The three winners of a competition to ‘Transform a Pacer’ have been announced by the Department for Transport.
They have each won a Pacer carriage for community use after the DfT decided to mark the phasing out of the unloved ‘Pacer’ trains after more than three decades of service.
Community groups across the North were invited to submit plans and ideas for how an old Pacer carriage could be converted into a vibrant public space. The DfT asked for ideas on how the Pacer carriages could be renovated to continue to serve communities, quoting a café and a yoga studio as two possible examples.
After consideration by the judging panel, proposals put forward by Airedale NHS Trust, Fagley Primary School, and men’s mental health charity Platform 1 were chosen as the best ideas to came out of the competition. Their plans will help to improve NHS services, science and technology education and mental health care in towns and cities in the North.
Platform 1, a men’s mental health charity, is so called because it is located at the former Platform 1 of Huddersfield station. It already uses retired train carriages as a safe space, counselling and learning environment to help hundreds of local men deal with mental health issues. Now it will be converting its Pacer into a kitchen to teach cooking skills to those it supports.
Airedale NHS Trust plans to transform its carriage into a mixed-use, non-clinical space to improve the experience of patients using Airedale General Hospital. It will provide a unique communal environment to support patients during their stay, with a particular focus on helping children and families, as well as those suffering with dementia.
Fagley Primary School, based in Bradford, will set the Pacer up as a new science lab for students, helping promote STEM learning. The train carriage will also benefit the wider community, who will have access to the space for talks and events.
After the winners were announced on BBC One’s ‘The One Show’, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The three winners are incredibly deserving, having presented creative and innovative ideas that will see their Pacer have a lasting and positive impact within their community.
“As their three decades of service comes to an overdue end, it is satisfying to know that new life for three of the last Pacer trains will ensure future generations can experience them in a different light.”
Head judge Pete Waterman, the railway enthusiast, record producer and TV personality, added: “The railway has always been very good at recycling its old assets.
“Lots of communities have benefited from this action over the years , we only have to look at the preserved railways and what they mean to rural communities.
“Where passengers might not miss the Pacers – their loss to the railways are these organisations’ gain.”
The Department for Transport will now work with the winners to start on the installation and conversion of the former train carriages, which are being provided by rolling stock company Porterbrook.
In addition to Pete Waterman, the judging panel included railway enthusiast, historian, broadcaster and presenter of Trainspotting Live Tim Dunn, Porterbrook CEO Mary Grant and the chief executive of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships Jools Townsend.