December timetable: changes needed to avoid kick in teeth for Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd

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Brand new Northern train speeds through Sowerby Bridge in July this year. This was just a test run, but we’ve been led to expect to be able to ride these trains, already in service in the North West, on our Calder Valley Line before the end of this year. Sounds good, but there could be bad news for Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd if the first public version of the December 2019 timetable is not improved. It looks like the two valley stations will no longer be served by the York-Blackpool service on weekdays, whilst on Sundays Manchester trains will not stop. HADRAG is on the case.

HADRAG members will be hearing from Northern Rail at their September Committee meeting (Contact us for details.) . Theme is how to improve the Calder Valley Line timetable.

A preview of the December timetable is now available on-line via the Real Time Trains website (see for example https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/search/advanced/HFX/2019/12/17/0200-0159?stp=WVS&show=all&order=wtt), and HADRAG’s review of what we’ve seen is here. There is good news for Halifax in December with an even-interval service of 4 trains an hour from Leeds, improvements to the (still uneven) westbound pattern and a new hourly service to Hull, restoring the useful commuting link between Calderdale, Bradford and local stations east of Leeds.

But Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd look to be taking delivery of a kick in the teeth.

The provisional timetable shows all York-Blackpool trains (Mondays-Saturdays) running non-stop Halifax-Hebden Bridge, reversing an useful improvement brought in last year, and cutting basic service frequency at “SOW” and “MYT” by a third.

On Sundays passengers from the two valley stations look like they will lose trains to Manchester; the Sunday York-Blackpools will still call. Manchester passengers will have to change at Hebden Bridge, but the wait could be something like half an hour. We can not believe that this is really what Northern intend so we believe there is some hope these proposed cuts may be reversed.

For the Brighouse Line the December timetable makes concrete what has always been effectively true, that Brighouse really only has one train an hour to Leeds. In recent years the two trains have been timed such that the direct one via Dewsbury either overtakes or effectively catches up with the one via Bradford. So from December, weekdays Brighouse will have one train an hour on the Leeds-Dewsbury-Manchester-Wigan route, and an hourly Bradford-Huddersfield shuttle. The shuttle looks to give sensible journey times Bradford/Halifax to Huddersfield (unlike the present timetable): so that’s an improvement. But connections for Huddersfield from upper Calderdale are unsatisfactory – particularly for Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge. On Sundays Brighouse now has a more or less hourly service on the Huddersfield-Bradford-Leeds route. We say the Brighouse trains via Dewsbury should also run on Sundays.

It’s the policy of West Yorkshire Combined Authority to have a useful 2 trains per hour on local routes. So HADRAG’s call is for Brighouse to have 2/hr on the upper Calderdale-Dewsbury-Leeds route, and the same on the Bradford-Huddersfield shuttle. This, surely is a reasonable demand for when Elland station opens in less than three years time (we hope). A fast service Brighouse-Leeds via Dewsbury would bring the journey down to about 20 minutes, with benefits for stations further up the valley.

In the meantime Northern’s franchise commitment was to run 3 trains/hr Bradford-Manchester from December this year including an hourly service round the Ordsall Chord to Manchester Oxford Rd, Piccadilly and Airport stations. That is not going to happen this year because there is insufficient track and platform capacity Piccadilly. Plans to deal with this should have been implemented along as part of the original Northern Hub project in Network Rail’s 2014-19 control period to enable all the service possibilities of the new Ordsall line. Sadly that plan is now very much kicked into an unmown region of the Department for Transport garden. But TransPennine Express is still allowed to run 2 trains/hr from North East England whilst Northern’s promised are on hold. Not fair, is it?

HADRAG’s committee meeting with a speaker from Northern Rail is Monday evening 16 September. You are not a member and would like to attend as an interested rail user (actual/would-be) please contact us for details.

 

 

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Hang on to your Ticket!

“Delay Repay” is available on Northern if your train is more than 15 minutes late, though the last we heard it still only applies to rail-only tickets not multi-modal passes like the MCard. Hang on to your ticket to claim! We’ve heard of at least one passenger being refused because their used ticket was captured by the station exit gate. Separate proof of purchase and photo of screen showing train cancellation were not accepted. Surely rather harsh, since it’s not always obvious the automatic barrier is about to confiscate your ticket. Gates should always have staff present to help.

 

Header Image: “Leeds Station” flickr photo by OliverN5 https://flickr.com/photos/mtl_shag/4515194671 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

New Trains Worry

We’ve been seeing lot of aging “Pacers” recently, whilst waiting patiently for the brand new trains promised to be on Calder Valley services this year. The new “Class 195s” have been under test and a problem has been found with couplings. We gather the engineers have a solution but it means further delay. This follows disappointment that the “Class 170” trains from Scotland, second hand but pleasantly modern, are not now likely to be deployed on the Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester route. As far as we know officially the Pacers are still expected to go by the end of this year, and the brand new trains should come our way.

