EAST Lancashire Line operator Northern has reassured passengers that its current 40-year-old Pacer trains will all be replaced by the end of the year.

Its promise came after fears the trains might still be in use next year.

The Pacers, constructed with bus bodies fitted onto a long-wheelbase four-wheel underframe, were originally scheduled to have been withdrawn from all Northern services by the end of last year.

Concerns over the timetable to scrap the railbuses were raised after a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority where Northern executive Paul Barnfield was quizzed on the date of their removal.

He stopped short of a cast-iron guarantee that the ageing trains will be out of use by the end of the year,.

Mr Barnfield said: “We have a plan that we feel is robust. If there was an issue that occurred around fleet cascade, we will be looking at an alternative option.”

Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake said: “You have stopped short of guaranteeing they will be gone.”

A Northern Rail spokesman told the Lancashire Telegraph yesterday: “We can assure our customers that there are no plans to retain the Pacer trains beyond the end of 2019.

“We will start operating new trains worth £500m during 2019 and are upgrading the rest of our existing trains that will be in use in 2020 and beyond - this upgrade does not include the Pacer trains because they will be leaving the Northern network.”

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss and Transport for the North board member, said: “Northern has given us an assurance that Pacers will be withdrawn by the end of the year and we must take it at face value.

“I would hope that Northern fulfils that promise.Taking Pacers out of service was a priority in gaining its rail franchise. Passengers are fed up with them.”

The first two trains in its new £500m fleet arrived were delivered to Northern in October feature free wifi, air- conditioning, at seat power sockets and seat reservation systems.

Pendle councillor and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Greaves said: “I think if there are still Pacers coming to Colne on January 1, 2020, we should capture one for ever and embalm it by the buffers at the end of the platform.”