Halifax station: chance to look at options for progress – option  zero not enough!

After years of planning, 2022’s surge of inflation got the better of several West Yorkshire capital schemes. One was Halifax station’s Gateway, a project complicated by involving five (at least) different legal stakeholders. Calderdale Council, owner of ground-level property leased by the Eureka! museum including their car park and the 1855 original station building. Northern Trains and Network Rail have the railway premises. And West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Metro) have an oversight in terms of transport policy and the money from government – money that is no longer enough. (If we have got any of this wrong, please tell us.) So we have moved from about to go ahead to “pause and pipeline”. Pause is obvious. Pipeline means, we think, hoping that funding will come from alternative sources yet to be identified.

So what next for rail’s gateway to our town? The station is ideal as an access point for Square Chapel Arts Centre, the library, the unique Piece Hall and all the shops, cafés and events it hosts. We could go on. With so much work done on planning the Gateway scheme we can see there’s an argument for not doing anything until full funding appears. How long could that be? Five years? Ten?? “Option zero” (our phrase) – wait until the whole scheme can be funded – seems to be in favour. That means waiting for alternative sources of investment.

The plans could be improved. It was good that a new bridge was to be provided for pedestrians – and we hope cyclists – to access the first floor concourse, the bad news was that the ticket office was to be on the ground floor. We were told this was because Northern felt it necessary to keep a physical eye on people going in and out of the public toilet also on the ground floor. But access to the trains is via the footbridge, rather obviously on the first floor. You couldn’t make it up.

“Option 1” would be a programme of incremental improvements retaining what we have without sabotaging future development. Do we really need to demolish the present building containing booking office and shop? Could it be retained and improved, built upon?

What are our priorities?

Toilets

The issue of “public conveniences” seems to have painfully emerged more often than anything else about Halifax station over 38 years (heaven help us) of HADRAG meetings. Toilets on the station are important, not least because our new trains have only one and if that one is not working discomfort (at best) will result. The present station facility is a single unit at the back of the platform waiting room, so not accessible outside staffing hours. During autumn 2022 it was out of order for several weeks. When it reopened HADRAG’s anonymous secret consumer decently took a peep, initially put off by the lock indicator which has always suggested “engaged” when “vacant”. The sink contained an empty whisky bottle and a crisp packet. Everything else looked “normal”: reasonably clean, but suggestive of a previous century.

We suggest:

  • A new unit be installed at the station entrance where an eye could be kept by staff on who is going in and coming out. There is a staff toilet at that level so this proposal would seem achievable.
  • In Greater Manchester there is a programme of new modular toilet installations (as pictured) at stations including Littleborough. Clearly this must be spread across the Northern network.

Platform access – lift, doors and footbridge

The lift, essential for some rail users to access trains, seems to work but is another feature with a last-century air. What can be done at low cost to modernise it?

  • Sliding doors from the foot of the stairs to the platform have never worked and need to be removed.
  • The footbridge itself appears to need structural repair.
  • How might waiting passengers be encouraged to stand in the best place, promoting efficient boarding and alighting, and on-time departures, whilst and not blocking access from the footbridge stairs to what is actually the narrowest part of the platform. Do trains stop in the best place?

Approach bridge – remove general parking and refurbish

Able-bodied drivers who fill the station car park on the approach bridge early in the morning could park at ground level. A deal could be reached with Eureka! to provide free parking for rail users. Removal of general parking on the bridge ease movement everyone.

  • Direct access by ramp (possibly lift) would be required from ground level to the station entrance.
  • The approach bridge would then be free for walkers, disabled car users and cyclists.
  • There would be more space on the bridge for drop-off, pick-up, and taxis.
  • With at least medium-term future assured the bridge needs serious refurbishment with attractive paint colours.
  • The ticket office and shop are both well used. Many people will queue in the booking office rather than battle with awkward ticket vending machines that can never deliver the ticket and information services provided by the station’s excellent staff. Not everyone wants to depend on a mobile phone.

More platforms and future use of 1855 building?