Hell to pay if they don’t arrive! Again, we are pressing Northern for confirmation of intent.

 

Header Image: “A spanking new 195 113” flickr photo by 70023venus2009 https://flickr.com/photos/70023venus2009/40723003743 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

One railway for the North

Could a new “Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway” deliver quality and reliability for 21st Century passengers?

After the timetable shambles a year ago, HADRAG made this argument:

Trans Pennine Express and Northern operate nearly all local and regional trains across the North of England. Each of these companies has its own team of train planners. Each must each bid for timetable slots to nationalised Network Rail, with its own train planning office in Milton Keynes (where knowledge of the needs of Brighouse or Sowerby Bridge may be limited). Three organisations, three timetabling offices, to plan a single network of services. Would it not be better to have one organisation, whether publicly or privately owned, planning service patterns and delivering a timetable that works across our northern sub-nation?

As a group HADRAG does not take a view on “renationalisation” versus continued private-sector involvement in the railway. But it is clear how having so many companies involved in running the railway can lead to inefficiency, increased costs and increased me to get anything done. Surely a devolved system that unites track and trains, and works with regional bodies like Transport for the North instead of distant Whitehall bureaucrats must be more efficient and more effective in delivering decent services for all? As it is, it seems like the whole timetable across the North is built around the need to get a relatively small number of TPE’s customers from North East England to Manchester Airport.

The Rail Review, chaired by Keith Williams, is looking at the whole organisation of British railways. A White Paper is expected in the Autumn.

A railway for the common good

The proposals put to Williams by Paul Salveson’s Rail Reform Group would reintegrate rail opera ons at a regional level. It looks like a middle way between top-down nationalisa on and a flawed franchising model. The aim, star ng in the North, is “a railway for the common good”, with less call on the public purse, less pressure on Government to micro-manage, and higher quality, reliable services supporting economic regeneration of the regions. The brand “Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway” chimes well for those who know a bit of history and see lessons to be learned.

Be quick and have your say!

The Williams Rail Review remains open until 31 May. Anyone can make a submission via the government website. HADRAG contributed early on: see our Spring update.  Feel free to support our views, and/or those of the Rail Reform Group, or just put forward your own.

Williams’s objectives talk about balancing the needs of passengers, taxpayers and wider society (including the environment). We say there should be no conflict. Yes, rail receives a high level of government support and passengers (themselves taxpayers) expect good service. Perhaps getting better value for taxpayers’ money should be about continuing to invest in improvement and turning more taxpayers into passengers.—JSW

Reforming rail: come to our Annual Meeting!

 

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Manchester Leeds train glides through greenery into Halifax. The Calder Valley Line is a scenic route, so why shouldn’t commuting be a pleasure? We want rail to be first transport choice for more and more people. All are welcome at our annual meeting on June 1st. Come and tell us how you think the railway could be made better.

COME AND TELL US what you think! Rail users in Halifax and along the Calder Valley Line hold their Annual Meeting in Halifax on Saturday morning 1 June 2019 (details below). Theme will be reforming rail in the north – making our railway better. For HADRAG the most urgent needs are a better deal for commuters, and a better deal for stations like Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse that serve sizeable towns but are the “Cinderella stops” on our line. As a new timetable starts (20 May) early morning commuters from Brighouse and Halifax and Bradford and Leeds face a cut in service. We want the present flawed timetable replaced by a fit-for-purpose service ready for when the new station opens at Elland hopefully by 2021. And wearing our Electric Railway Charter hats we want to see progress towards a truly modern and sustainable Calder Valley Line.

The meeting on June 1st is open to all rail users and others interested in developing better train services through our part the Pennines as a stimulus to quality travel, good growth and a clean environment, and starts at 1015, at the Carlton Centre, Harrison Rd, Halifax HX1 2AD. Doors open from about 0945 with light refreshments available before the speeches start.

Guest speaker will be Prof Paul Salveson, community rail pioneer, and now chair of the Rail Reform Group. Retired from the railway “establishment”, Paul provides an independent voice and interesting ideas about how a truly Northern-based railway could serve the cities, towns and smaller communities across the central belt of the North from west to east centred once the territory of the “Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway”. The Rail Reform Group, a body of respected former railway professionals, proposes a “railway for the common good”, bringing together functions that are at present fragmented, to create a railway shackled neither by top-down nationalisation, nor by a need to put profit before passengers. The RRG has submitted its ideas for a new “L&Y” to the Williams Rail Review. See also Paul’s piece in the Yorkshire Post earlier this year.

Williams was commissioned by government to look at how rail could work better following the May 2018 timetable shambles. The review is still open until 31 May to receive ideas and evidence from any member of the public – so readers of this blog may still have a little time to send in views online. HADRAG submitted comments early on.

