Halifax station – making it better – December 7th deadline for comments!

DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE! Halifax Railway Station users have just a few more days to make their views known about ideas for transforming the station and its surroundings. Concept designs for an ambitious gateway scheme were published by Calderdale Council in March. Now (until December 7th) there is an on-line questionnaire inviting passengers to rate present facilities and prioritise a range of possible improvements. There are spaces for extended comments on what you like about the station and what you would change, and for any further suggestions or feedback on possible future developments.HFX Friay teatime 2017.05.12

HADRAG supports the broad scope of the concept designs which are truly transformational and promise make the station a centrepiece at the bottom of town linked by high quality public realm to new bus stops, the Piece Hall, Library, Industrial Museum and the town centre beyond. (See our March blogpost.) We have concerns about some aspects to do with pedestrian and vehicular access. We think taxi and drop-off facilities, and rail users’ parking should stay on the town-facing side of the station where the main entrance will be, not moved to the back involving indirect subway access. We accept that current arrangements on the road approach bridge are congested and potentially hazardous. The idea of removing the bridge and having a new concourse building next to a reopened Platform 3 is exciting and ambitious – but it has to work for train passengers. Bringing P3 back into use would reduce pressure on the congested island platform (1/2) effectively replacing platform 2. We say this must be done in a future-proof way so that a third operational rail platform could be introduced in the future to accommodate more frequent trains and new service patterns.

Here are our answers, submitted on behalf of HADRAG by Stephen Waring (Chair) on the three open-ended questions:

What do you like about Halifax station?

  • Compact layout easily navigated with only one change of level (by lift or stairs) between the entrance (including drop-off point) and platforms. Entrance is level with bottom of Horton Street giving direct access for pedestrians with minimal level-changes, despite limitations of space and traffic conflicts on present road access bridge.
  • Reasonably modern concourse and booking office with small retail unit though all limited by space.
  • Island platform (1/2) allows cross-platform connections between upper Calder Valley trains and route to Brighouse, Huddersfield etc.

What would you change?

Not in order of importance, we see need for:

(a)    Larger concourse and other covered space, and better organised space on platforms.

(b)    More space for variety of transport modes at station entrance, retaining common access point to booking office and platforms for pedestrians, cyclists, bus passengers, disabled and taxi/drop-off users. Better transport integration i.e. bus stops as close as possible to train platforms + encouragement of sustainable access (walking and cycling) as well as more rail users’ car parking. Car parking could be on 2 or 3 levels.

(c)     Rail users’ parking to be provided with charging points for electric vehicles.

(d)    More retail, café/bar facilities, aimed at making the station a hub of activity and an attraction in its own right.

(e)    Community rail activity to embed the modern railway in local area – art and historical displays linking with community groups, schools etc; pop-up enterprises; mini-museum of local transport history (just a few ideas!).

(f)     Better public/passenger toilets essential.

(g)    Enhanced booking office providing local and regional travel/tourist information (gateway to Halifax) plus full retailing of commuter and tourist travel products

(h)    Better links between levels, particularly if the approach bridge is to go. To guarantee access for all, lifts need to be reliable, ideally duplicated. For level changes within the proposed new building provision of escalators in addition to lifts and stairs would be desirable, particularly for those who, whilst not requiring lift access, nonetheless struggle with stairs.

(i)      Train operation future-proofing. Provision for transformed, increased, more comprehensive train services in future e.g. design of reinstated Platform 3 should to allow for three operational train platforms which could facilitate improved service patterns.

Any other suggestions/feedback

HADRAG agrees with clear need to transform the station and better integrate it with the town. We strongly support broad aim of the published (March 2018) station gateway concept designs but have concerns about the details as suggested in those designs. The final design must put rail users first in terms of providing direct, safe access between station entrances and trains, and in terms of future-proofing the design for further future expansion of train services. Specifically:

(a)    Concern about proposal in concept design to relocate rail users parking, taxi and drop off on the east side of the line with access to the station entrance via reopened underpass (Navigation Rd). Opening the underpass is welcome to create a new pedestrian link from the Nestle site to town, but access from an east-side entrance to platforms would be very indirect. Even if platform 3 is reinstated, half of passengers arriving/departing would still use the existing island platform (1/2). Access between an east-side car park and P1/2 would require walking through a subway, then up a lift/steps to footbridge level, back over the footbridge and then down another lift/steps. This would be significantly worse for train users than the present access from the road approach bridge.

Also, subways are unpopular.

A further issue arises if access from the town direction is pedestrian only: this could become a rather quiet area at night creating issues of personal security from pedestrian station users. Having taxis, drop-off and (ideally) parking close to pedestrian access would avoid this problem by ensuring activity in the station gardens area throughout opening hours.

We feel strongly therefore that taxis/drop-off and, it is hoped, rail users’ parking should remain on the west, town-facing side of the station, where they could be no more than a few steps from the new station entrance.

(b)    Assuming the approach bridge is removed and platform 3 reinstated, the floor of the proposed new concourse should be level with P3 (not below it as shown in the concept designs), which would avoid an annoying and unnecessary level change that would be counter to the object of providing level access to P3.

(c)     Proposal to “build out” Platform 3 to serve existing Platform 2 track. This appears to make no provision for the possibility of a third operational platform with an independent track. Whilst it is not yet clear whether future service patterns will require this, the possibility must not be excluded; the design must be future-proof.

Future service patterns could involve a further significant increase in service frequency, and could have more trains terminating at Halifax, or trains reversing in the station, or more connections (passengers changing trains at Halifax); an additional operational platform would also enable trains to follow each other into the station at closer headways promoting punctuality, whilst Network Rail might be able to dispense with the existing turnback siding south of the station. Rather than building out the platform, which would also require provision of an enlarged canopy, it would be better to persuade Network Rail to move the P2 track to serve P3 in its present position. This appears feasible; some signalling cables (if still in use following recent resignalling) would need to be moved but this might also be required by the build-out proposal. This would allow for a third track and associated point work to be added later when required.

– JSW 

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