The original 1855 station is part of the Eureka! estate but seems to be little used. It was rejected in early iterations of the Gateway scheme. A strength of the Gateway project was provision for possible future reinstatement of Platform 3, alongside the 1855 building.

Why stop at Platform 3? If mass transit eventually reaches Halifax, or more complex service patterns develop in a future where public, not private, transport is the norm, why not Platform 4 as well? Future plans must respect that possibility.

Community rail at Halifax

If you have seen posters at Halifax station featuring Calderdale scenes and Anne Lister they are down to students at Calderdale College. The college and Northern have developed a station adoption arrangement, involving young people in support for the station. HADRAG enthusiastically supports this.

  • Now that the station is going to stay as it is for the time being, could the posters be more permanent?
  • Community rail groups and the Calder Valley Community Rail Partnership should be involved in developing an action plan for the station.

Conclusion: There is much that can be done and must be done to improve Halifax station for rail passengers and the local community. This cannot wait 5 years or more for a grand scheme to attract funding. A step-by-step process must be considered. – JSW

Bradford-Halifax-Barnsley-Sheffield via Crigglestone? Greengauge 21 outlines ambitious plan for Leeds-Sheffield corridor.

Could a route in the lower Calder Valley be reopened to transform connectivity between Bradford, Calderdale, Barnsley and Sheffield? The Crigglestone curve was one of the five curves that carried just a few trains on summer Saturdays until closed in the mid-1980s. Three of the curves formed the Halifax-Huddersfield railway that reopened with Brighouse station in May 2000. The Crigglestone curve, which carried weekly Bradford-Weymouth train, branched off the Calder Valley line at Horbury Station Junction where Horbury and Ossett station used to be and linked to the Wakefield Barnsley-Line.

The curve has not been used since, but HADRAG members have held on to the idea that this would be a very useful link indeed if reopened for an hourly service every day from Bradford to Sheffield. We reckon trains serving Low Moor, Halifax, Elland (we hope!) Brighouse, Mirfield, and a reopened Horbury and Ossett, could then run fast to Barnsley, Meadowhall and and Sheffield. We reckon Bradford Interchange to Sheffield would take no more than 75 minutes; Brighouse to Meadowhall about 50 minutes.

And it would be much more attractive for Halifax and lower Calderdale passengers than the big trail round via Leeds. The map below shows the wider Leeds-Sheffield discussed in a recent report by Greengauge 21 (http://www.greengauge21.net/ )

Map shows the Leeds-Sheffield corridor as envisioned by research group Greengauge 21, Sheffield-Leeds: What’s Next, December 2022. Reproduced with thanks.

Greengage 21’s new paper (http://www.greengauge21.net/wp-content/uploads/Sheffield-Leeds-Whats-Next-A4-FINAL-1.pdf ) advocates immediate action to provide a second fast service every hour Leeds-Sheffield via Wakefield Westgate. A new main line station at Rotherham could be served. On the Barnsley route, East Midlands trains from St Pancras could be extended through to Wakefield Kirkgate and maybe on to York via Castleford.

Greengauge 21 says Bradford-Sheffield would be in a second phase headed initiate planning. The proposed new station at Horbury would serve Ossett, described as the largest town in Yorkshire without a trains. The proposal not only delivers new connectivity for Bradford, Halifax and the Horbury-Barnsley corridor, but also avoids the inconvenience of indirect travel via Leeds for people heading for South Yorkshire, Midlands and beyond. The new service could be extended to the East Midlands, maybe Leicester.

These are feasible ideas that the would allow the railway to make progress, and passengers to feel the benefit, years, maybe decades before plans, still being considered, for new high speed routes come to fruition.

Reinstating tracks along the Crigglestone curve would be a relatively minor piece of engineering. Not as sexy as a new high speed line, but almost as useful!

So we could, just maybe, see Bradford-Sheffield trains coming through Halifax in about 10 years time. HADRAG will certainly be campaigning for that. We have already suggested the possibility of the service through Brighouse is increased one train an hour could go to Wakefield and on to York. Maybe trains to Barnsley and Sheffield could complement that. See our updated policy paper below.

Mass-transit – get your thoughts in by 16 January!