We want a truly modern, sustainable transport system that provides commuters with a good deal, encouraging people off congested roads – polluted and polluting – and plays the maximum role in tackling the climate emergency.

Writing on 19 May 2019, we hope last year’s timetable shambles is not about to be repeated.  HADRAG made this argument: Trans Pennine Express and Northern operate nearly all local and regional trains across the North of England. Each of these companies has its own team of train planners. Each must each bid for timetable slots to nationalised Network Rail, with its own train planning office in Milton Keynes (where knowledge of the needs of Brighouse or Sowerby Bridge may be limited). Three organisations, three timetabling offices, to plan a single network of services. Would it not be better to have one organisation, whether publicly or privately owned, planning service patterns and delivering a timetable that works across our northern sub-nation?

We hope Williams hears what we and others are saying about creating a railway that is integrated, devolved and puts passengers first, a railway that is simple to use with fares that are not seen as extortionate, and flexibility that will attract people from their cars. Williams talks about balancing the needs of taxpayers and passengers. But are not passengers themselves taxpayers, and is not the railway a massive public asset that should be providing an increasingly attractive public service with non-user benefits? Trains – passenger and freight – can reduce the volume of cars and lorries on the roads. Should we not reject the term “subsidy”?  We do not talk about “subsidies” for other public services such as the NHS, the police or indeed the programme of road building that we continue to see. We need investment in the North that matches that in London and the South East.

Transport seems likely always to require social payments, especially if it is to provide a comprehensive service promoting high quality growth and wider values of environmental protection and social inclusion. Perhaps the best way to get the best value for taxpayers is to develop a railway that turns more taxpayers into passengers. – JSW

Brighouse Woes and Crazy Clockface

The train in our picture takes 34 minutes Halifax-Huddersfield including 4 min standing in Brighouse and another 5 min at the next junction waiting the train coming the other way. Unless there are late changes (there were last December!) this looks to be little improved in the May 2019 timetable, despite some retiming. It seems the railway just can’t get the Brighouse line timetable right. Yet Brighouse has shown the biggest footfall increase of any Calder Valley Line station over ten years. Latest blow is withdrawal of the 0606 from Huddersfield via Halifax to Leeds, scuppering early commutes from Huddersfield/Brighouse to Halifax/Bradford. Halifax- Leeds will have nothing from 0600 until 0645, leaving only 3 trains between 0600 and 0700 compared with a long-established four.

The late evening 2-hour gap in call from Manchester at Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge remains despite an obvious easy fix of adding stops by trains that currently fly through. Good news is a new late-night York-Blackburn train that will provide a later service back from Bradford (2320) for these stations. Hourly York-Halifax-Blackpool through trains are restored (but just Leeds-Blackpool on Sundays).

Our Manchester trains will extend hourly to Chester, also welcome if it works. Halifax’s crazy clockface to Leeds gets worse with departures at about 00, 07, 15 and then nothing till 43 minutes past — four an hour but effectively little better than half-hourly. Some

hours the gap is more than 30 minutes. We are pressing Northern on these issues with another letter to David Brown, Managing Director. We hear there could be interesting, even helpful changes in December.

Another flawed timetable. How can rail run better?

A Manchester-Leeds train sneaks through lush verdure into Halifax. Even commu ng should be a pleasure; there is surely economic value in people arriving for work relaxed a er a pleasant journey. And if it’s for cultural, personal or leisure purposes, your journey should be the part of the a rac on that gets you away from congested, polluted and pollu ng roads. Our Calder Valley Line looks ideal for this. We say give it a go, especially at mes when the trains are not crammed!

But we’ve seen hal ng progress since 2016 under the present Northern franchise. A er the May 2018 shambles this May’s metable is looking at best like another awed and un nished product, trying our pa ence. Hourly trains to Chester are welcome, but Halifax-Leeds travellers face a “crazy clockface” with three trains in 16 minutes then nothing for almost half an hour, a travesty of “15 minute frequency”. Early morning commuters from Hudders eld, Brighouse and Halifax to Bradford and Leeds face a kick in the teeth with withdrawal of the rst Brighouse line train.

The franchise speci es an hourly CVL train to Manchester Airport from December, but this looks to be delayed because of lack of capacity round Manchester. Planned extra pla orms at Manchester Piccadilly seem lost in the long grass of the Department of Transport, whilst TransPennine Express’s franchise commitment to run 2 trains/hr from the North East to Man Airport seems to be a higher priority than Northern’s supposedly equal commitment to more Calder Valley trains including our own Airport service.

HADRAG’s response to the Williams Rail Review calls for a single operator to deliver services across the North that work for all. We con nue to engage with Northern, Network Rail, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Transport for the North and poli cal contacts. And the Electric Railway Charter (www.electriccharter.wordpress.com) con nues to build the argument for a clean, green, modern Calder Valley Line that helps combat the climate emergency. — JSW.