WANTED: reply from Grant Shapps! – Elland station, route upgrade, electrification

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport

HADRAG wrote to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, six weeks ago. We want him to press Network Rail to get Elland station open by the end of 2022. And we want him to give the go-ahead to a rolling programme of electrification. Network Rail’s “TDNS” (the interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy) says that the majority of present diesel-only routes should be electrified. That includes the Calder Valley Line that was top scheme in the Northern Sparks task force report (March 2015). We are waiting for a reply from Mr Shapps.

Our letter is below:

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, LONDON SW1P 4DR

Originally sent by email: 22 September 2020 and again on 21 October.  Awaiting reply so re-sending in post in case not received

Dear Secretary of State,

The Calder Valley Line, Elland station and rail development across the North post-Covid

Thank you for replies to previous letters. You know our concern is the Calder Valley Line (CVL) train service, linked to:

  • the need for progress on TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU),
  • the need for long-awaited capacity improvements in Manchester (as well as locations such as Leeds and York),
  • the need for electrification (including our Calder Valley line), now evidenced by Network Rail’s interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy (TDNS), and requiring a positive government response.

The development of sustainable, “sociable” public transport, with a clear plan for decarbonisation, providing an attractive alternative to transport modes that cause health-damaging congestion and pollution will be even more important in a post-Covid world.  We link these national/global issues, and alert you to urgency for progress on a long-awaited new rail station proposed at Elland, next to Brighouse on the Calder Valley Line. Elland station must not be delayed by TRU works, and we hope you will press Network Rail to coordinate these projects to best effect locally.

1            TRU and the Elland/Brighouse Line

We want to thank you massively for your July announcement of £589M for TRU. We feel more hopeful that this scheme will now eventually mean electrification without gaps Manchester to York (and beyond).

As well as inter-city journeys TRU will benefit regional services on routes such as the arm of the strategic Calder Valley Line through Elland/Brighouse which joins the Manchester-Huddersfield-Leeds route at Huddersfield and Mirfield[i]. Four tracks Huddersfield-Mirfield-Dewsbury will allow more services over the Bradford-Huddersfield and (Manchester/East Lancs-)upper Calderdale-Brighouse-Leeds corridors through Calderdale. Brighouse currently has only an hourly service to each main destination. Comparing with stations serving smaller catchments such as Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, you will see that this branch of the CV line should have at least 2 trains /hour to each destination.

Elland station should have opened alongside Brighouse precisely 20 years ago. The local community has campaigned ever since for a station that will serve a similar catchment area to Brighouse or Todmorden/Hebden Bridge. Promoted by West Yorkshire Combined Authority with Calderdale Council, the station will have transformative local links for sustainable and active travel for work, business and leisure in our beautiful valley. The station has passed outline business case and further consultation towards full business case. Projected opening is by December 2022.

But concern has been raised locally that building of Elland station could be delayed because of work on TRU, which will affect connected routes and at times require diversion of TP Express services via the CV line. Given the potential timescale for TRU, any delay to Elland would cause massive local disappointment. Elland should if anything be brought forward. When remodelling of Huddersfield station and other works are taking place as part of TRU, a station at Elland on the diversionary route would be an ideal alternative railhead for passengers who would normally use Huddersfield. We understand this possibility is being considered. Given all of the above points:

  • Will you please require Network Rail and other bodies involved to ensure that opening of Elland station before the end of 2022 is not delayed?
  • We welcome recent initiatives by Network Rail to speed up delivery of projects, and also your announcement in July of a Northern Infrastructure Acceleration Council. Might there be a mechanism here to ensure that projects such as Elland station go ahead, on time, as planned?

2            Electrification, decarbonisation – TDNS and the need for a rolling programme

We enthusiastically welcome recent publication by Network Rail of the interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy. This clearly shows that the majority of lines that are at present not electrified require electrification. It is acknowledged that there are short-distance routes where batteries may be used and more remote routes with infrequent and lower speed services where hydrogen may be appropriate. But TDNS confirms our Electric Railway Charter view that routes such as the Calder Valley Line (CVL) between Leeds and both Manchester and Preston via both Halifax and Brighouse need to be electrified. As you know, a 5-year initial programme of 12 routes was recommended in the March 2015 report “Northern Sparks” by the Northern Electrification Task Force[ii]. The 12 routes included the full CVLas top-ranked scheme on economic, business and environmental criteria. TDNS suggests that parts of this route could be electrified at an earlier stage as part of a Manchester Rail Strategy[iii].

              TDNS confirms that electrification is the way ahead. Electrification wins in a holistic economic assessment as capital costs of electrifying the lines will be paid for by future savings to train operators in both lower capital costs of electric trains and lower operating costs through reduced energy use, reduced complexity[iv] and therefore increased reliability, as well increased revenue through the “sparks effect”. As existing electrification schemes are completed, it is important that skilled engineering teams are kept together. A rolling programme will build on experience and on improved technology, making electrification of existing routes easier to achieve. Scotland already has most central belt lines electrified including 4 routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow, with proposals for near full electrification of the country over the next 15-25 years. We expect only the same for the North of England and therefore ask:

  • Please will you and your government colleagues now give the go-ahead to rolling programmes of rail electrification in England and Wales, based on regional proposals, including the March 2015 NETF report?

3            Concluding remarks – beyond Covid, towards a sustainable, sociable railway

Driving, as we are sometimes forced to do, across Northern England, we say to you, let us not go back to congested, polluted roads that damage our physical and mental health. Nor do we want a return to the unhealthy sardine-can transit of pre-pandemic commuting. Our railways (like our transport as a whole) are supported by the whole community through taxes. So let the whole community benefit. In the post-Covid world office workers may need to spend less time in the city, traveling into the city, or traveling between cities. But people will still need to make countless journeys, for leisure as well as work, for personal as well as corporate development – because they are human beings. We cannot forever travel in isolation, and so we want to see public transport reinvented as sociable transport where people’s wellbeing is enhanced by traveling together, and where the local and global environment is protected.

              So please listen to our idea that all railways should be community railways, attractive to a future generation with the environment at its heart and helping the wider economy. Zero-carbon, zero-pollution, congestion cutting and serving the widest variety of local needs. We hope you can help us achieve Elland station without further delay, and an electric railway across our region.

With thanks in anticipation,

Yours sincerely,

J Stephen Waring, Chair, HADRAG

(by email)

cc MPs, local leaders, media, rail and Electric Railway Charter contacts


[i] See schematic HADRAG map at https://hadrag.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/hadrag-map-1.jpg?w=840

[ii] https://transportforthenorth.com/wp-content/uploads/EFT_Report_FINAL_web.pdf

[iii] TDNS interim business case, Appendix 8 NW F in https://www.networkrail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Traction-Decarbonisation-Network-Strategy-Interim-Programme-Business-Case.pdf

[iv] …compared with heavy bi-modes, battery trains or inefficient hydrogen conversion and distribution processes. See discussion in Electric Railway Charter paper Arguments for Electrification sections 2.3 et seq in: https://electriccharter.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/2019-02arguments-updated-website.pdf