Header Image: They’ve had them for decades! When will it be West Yorkshire’s turn? Karlsruhe, Germany: tram-trains run on street or heavy-rail tracks. More recent examples can be seen in South Yorkshire!

West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s mass transit plans have been refined. There is a new, short consultation which closes two weeks into the new year – your opportunity to support progress but also to raise concerns. From HADRAG viewpoint main concerns might be how mass transit will complement existing transport including heavy rail, coupled with how long we shall have to wait for the trams (light rail), tram trains ultra-light rail or advanced buses that might eventually come our way. Phase 1 options not surprisingly centre on Bradford and Leeds, with light rail in the lead for East Leeds, Leeds-Bradford, and Leeds-Heckmondwike-Dewsbury. A fourth phase 1 proposal links Bradford with the Spen Valley and Dewsbury – mode still to be specified. Later phases could bring the system to north Halifax via Queensbury and on through Elland and Brighouse. The consultation can be found at this link: Have your say on the West Yorkshire Mass Transit Vision 2040 | Your Voice (westyorks-ca.gov.uk).

Surely there is little doubt that improving and developing our regional heavy rail network – existing lines! – can deliver benefits earlier than either still-to-be-developed mass transit or very long term, very uncertain high speed lines. Benefits will be different for different people. And the will of central government needs to be there. West Yorkshire Combined Authority has a strong rail team and the next draft rail study is out late spring (after the May local elections we guess). There is talk of infrastructure expansion: things like passing loops in the Calder Valley hopefully more ambitious than the now shelved (we think) scheme to facilitate diversions during TransPennine Route upgrade works. Our impression is that HADRAG’s ambitions chime at least in part with those of the combined authority. Better services for more stations!


Header Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 File:Heilbronn Bahnhofsvorplatz Stadtbahn01 2002-09-08.jpg. Under creative commons Share-Alike_License

HADRAG’s Autumn-Winter Diary

The new weekday timetable started on December 12th. Hourly Bradford-Huddersfield and Halifax-Hull trains restored. But on the first day one in four of the latter was cancelled. On the second day we were into a week, of strikes. This is not the place to discuss the rights and wrongs of industrial action; HADRAG has never done that – but it’s not just workers in the rail industry who are angry is it? Friday 16th trip to York by bus (change at Leeds, 3½ hour journey). Sunday 18th, not a strike day, two HADRAG members travelled back from York – but no Northern trains at all on the Calder Valley line (much-maligned TransPennine Express to the rescue). Same six days later on Christmas Eve – no CV line service. (Genuine staffing problems, corporate tantrum or government edict?) Apart from that, Week 2 of the timetable had gone reasonably well.

In November we had a successful second HADRAG general meeting of the year. We thank Cllr Colin Hutchinson, one of  Calderdale’s representatives on West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee who gave us cause to be hopeful about the forthcoming rail strategy. We really do hope that WYCA’s proposals will meet at least some of our aspirations. The present Calder Valley service may be back to “normal” – but normal is far from adequate considering the potential of stations like Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and future Elland, each serving a population matching valley Hebden Bridge and Todmorden combined. Mytholmroyd also needs more trains. Walsden only has hourly trains off peak. Reliability needs improving (though Northern does a lot better than TPE). HADRAG’s aspirations paper at this link: Ideas for Calder Valley service upgrades: HADRAG updates after meeting – Halifax and District Rail Action Group .

We have been assured Elland should be open by 2025 though there remains a concern that work on the TransPennine Route Upgrade could be a spanner in the works. We shall keep pressing for progress. 2025 will be 25 years late but nonetheless welcome.

There may be a fight on for vital ticket offices, and for guards on trains.

HADRAG’s committee will be considering future meeting patterns. We need to talk about Halifax station ideas early in 2023. Then later in the spring discussion of the West Yorkshire rail strategy could follow. We need more members to get involved.

