged into the weeds of disappointment. I think I can live with not cycling when things return to normal, I'll get over it.
Let me say it as clearly as I can. I am so pleased that Northern Trains have finally run the last Pacer train on their network. I suppose we're supposed to feel grateful, but it's not gratitude that I feel but latent anger and a bit of relief. Over the years they've been too hot in summer, freezing in winter, wet inside when it rains, and in normal times far too small to cope with the capacity on our line. The seating format was hideous. They were noisy, and dangerous. I mentioned all of this in one of the most popular posts this blog has ever run, a rant about the damned things from 2017, where I included a picture of one of the ugly units left to rot on a siding in Iran. I feel not a smidgen of nostalgia for them; they were neither quaint, nor utilitarian, just a monstrous assault on our human rights.
I know too that we won't always have these gorgeous new trains, for the most part the route will be serviced by refurbished Sprinters which are grotty and noisy and hard to board it you have mobility issues. But they are still better than the Pacer.
I find it quite hard to imagine the new normal, or life in a big city and the whole experience of commuting from our little station on the edge of the Peak District. It will never be the same again, I'm sure of that. But there will also be many things that are better, starting with our trains.