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Call for action – HADRAG reflects commuters’ anger about overcrowding

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GOOD NEWS! Northern ran the first public train over a brand new railway on Sunday 10th December, turning out a shiny refurbished Class 150 train. From now until May 2018 one Calder Valley service very hour at off-peak times is extended beyond Manchester Victoria station round the Ordsall Chord to Deansgate and Oxford Road, giving direct access from Bradford, Calderdale and Rochdale to the south side of Manchester city centre for the first time. It may be a small start, but it’s a stepping stone to better, and  Northern deserves congratulations on being the first train company to operate a regular service over the new line. Come May, we are expecting a big step change, when Calder Valley trains will start to run through every hour to Manchester Piccadilly station and on to Manchester Airport. Transpennine Express will run two trains an hour from the Huddersfield Line round to the Airport, and Northern’s second Calder Valley service each hour should go through to Warrington and Chester, opening up further new regional connectivity.  Of course this may be of limited help to Calder Valley commuters who just want to get to Manchester, Bradford, Leeds or York and would love to be able to do so on a train where they can get a seat and arrive relaxed for a productive day at work – not to mention some quality evening down time. The train in our picture may have shiny new colours and a brightly refurbished interior, but it’s still 30 years old and part of a fleet of rolling stock that just isn’t enough for the number of passengers travelling on our line and others across the North. The good news is that brand new trains really are coming to our line by the end of the decade. There will also be more refurbished carriages coming in from other train companies over the next two years. They can not come soon enough for commuter and increasingly off peak travellers forced to travel on trains that at times seem to be dangerously overcrowded.

Campaigning group HADRAG has again written to the managing director of the Northern train company, with a renewed call for action on commuter conditions and questioning the policy of taking trains out of service for refurbishment when there is a clear shortage of carriages. The group wants “a train service that gets people to work, and home again, rested and relaxed, not tired and jaded” – benefitting productivity and the economy. Following an initial response from the train company HADRAG representatives expect to meet with Northern early in January.HADRAG’s latest letter, addressed to David Brown, the new managing director of Arriva Rail North, HADRAG reflects the anger of commuters about overcrowding on the Calder Valley Line. HADRAG appreciates that the problems are part of a national situation and not directly the fault of the regional train company, but calls for early action by the company to deal with the issue of trains on the Calder Valley frequently not having enough carriages for the number of passengers wanting to travel at peak times. The campaigners also welcome the good news that more trains – brand new trains – will be introduced before 2020, with a 37% increase in morning peak capacity across the franchise. But HADRAG’s letter says that with commuters reasonably arguing that the trains they travel on are more like 100% overcrowded “we feel bound to ask whether the promised capacity increase will be enough!”

HADRAG wants action sooner to help passengers and in the letter asks Northern specifically:

  • Can the present programme of taking trains out of service for refurbishment, affecting both capacity and reliability, be justified when commuting conditions are so difficult?
  • Can a popular extra morning train, the 0728 Halifax-Leeds be kept on at least until all the new rolling stock is in service? This train is a 5-car intercity-type unit and it is not yet clear whether it will still be in the timetable after May 2018.
  • Can we expect more trains to be “cascaded” from other regional train operators in the next few months given expected progress to complete electrification of lines in Scotland and on the Great Western route?
  • Could InterCity 125 trains coming out of service in other parts of the country be used temporarily to provide additional capacity in the North?

The HADRAG letter, signed by the group’s chair, Stephen Waring, reiterates a welcome for planned enhancements to the Calder Valley Line timetable from May 2018, when it is hoped trains will run through to Manchester Airport and Chester. The plan is also for Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd to be served by the York-Blackpool express service – fulfilling a long-standing HADRAG demand.

But the group is concerned about the planned service pattern between Leeds and Calderdale and raises issues about service patterns and journey times the could impact on local passengers from next May.

The letter calls for Sowerby Bridge station to be served by the Manchester Airport trains, and asks for an assurance that service levels not just at Sowerby Bridge but also at smaller stations such as Mytholmroyd will not be adversely affected when most Calder Valley Line trains become express-style “Northern Connect” services at the end of 2019. HADRAG also supports calls by other groups along the line for improved services at Littleborough and at the new station Low Moor, in Bradford.

Beyond 2019, HADRAG calls for an improved service along the Brighouse line with a faster journey upper Calderdale-Brighouse-Leeds, ready for when the new station opens at Elland, hopefully by 2022.