Please send feedback on this newsletter. Wishing you a continuing happy Christmas (well under way by time you read this) and…
… a peaceful, hopeful ride into 2023! – JSW


Header Image: “frosty morning on the train tracks” flickr photo by TriggerHappyDave https://flickr.com/photos/fromthefrontend/5220598904 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Ideas for Calder Valley service upgrades: HADRAG updates after meeting

HADRAG members had a great meeting with Cllr Colin Hutchinson at the end of November. Massive thanks to Colin for a great contribution, listening to members ideas and joining the discussion. We look forward to WYCA’s draft rail strategy in 2023.

We have updated our own paper calling for better services at more of our stations including Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and future Elland. Any one of these three stations potentially serves a population equal to that of upper Calderdale stations combined, but they have a much poorer service. Train frequencies need to be doubled, and decent connections provided – for example so that people from the upper valley can get more easily to Huddersfield. We also think the idea of a new service from Calderdale to Wakefield and York should be explored. Not everyone wants to go to Leeds!

Stations are also a concern. Real fears remain that the government wants to close all booking offices. Yet down at Halifax whenever we visit there is a queue at the window. We also need a return to printed timetables, well distributed so would-be passengers can browse and discover the possibilities of rail travel. These are difficult times with the dispute over not just pay but also conditions – what the railway is going to look like in the future. The only way forward is to expand. See our paper below. JSW:

HADRAG meeting Sat 26 Nov in Halifax to look at creating better rail service along Calder Valley. Call for better deal: a reliable service with gaps filled. After broken promise over Manchester Airport trains we want service doubling at Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and upcoming Elland stations. Possibilities include services through Wakefield to York, decent links from upper Calderdale to Huddersfield: “not everybody want to go to Leeds!”

LATEST report by HADRAG, the Halifax & District Rail Action Group, calls for an action plan to develop the route with better services, decent frequencies at Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse and an equally good deal for the new station now planned to open at Elland in 2025.

The meeting is on Saturday afternoon 26 November, and is open to all local rail users and others who want to see a better rail deal for Halifax and the Calder Valley line.

Busy Brighouse!
Station has about half the number of trains it needs.

Venue is the Oddfellows room, ground floor at 3 Coleridge St, Halifax HX1 2JF, starting at 2.30 pm (tea, coffee etc from 2pm). Directions to venue below.

Speaker will be Councillor Colin Hutchinson, who is a Calderdale council representative on West Yorkshire’s Combined Authority’s Transport Committee. Councillor Hutchinson will talk about WYCA’s rail strategy and join the Q&A discussion.

HADRAG’s has produced its own paper setting out ambitions for the Calder Valley line. No. 1 is a more reliable service. Then easy things like gaps in service at Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd need to be sorted out – Mytholmroyd has no trains to Manchester on Sundays. HADRAG quotes figures showing Sowerby Bridge serves a population equal to that of Hebden Bridge and Todmorden combined – but has about half the number of trains. All trains that stop at the main upper valley stations should also stop at Sowerby Bridge, say the campaigners. The same is true of Brighouse and the planned station at Elland.

Elland is now due to open in 2025.

Brighouse and future Elland have just one train an hour on two routes. HADRAG calls for a business case based on population served and housing development, to double that frequency, to have better connections between upper Calderdale and Huddersfield, and maybe open up a new route from Calderdale through Wakefield and Castleford to York. Not everybody wants to go to Leeds! And a lower-valley service would also benefit Wakefield which has poor rail links towards and across the Pennines.

Bradford and Calderdale were let down by the broken promise of regular trains to Manchester Airport serving workplaces, hospitals, universities and leisure attractions on the south side of the city. HADRAG says better services via the Brighouse route could link up to Manchester Piccadilly station.

We shall also be restating the case for CV line electrification (www.electriccharter.wordpress.com).

Read HADRAG’s paper in our box below.

And come to our meeting on Saturday. Doors open 2pm for 2.30 start. The Oddfellows room is on corner of Coleridge St, just off Prescott Street below Skircoat Road (A629 towards Huddersfield) in Halifax – 5 minutes’ walk from Halifax town centre. All welcome: see you there!

Electric Charter Update

SCOTLAND’s railway already has a lot electrified across the central belt between Clyde and Forth. Four routes are wired between Glasgow and Edinburgh – compare that with our cross-Pennine routes! North of the border only routes not for eventual electrification will lines in the far north, western Highlands and Stranraer, which are planned for hydrogen power.

Siemens (siemens.co.uk/sustainablemobility) the engineering company says “We need to go further and faster to decarbonise transport in Britain and fight climate change”, and advocates a transition solution of hydrogen/batteries for routes to Inverness and Aberdeen and in Fife, Ayr and to Tweedbank – “transition”, we take it, means temporary. This is a step in the right direction – and maybe an opportunity to sell hydrogen-powered trains. Siemens say current plans mean UK rail still running diesels in 2060. Scotland is targeting no diesels by 2035.

England’s Integrated Rail Plan will wire the Midland Line through Derby to Sheffield (what about the link to Leeds and Doncaster?) and the full Pennine route via Huddersfield – schemes originally planned before Northern Sparks task force reported! Now Bradford Interchange is in the plan. But where’s the ambition to extend to our full Calder Valley Line, advocated 7 years ago by the task force? And what’s happened to the NPR plan for a new through station at Bradford that would end the idiotic delay-multiplying need for trains to reverse? In central Scotland routes comparable with the Calder Valley are already wired!

Siemens quote figures for CO2 emissions. 27% are from transport. Of which 90% are from road transport. And passenger trains average emissions of one third those form an average car.

But road transport is already noticeably decarbonising. How many electric cars have you seen this week?

Rail must keep up.

Of course the electricity must be from zero-carbon sources. This is even more true of hydrogen power which will always be much less efficient because more energy conversions are involved. And not all hydrogen is genuinely zero-carbon. So called “blue” hydrogen is made from fossil fuels. “Green” hydrogen is made using water and renewably generated electricity

Valley Loop: Don’t get your hopes up!

WORK on the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU), whenever it starts, is going to affect services on the Calder Valley Line. To ease matters, Network Rail plans a loop, westbound, between Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge. The expectation is this will be a static loop, meaning trains will stop in the loop so TransPennine Express trains can overtake. We understand the CV services affected will be the hourly Leeds-Brighouse-Wigan stopper, but the procedure should allow diversion of 3/hr York-Leeds-Manchester fasts via Brighouse and Rochdale. Brighouse  It is not clear when this will start or how lengthy or  regular the diversions will be.

The loop will be east of and separate from the existing Hebden Bridge siding, which will be shortened. We understand the plan is for the new loop to be long enough to accommodate a train of length 163m, which is enough for 2×3-car “158” or “195” units. So let’s not raise our hopes that this will provide extra long-term capacity for lengthy freights to be overtaken by CV trains.

Our info is from the Branch Line Society’s newsletter (BLN1385) last September, so may need updating. “Calls [by the diverted TPEs] at Brighouse or Elland would probably adversely affect performance but this has yet to be determined.” We can only add for now that major remodelling of platforms and new tracks through Huddersfield station seems likely to mean, let’s just say, considerable periods of diversions. Brighouse or better still the new station at Elland could be a good alternative for Huddersfield passengers.

Our Calder valley rail priorities

  • Get service back to normal – cuts must not be permanent
  • Get service right for present users – “easy wins”
  • Develop better service for new travel patterns – more trains for Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and Elland – Taktfahrplan Calder Valley
  • And decarbonise by modern, but tried and tested, technology – electrification

First job must be to restore our service to normal. At present it’s looking like the service Bradford-Huddersfield and Halifax-Hull cut to 2-hourly, plus “missing trains” in the Manchester-Burnley “Todmorden curve” pattern, could last at least until the December 2022 timetable change, when the plan is to re-establish the Dec’21 pattern. And if we are facing a summer of discontent with strikes this situation could last longer[1]. Northern needs to catch up on crew training that could not be done during the periods of lockdown, and there are still issues of staff sickness. At a webinar in May We understand the reasons for the present cuts but do not know whether there is a hidden agenda – maybe imposed by Government.

The present service pattern makes little sense for passengers. If your service is 2-hourly, you have to remember which hour you are on. Bradford Huddersfield is important for college students and connections with TransPennine Express trains. And in hours when the Hull train is missing Halifax-Leeds has three trains in less than half an hour then nothing at all for the next half-hour. Uneven patterns catch people out and discourage use.