The letter also calls for improved quality published and printed timetable booklets, and expresses concern that proper booking offices should be maintained at stations and developed to offer a wider range of retail and information services.

HADRAG Chair Stephen Waring commented:  “We have written to the new managing director of Northern, to introduce ourselves as a group that has been supporting positive development by the train operators as well as putting forward our own ideas for development for 32 years. We welcome much that the Northern franchise is planning, but we must reflect the daily concerns of people using our line who are crammed in conditions that frankly seem unhealthy. We want a train service that gets people to work, and home again, rested and relaxed, not tired and jaded. That will surely be better for productivity and the economy.

“We have had an initial response from Northern and they have offered to meet us in the coming weeks. That is really good because we want to continue to engage with them in a positive way.

“To describe Calderdale commuters going into Bradford, Leeds and Manchester in the morning as hard-pressed would perhaps be too literally true. The good news is that new trains are coming, but people crammed daily in frankly unhealthy conditions are still being asked to wait for this. We hear of regular instances of passengers being left behind at the station because it is physically impossible to get on the train.

“We really hope the new trains when they arrive will be enough, but meanwhile we really hope Northern can get hold of more carriages, sooner rather than later.

“And we must question the present train refurbishment programme which can only reduce peak capacity whilst the work is going on. We also suspect it puts pressure on maintenance leading to reduced reliability. The refurbished trains now running on our line are a big improvement and we welcome that. There is more work to be done on them. But it’s not much comfort having a nice modernised train in smart new colours if it’s so crowded that you can’t get on it.”

On service development, Stephen Waring added:

“We have already welcomed positive aspects of the May 2018 timetable proposals, but there has to be a better deal for stations serving medium-size towns like Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse that always seem to miss out on the faster services. Again, there is good news that Sowerby Bridge – and Mytholmroyd – will be getting the York-Blackpool trains, but we are a bit concerned that service improvements given next year could be taken away when the Northern Connect brand of fast services is introduced in 2019. They are planning an extra service every hour between Bradford and Manchester from December 2019. HADRAG wants that to be used to improve the service more stations, with places like Sowerby Bridge sharing in the benefits of the new service across Manchester to the Airport.”

 

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Autumn update 1: Arguments for electrification

DSCF1406HADRAG intends to play a leading role in the campaign for a rolling programme of rail electrification across the North of England. It’s well over two years since the Northern Electrification Task Force (NETF) drew up a list of 32 northern routes and recommended 12 for electrification in the early 2020s. The schemes were scored on economic and operational criteria, and the top ranked scheme was our Calder Valley Line from Leeds to both Manchester and Preston via both Bradford and Brighouse. We say that would follow on naturally from the Huddersfield Line “TransPennine Route Upgrade” scheme, the scope of which should be announced later this autumn.

How much actual electrification of the York-Huddersfield-Manchester route it will involve is now in doubt following government announcements and comments by the Secretary of State for Transport earlier this summer. Talk at the Department of Transport is now of “state of the art” bimode trains that mean sections of line can be left unwired – “discontinuous electrification” – where the constructing masts for overhead wires is deemed too expensive or disruptive.

Many of us think that is short term thinking, bad for business, bad for the environment. What bimode trains really mean is “electro-diesels” and “state of the art” means electric multiple units with diesel engines under the floors. More complexity meaning more to go wrong, higher maintenance costs – and compromised reliability? The diesels take over on sections of line that are not electrified, but mean the whole train is heavier, less energy efficient and more polluting. When the train is running on electricity from the overhead supply, the diesel engine is just dead weight. When it’s on diesel the transformers that handle the 25000V electricity are not being used. More mass means more energy used, means higher running costs, bad for business, bad for the environment.

And train companies seem at present to be creating a glut of modern electric trains. New trains are being ordered and replacing ones that are perfectly serviceable for years more use – if only more lines were electrified to use them! See picture caption below.

So why, when there is more and more talk about electric cars and road transport generally become “greener”, do we seem to be committing our railways to the obsolescent internal combustion engine for another generation? Government aspirations are to stop sale of conventional petrol and diesel road vehicles by 2040 and make road transport almost completely zero-emission by 2050. Surely it’s time we had a plan also for the rail industry to phase out prime movers that damage air quality and damage the climate. HADRAG says the argument for electrification, starting with our own line, remains strong. Yes, there may be innovative solutions for sections with significant lengths of tunnel or other obstacles. We believe future electric trains may be pure electrics with onboard energy storage. Battery technology is leaping ahead driven by renewable energy development and (ironically) electric cars.

HADRAG intends to promote a Charter for Rail Electrification and have written a draft supporting document Arguments for Electrification . Click to read – and prepare to engage in the debate!

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HERE’s one of those “cast-off” trains that came North from London’s travel-to-work area, and a story that shows just one little reason – among many bigger ones – for electrifying more of our railways.  It’s a Class 319 electric train at Liverpool Lime Street station about to work a service to Manchester Airport. From March 2015 the old Northern Rail franchise gave them glossy new colours so that from the outside at least they really did look almost like new. (Now they are beginning to appear in Arriva Rail North’s near-white livery.) Not bad inside either, despite old-fashioned 2+3 seating layout. (A former Northern boss was once heard to say that passengers couldn’t tell them from brand-new trains, but we weren’t sure we quite believed that.) The last “319s” have now ceased service on the Thameslink route between Bedford and Brighton. There were 86 of these 4-car trains. 32 are now with Northern (or about to be). Eight more are to be given diesel engines, becoming electro-diesel “bimodes” called Class 769. The eight should (assuming conversion and testing runs smoothly) enter Northern from next Spring. A further five “769s” have been approved for the Welsh trains franchise. That still leaves nearly half of these decent modern trains, easily upgradable to modern high quality, in store, “off-lease”, awaiting a user. Northern (Arriva) will probably use some of its eight 769s on the Windermere branch, where electrification plans have recently been cancelled by the government. Windermere-Manchester Airport trains seem likely (until brand new stock arrives) to run on diesel on the branch line, and on overhead-wire electric from Oxenholme to the Airport. So heavy internal combustion engines and fuel tanks will be dragged as dead weight under the wires. The promised brand-new stock might have to be pure diesel, though there is a hint of “alternative fuels” – electrics with battery storage maybe – by the early 2020s. It’s not just the 319s – with new franchises down south – not to mention Northern’s neighbour TransPennine Express –  replacing serviceable electrics with brand new stock, there appears to be an increasing glut of electric trains. All the more reason, surely, for a rolling programme of proper electrification, not least across the North of England and starting with our top-ranked Calder Valley Line. Read our draft Arguments for Electrification paper.

 

Station parking debate

Brighouse station “park & ride”. Most of the cars are there all day — no chance if you set off late. Does every car belong to a rail user?

Hebden Bridge station will soon get 50 per cent more car parking, going up to 127 standard + 4 blue badge bays. Mytholmroyd, currently with no official park & ride, shouldn’t be far behind with an ambitious build, still subject to Network Rail approval, to create 195 + 8 spaces. Mytholmroyd will take £3M from £32.5M of WY+ Transport Fund money allocated to West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s initial programme of a dozen stations across the county due to be complete by 2019.

Sowerby Bridge had its car park doubled in size about five years ago, but now on weekdays its 105 or so spaces are nearly all taken by 07.30. Brighouse has a bigger problem with just 64 spaces. Calderdale Council’s transport working group (on which HADRAG’s Chair is a coopted member) discusses station parking and there’s local pressure on West Yorkshire Combined Authority to include more of our stations in future plans. Land could be available at Sowerby Bridge. Brighouse is more difficult. The former dairy site next to the station was sold off commercially by its private owners and is now an office development: in effect WYCA (Metro) was outbid. Future station car parks could be two or more storeys. That would reduce land-take but could be disruptive to build over the existing facility. At Brighouse another issue has been non-passengers parking in the station car park to walk into town, not noticing “rail users only” signs. Station car parks are run by the train companies or their contractors. We have heard of genuine rail users being fined for parking outside the marked bays (perhaps in frustration), but it would seem non-passengers abusing the facility are a more difficult nut to crack.

So what do you do if you want to park at the station and use the train, say mid-morning, but find the car-park full? Many would-be rail users will simply not bother and complete the journey by car. A lot of us have done just that. And it does seem unfair that station parking is effectively unavailable for work, business and leisure travellers setting off later in the day. Most Northern Rail car parks in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester are free, whilst in other parts of the country – though not all! – charging is the norm. Should West Yorkshire drop its policy of having free train station parking? That would surely cause resentment. Would it not lead some commuters, already jaded by overcrowded trains, to drive to work?