A train every hour must be re-established as absolute minimum at all stations, all routes, with higher frequencies where they have been established. And – as we go on to say – where they are clearly needed.

Then let’s get the easy wins. Correction of silly things like a late night 2-hour gap at Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge in trains from Manchester. Restoration of Sunday stops by Manchester trains at Mytholmroyd. It should not be necessary to produce a business case (see below) to fix such obvious errors in the timetable. Nor should such an exercise be necessary to implement stops at stations such as Sowerby Bridge which is not served most of the day by Blackpool trains and Manchester “fasts”.

Then real service development – post-pandemic rail can contribute much more to people’s lives. Northern Trains have said they aim to restore services this December to the level established in December 2021. That should include hourly services Halifax-Hull, Bradford-Huddersfield and round the Tod curve, as well as York-Blackpool and Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester both hourly, and Leeds-Bradford-Manchester (2/hr) or Chester (1/hr). There are fewer services on Sundays, something that needs to be addressed as travel habits change post-pandemic.

First job must be to restore our service to normal. At present it’s looking like the service Bradford-Huddersfield and Halifax-Hull cut to 2-hourly, plus “missing trains” in the Manchester-Burnley “Todmorden curve” pattern, could last at least until the December 2022 timetable change, when the plan is to re-establish the Dec’21 pattern. And if we are facing a summer of discontent with strikes this situation could last longer[1]. Northern needs to catch up on crew training that could not be done during the periods of lockdown, and there are still issues of staff sickness. At a webinar in May We understand the reasons for the present cuts but do not know whether there is a hidden agenda – maybe imposed by Government. The present service pattern makes little sense for passengers. If your service is 2-hourly, you have to remember which hour you are on. Bradford Huddersfield is important for college students and connections with TransPennine Express trains. And in hours when the Hull train is missing Halifax-Leeds has three trains in less than half an hour then nothing at all for the next half-hour. Uneven patterns catch people out and discourage use.

A train every hour must be re-established as absolute minimum at all stations, all routes, with higher frequencies where they have been established. And – as we go on to say – where they are clearly needed.

Then let’s get the easy wins. Correction of silly things like a late night 2-hour gap at Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge in trains from Manchester. Restoration of Sunday stops by Manchester trains at Mytholmroyd. It should not be necessary to produce a business case (see below) to fix such obvious errors in the timetable. Nor should such an exercise be necessary to implement stops at stations such as Sowerby Bridge which is not served most of the day by Blackpool trains and Manchester “fasts”.

Then real service development – post-pandemic rail can contribute much more to people’s lives. Northern Trains have said they aim to restore services this December to the level established in December 2021. That should include hourly services Halifax-Hull, Bradford-Huddersfield and round the Tod curve, as well as York-Blackpool and Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester both hourly, and Leeds-Bradford-Manchester (2/hr) or Chester (1/hr). There are fewer services on Sundays, something that needs to be addressed as travel habits change post-pandemic.

StationWeekday trains/hr, daytime off peak, existingNumber of wards served (approx)Estimated catchment popn, potential!
Todmorden4112400
Hebden Bg41+13100
Sowerby Bridge22+24000
Elland (future)2221000
Brighouse2221500

Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and soon to open (we hope) Elland station each serve roughly two council ward areas. The population estimates in the table are our rough estimates based on ward boundaries. Even allowing for inaccuracy you can see that our three station’s potential exceeds those for either of the two upper valley stations, but they have about half the number of services. It is also noteworthy that the 2 trains/hour at Brighouse (and future Elland) are on different routes serving different destinations: Manchester-Leeds and Bradford-Huddersfield. So really, they only have one train per hour to each destination. There is much discussion of commuting not recovering to pre-pandemic levels. We should welcome that. The threat must become an opportunity to develop new markets based on the idea that rail can do much more to enhance people’s lives. Work is something people have to do but what we are working for is the freedom to make the most of leisure time, time with friends, time exploring, time just doing ordinary stuff but not worsening road congestion.  