HADRAG’s friend Steven Leigh of Mid-Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce is also a coopted member of Calderdale’s transport working group. Steven has suggested stations might have more than one category of parking, maybe with some restricted-time (but free) spaces and maybe some at premium rate for people who want to travel later in the day. Steven emphasises it’s just an idea. But what if a train ticket plus premium parking ticket is more than you are prepared to spend? And if travelling on business you might be just as prepared to pay for a taxi to the station. It’s a real conundrum and no doubt the debate will continue. What do our readers think?

At Halifax, 30-odd spaces, regularly filled before 07.00, are to be moved off the station bridge to ground level as part of town centre Eastern Gateway plans. The plans also include a public car park on two levels. So whilst there may not, at least initially, be a lot more free parking for rail users, there will at least be pay-to-park spaces, well connected to a transformed station and providing those “premium” spaces for train users setting off later.

Final point. Taking Sowerby Bridge as an example, the station has an annual footfall (passenger entries & exits) of 392000 (ORR, 2015-16). So that’s roundly 1100 per day or the equivalent of 550 return trips, more than five times the station car park capacity. Applying a similar calculation elsewhere you see that most local station users don’t actually park at the station. They may walk, take the bus, cycle or be dropped off by friends/relatives/partners. Shouldn’t we encourage more of this? How many who park at the station before 0700 live walkably close? Maybe a few — and maybe they have good reasons, like getting up at 0530 to get the train when every minute seems to count in busy lives. Park & ride is a significant part of the mix and we need to keep pressing for more.

Ordsall Chord ready for Calder Valley services

First public trains are due to run over a brand new railway in Manchester starting Sunday 10th December – and they will be Calder Valley Line serviP1070519ces from Leeds via Halifax and Rochdale, operated by Northern. The Ordsall Chord will link lines through Manchester Victoria station with the ones through Deansgate, Oxford Road, Piccadilly and towards the Airport.  From this month Calder Valley trains will run through, daytime off-peak only for now, to Oxford Road station. This is a prelude to a full hourly service to Manchester Piccadilly and the Airport in May 2018. First train scheduled over the new curve on the Sunday morning should be an 0840 local working from Manchester Victoria station to Oxford Road. This returns at 0857 to Calder Valley stations and Leeds. First westbound Sunday service from Calderdale is scheduled 0945 from Halifax through to Oxford Road. Hopefully there’ll be one or two HADRAG mHFX Ordsall posterembers on these first trains to mark the historic occasion – we are keeping an eye on the forecast as wintry weather threatens.

 

Weekday services will be the ones that leave Leeds around 18 minutes past the hour. The first Oxford Road weekday service will be the one that picks up at Halifax at 0756, after which they’ll be more or less hourly until late afternoon. Hopefully this is a taste of a much more useful service to come. From May 2018 Calder Valley Manchester trains should run not only round Ordsall to Manchester Piccadilly and the Airport but there will also be an hourly service to Warrington and Chester.

 

First round the chord!

First public train over the Ordsall Chord is scheduled for Sunday 10 December, 0840 from Manchester Victoria to Oxford Road where it will then form the 0857 via the Calder Valley to Leeds. First train westward to Oxford Rd from Halifax will be the 0945. Check timings online at www.nationalrail.co.uk. We hope to meet a few HADRAG members and friends on these first trains!

Weekday service round the Chord starting December 11th will just be the CVL trains, daytime off-peak generally at 18 minutes past from Leeds to Man Vic, Deansgate and Oxford Road stations, returning from Oxford Rd mainly at xx38 (until 1638). It’s a stepping stone to something a lot better. In May 2018 TransPennine Express should start using the new line and Northern Calder Valley trains should run hourly until late night to Piccadilly and the Airport. We don’t know if the Deansgate stop — useful for workplaces, cultural attractions and the tram to Salford Quays — will be made permanent. We hope so, though it wasn’t shown in the May’18 consultation draft timetable.

No digital miracle: more tracks and platforms needed

The Northern Hub project was supposed to include two extra through platforms and tracks at Manchester Piccadilly station. However, ministerial comments in July reinforced fears this may not happen. Apparently the DfT has asked Network Rail to look at using digital signalling to increase capacity instead. It’s true modern train control with signals in the driver’s cab can increase capacity by allowing trains to safely follow at closer headways, but it clearly does not allow a faster train to pass a slower one, or two trains to run in parallel into a station—unless the physical track capacity is provided. Nor can it make commuters get on and off crush-loaded trains any faster. “Going digital” will take years and is no miracle cure. New platforms and tracks at Piccadilly could prove essential for reliable operation of more trains, including Calder Valley trains from Blackburn as well as Bradford going round to the Airport. Not to mention the need for more tracks around Huddersfield and Mirfield to allow more trains via Brighouse and Elland.

Electrification: Don’t take our word for it!

Look at the recent panorama of one of our big northern stations, complete with overhead electric wires. Of six trains in shot, five are diesels. If only more lines in the North were electrified all could be electrics, quieter, more efficient, better for air quality, for the climate and for passengers. Don’t take our word for it; here’s what Network Rail said on its website:

Electrification of the railway allows for faster, greener, more reliable train journeys, improves passenger services and supports economic growth in Britain.

Benefits of electric trains:

  • More capacity for passengers; more seats than diesel trains of the same length
  • Faster than diesel trains: superior braking and acceleration make journey times shorter.
  • Quieter than diesel trains: good news for our lineside neighbours.
  • Better for the environment:… carbon emissions 20 to 35% lower than from diesel trains, and there are no emissions at point of use improving air quality in pollution hotspots such as city centres
  • Lighter. Less maintenance is needed because electric trains cause less wear on the track so the railway is more reliable for passengers.
  • Good for the economy. Faster trains with more seats and better connections with previously hard-to-reach areas improve access to jobs and services, and open up new business opportunities.

Electric trains are better business than diesels because they use simpler technology—cheaper to buy, operate and maintain, offering a self-evidently better passenger experience.

 

Calderdale Council Resolution

“Improvements to Rail Services across the North” -Calderdale Council’s resolution, 21 September 2017

“Council welcomes and endorses the joint statement agreed by Council and business leaders who attended the Transport Summit held in Leeds on 23rd August and in particular supports the calls on Government to:

  • honour in full commitments already given to deliver improvements to rail services across the North, including full electrification, track and signalling improvements on key commuter routes and the upgrade of hub stations, and to remove uncertainty about this at the earliest opportunity;
  • prioritise its manifesto commitment to deliver new west-east rail infrastructure reaching across the North, work with Transport for the North to set out a clear timetable for its delivery in the Autumn Budget, develop an appraisal process to support it, and provide evidence that this timetable will not be adversely affected by decisions to fund other large infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country; and
  • set out a fairer distribution of transport funding -road and rail, revenue and capital – across all regions of the country.
  • More specifically, this Council urges Government to recommit to the full electrification of the Transpennine route and the subsequent electrification of the Calder Valley Line.

Council asks the Chief Executive to write to Chris Grayling MP informing him of our concerns and also to ask our local Members of Parliament to support these representations.”

Header Image: “Halifax Town Hall” flickr photo by david_pics https://flickr.com/photos/dsykes34/5935193450 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Calder Valley sparks!

HADRAG intends to co-opt other groups on either side of the Pennines and lead a “Charter” campaign for a rolling programme of rail electrification across the North of England, starting with our own Calder Valley Line. It’s two and a half years now since the Northern Electrification Task Force (NETF) unveiled its Northern Sparks report. A cross-party group of MPs and local authorities supported by professional expertise, the taskforce ranked full Calder Valley line electrification as top scorer on economic, operational and business criteria.

By “full” Calder Valley line the taskforce meant the route from Leeds/Mirfield to both Manchester and Preston, via both Bradford and Brighouse. The assumption was that the Huddersfield Line from Manchester to Leeds and York would already be done by the end of the decade, a hope dashed in summer 2015, as Network Rail struggled with ongoing work, when that scheme, along with Midland Main Line was paused, and then “unpaused” for two years of replanning.

Then earlier this summer the Government (in the person of Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport) announced to Parliament that Midland Main Line electrification from Kettering to Sheffield (once paused, then unpaused) was now cancelled, along with the Windermere Branch. There was nothing definite about the Huddersfield Line or any of the NETF schemes, but subsequent quoted comments cast doubt not only on what is now being called “Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade” (TRU) but on rail electrification generally.