We propose:

  • Sowerby Bridge should have a level of service equal to Hebden Bridge’s and Todmorden’s, with all Blackpool services calling, and all Manchester services, every day of the week. Mytholmroyd should also have more trains calling – if only to justify the station’s massive new car park!
  • Brighouse and Elland should have their service doubled. 2 trains/hr on both Bradford-Huddersfield and upper Calderdale-Brighouse-Leeds corridors. Variants of this are possible, including trains from Calderdale to Wakefield and from Hebden Bridge to Huddersfield. And more trains on Sundays.
  • Where the two routes cross as at Brighouse/Elland, services should be coordinated to enhance connectivity. What we are advocating is a predictable timetable – Swiss-style taktfahrplan.
  • Sunday services should reflect weekday provision, recognising the social importance of leisure.

We call on Northern trains with West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Transport for the North to draw up the required business case for the above improvements.

Decarbonisation must mean electrification. There seems to be reluctance by government to give the go-ahead to electrification. Yet we are convinced that wiring will pay back in the long term. It’s not just about decarbonisation but about conserving energy and cutting the costs of running a modern railway. Electric trains are cheaper to build, cheaper to operate, cheaper to maintain because they are simpler than diesels or hydrogen trains. 80%, 65% and 34% are roundly the respective efficiencies of pure electric, battery and hydrogen trains. Remember efficiency is the percentage of energy not wasted in conversion processes – such as making hydrogen from electricity, transporting it, and the using fuel cells to get the energy back. Hydrogen will have its uses – not least as an interim solution – but surely not on busy lines like the Calder Valley that also carry heavy freight. While we are developing the bright ideas of people with new machines to sell we are wasting time when we could be putting up wires, using new technology to reduce costs.

Electric trains, light and efficient, are attractive to passengers for speed and acceleration allowing more stops so more people can benefit.

After a decade of prevarication the government seems to have said yes to a little more electrification: Midland Main Line, and – at last! – TransPennine via Huddersfield. Bradford Interchange is also there – but not yet the full Calder Valley electrification which the Northern task force gave top ranking in 2015.

It must happen. – JSW


A version of this article will go to West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Mayor Tracy Brabin, Transport for the North, Calderdale councillors, Members of Parliament, plus – need we add? – Northern Trains and Network Rail.


[1] It is not for HADRAG to comment on the rights and wrongs of industrial action, however much we might sympathise, however much our summers may be threatened by the inconvenience. We do not know the dates of strikes at time of writing. See for example: https://inews.co.uk/news/rail-strike-when-dates-rmt-walkout-2022-uk-trains-affected-explained-1649473

Staged Wiring for CV Line?

The Integrated Rail Plan proposes electrification Leeds to Bradford Interchange probably without a new Bradford station. A new station would be good of course, if suitably located for the city centre, and to end the need for Calder Valley line trains to reverse. The IRP suggests Bradford-Leeds should come down to about 12 minutes (which could be less with more new line).

But of course what we need is full Calder Valley electrification extending to Halifax, Manchester, East Lancs and Preston. Transport for the North’s rail committee looked at a blueprint in March which included an as yet uncosted proposal to electrify Manchester-Rochdale, along with Manchester-Warrington-Liverpool, under the heading of MNTP schemes (Manchester & NW Transformation Programme). The timeline arrow touches the early 2030s. In Yorkshire, early extensions of Huddersfield line wiring (beyond the IRP promise), through Brighouse towards Halifax, Hebden Bridge and beyond also seem possible (and easier than the many-tunnels section Bradford-Halifax).

So extensions stepwise of existing proposals could eventuate in full CV line electrification. This would amount to a rolling programme for our line. Bi-modes could be an interim solution, batteries (no more diesels, thanks) covering Rochdale or Littleborough to Hebden Bridge and Halifax to Bradford. But in the long term this is a less energy-efficient way of running trains than overhead wires, and with freight traffic as well as passenger, full electrification is what we need, not just for our line but right across the North.


Header Image: “Sunshine After the Rain” flickr photo by sjpowermac https://flickr.com/photos/sjpowermac/47770785201 shared into the public domain using (CC0)