The Department for Transport (DfT) seems to be sold on the idea that the North does not need electrification, or perhaps that it can make do with “discontinuous electrification”. Gaps will be left where electrification is too difficult or disruptive—such as through long stretches of tunnel, or where the overhead wiring is judged unsightly. (Is not the latter laughable given the DfT’s enduring love affair with building multi-lane highways through our green and pleasant landscape?) The gaps can be filled by running “state of the art” bi-mode trains. So the new Midland Main Line will have to invest in electro-diesel trains, electrics with underfloor diesel engines to be inefficiently carted about whilst the train is running “under the wires” as well as electric pick-up gear and transformers that will be equally dead weight whilst the train is running on diesel. Surely that must be bad not just for the environment, but also for business too, as energy, running and maintenance costs increase. The idea of electro diesels is not new, but what is now being built, and more proposed, is a complex train with dual traction systems. For “state of the art” should we read “yet to be fully tested in service”?

We’re not sold on electro-diesel bimodes!

The Windermere branch may get “alternative fuel” trains by early next decade — which sounds like a glimmer of hope for more enlightened thinking.  Because diesels, as we all now know, can never be anything but dirty, century-old technology that manufacturers are struggling to clean up whilst maintaining performance. If we care about air quality in our towns and cities we should care about air quality in our train stations. We hear that diesel buses that comply with the latest environmental standards have difficulty climbing Calderdale hills. Of course there are some significant rail gradients on our cross-Pennine tracks. The TransPennine express franchise is getting some new diesel-hauled coaches for its    Liverpool/Manchester-Middlesbrough/Scarborough routes and electro-diesel bimodes for services going to Newcastle and Edinburgh. Even without full Huddersfield line electrification the diesel power will be doing significant mileage under the wires. It seems such a waste. Looking with an engineering eye at the specifications it is not clear whether these trains will perform as well on diesel power as existing trains    between Manchester,

Huddersfield and Leeds. Power to mass ratio and other factors come in. In short, we’re not sold on electro-diesel bimodes even if the DfT is.  For the record we’ll add without comment here that within days of announcing cancellations of electrification schemes and casting doubt on other infrastructure improvements the government not only announced substantial investment in planning London’s Crossrail 2, but also in its air quality plan reminded us of an existing policy to ban the sale of “conventional” petrol and diesel road vehicles by 2040. (The same policy, dating back at least to 2011, aspires to near-total zero-emission road transport by 2050.) Meanwhile planning of HS2, the ultra-high-speed railway between the North and London divides opinion among transport campaigners, and could end up costing the best part of £100 billion, forges ahead.

We should know the scope of the replanned TransPennine Route Upgrade by early next year. How much electrification it includes we shall see. Perhaps not through Standedge Tunnel, perhaps not anywhere between Stalybridge and Huddersfield. But the TRU (Huddersfield Line) is not just electrification. Track enhancements should increase capacity (as well as speed). HADRAG wants to see tracks restored in the Huddersfield/ Mirfield area to allow a better timetable on our Elland/Brighouse line. Mr Grayling has recently announced £5 million for Network Rail to develop plans for “digital signalling” on the Huddersfield Line. This may not be a miracle cure! (See our Back Page.)

Returning to electrification as such, HADRAG and other groups believe the case remains sound, as sound as it was when NETF drew up its list of 32 schemes, ranging in size from the Calder Valley Line downwards, with 12 recommended for Network Rail’s 2019-24 Control Period — including the top scoring Calder Valley itself. What better place to start a rolling programme of electrification across the North? Our line should be next after the Huddersfield Line. We want to orchestrate a cacophony of calls for that.

A start was made in Halifax Town Hall at September’s full council meeting when Calderdale councillors passed a resolution calling on government to recommit to rail development in the north, to a fair balance of investment across the country and more particularly to Calder Valley electrification. From the public gallery it was pleasing to hear arguments that chime with HADRAG’s view. Issues about the cost and disruption of electrification work were rightly raised, but in the end the resolution had all-party support and no member of the council voted against.

For HADRAG’s part, we understand the argument about the need for smarter electrification. Network Rail is learning the lessons of projects in the West of England and Scotland that have proved far more difficult than anticipated. Those lessons are wasted if we do not persevere with a rolling programme.

If clean technology can be used to allow some sections involving tunnels or other obstacles to be left unwired then, maybe, so be it. Electric trains with energy storage have been tested and will surely be part of the solution. Battery technology is moving ahead driven by renewables and (with in-your-face irony) road transport. But dirty diesels, no. -JSW

See HADRAG’s draft Argument’s for Electrification paper via our website:

www.HADRAG.com

Header Image: “Northern Electrics branding” flickr photo by hugh llewelyn https://flickr.com/photos/camperdown/20658157925 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license