Loop for TransPennine Route Upgrade Work

Assuming it’s going ahead, TransPennine route (aka Huddersfield line) upgrade will mean services being diverted via the Calder Valley whilst various parts of the Huddersfield route are blocked. Apart from 4- tracking Huddersfield-Dewsbury there is major track and platform remodelling, and of course electrification (we hope). You may know more by the time this newsletter reaches you and we’ll update in our next issues.

We do know that a westbound loop is being planned between Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge allowing diverted fast TPE services to overtake Calder Valley “locals” during TRU works. So some of our trains will be slower whenever the diversions are taking place. No pain no gain. What we don’t know yet is whether the loop will be long enough to shift freights out of the way of our passenger trains. It would seem short sight-sighted for it not to be.

Header Image: “185142+120 Diverted TPE Liverpool Service At Hebden Bridge” flickr photo by RyanTaylor1986 https://flickr.com/photos/ryantaylorphotography/6084429293 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Calder Valley Community Rail Partnership

The new community rail partnership now has the backing both Rochdale and Calderdale councils. Making an initial mark the CRP had a stall at an all-day event at Manchester Piccadilly station on Monday 18 October. An impressive prospectus has been produced. More in our next issue.

Header Image: “Station-1” flickr photo by geraldmurphyx https://flickr.com/photos/147928530@N03/51243636731 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Halifax station gateway: latest plan consultation deadline in new year

Exciting plans! Latest version of Halifax station gateway proposals are on-line, including iconic new pedestrian bridge linking with town and bus stops, car park at ground level and brand-new 2-storey containing shops and café. Slightly worryingly the ticket office is now shown on the ground floor, though pedestrians arriving over the new bridge will access the station at first floor level.

Ground floor. Booking office is at this level. Are we sure that is right?

Plans available here Halifax Railway Station | Calderdale Next Chapter include several videos showing routes through the new building. The videos are very good! See for example: https://youtu.be/165g1DbmOkA

The info pages are here.

Continuing concerns include location of booking office. We accept that with online bookings and tickets on phones, ticket offices are being less well used. But staff need to be available, both to help people use the ticket vending machines, and to provide information and advance booking that even the internet can’t provide.

One idea might be to combine the ticket office with the station shop, so ticket sales could be combined with more general retailing. Please tell us what you think, and more important send in your own response to the consultation by 16 January. More thoughts below.

1 Ticket office location. The circulated materials say little about this, which is slightly worrying. The office appears to have moved from the first floor to ground floor and looks to be out-of-the-way for many potential users. OK for people arriving by car, but a long way and on a different floor from the main pedestrian entrance via the town bridge. We can see how this might work in term of having all staff accommodation together. Northern Trains say the use ticket offices had declined during the pandemic. Out response is that ticket offices need to be reinvented to encourage a greater range of functions and dissemination of material not just about rail travel but about local attractions etc with expanded retailing or even combination with other forms of retailing:

  • it must be agreed that a ticket and information desk is essential, must be centrally located, and must be staffed throughout most station opening hours; 
  • there should also be staff on the concourse and platforms not least to help people use the ticket vending machines, which become no less complex for users, especially occasional users and people not familiar with the jargon of ticketing;
  • many station users will arrive from the new town bridge at first floor level and if they then have to drop down to a ground-level ticket office then come back up again to access the footbridge that will be inconvenient, annoying, and increase effective journey time; 
  • alternative solutions for the booking office might be considered:
    • it could be located on the first floor as originally planned;
    • it could be incorporated into the first floor retail unit giving a combined rail ticket, information, news and wider retail unit; examples of this arrangement exist at Merseyside stations (Southport, Liverpool Central…).
    • there could be an island or peninsula staffed desk on the concourse, able to issue tickets and info, provided if necessary with protective glass screens. This could replace some of the seating on the upper concourse. (We expect most passengers to wait for trains on the platform.)
    • one reason for having a booking office is for people to arrange longer more complex journeys as well as obtain information in a comfortable environment. Whilst a lot of this type of booking is now done online there are also good reasons why people should not be discouraged from visiting the station to book or obtain info. In fact, they should be encouraged. Interaction with staff should be encouraged. Let’s make it a busy place!
    • Location of TVMs is not particularly clear.

2 Lift – We remain concerned that there is only one public lift between ground and first floor. Lifts are not 100% reliable. 

3 Lots of good points including the community room though the access route to this is not all that clear, and access via the underpass to the Hebble Trail for walkers and cyclists. Video here .

4 Provision for future platform 3 is welcome. Needs to be direct ground-level access as well as “up and down”.

The above are our instant reaction. HADRAG’s formal response to follow, after the consultation briefing in January.

Taktfahrplan* Calder Valley

Vision of coordinated timetable Bradford, Halifax, upper Calderdale, Elland and Brighouse, with additional connectivity by changing trains

The proposed May 22 timetable has trains from Halifax to Hebden Bridge at 17, 27, and 44 min past each the standard hour, in the reverse direction from HBD at 27, 42 and 50: three trains in less than half an hour then nothing for more than half an hour. On the Brighouse route Elland station should open soon. Like Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and Elland each serve a population equivalent to about 2 council wards, i.e. as many potential passengers as Todmorden and Hebden Bridge combined. The present hourly service on each of two routes through Brighouse is inadequate.

We suggest the following as an unfinished idea which could be developed when TransPennine Route Upgrade delivers additional capacity through Mirfield:

East-west via Bradford, Halifax and Hebden Bg

York/Hull/Leeds-Halifax to Blackpool/Manchester/Chester/Manchester etc

3+ trains/hr(could be 3/hr west of Hfx if evenly spaced) Blackpool, York, Hull, Chester, MIA each 1/hr

East-west via Brighouse and Hebden Bg

Could be present Wigan-Leeds, plus additional train Preston-Burnley-Leeds or to York via Wakefield and Castleford. Or possible Bradford-Brighouse-Wakefield-York service. Pending completion of TRU Mirfield area enhanced service to Wakefield/York could be more helpful.

2 trains/hr

North-south Bradford-Brighouse-Huddersfield

Could be present Bradford-Huddersfield shuttle doubled (2nd could be Hull-Hfx extended to Huddersfield)

2 trains/hr

Connections between N-S and E-W routes at Brighouse/Elland (or Halifax) giving a half-hourly link to Huddersfield from upper Calderdale, Lancashire and Rochdale. Alternatively, how about an hourly service upper Calderdale-Huddersfield, connecting at Elland/Brighouse with a Bradford-Halifax-Wakefield-York?

Sunday services should evolve towards weekday off-peak frequency.

*“Taktfahrplan” means the timetable repeats and connects regularly. We propose at least 5 trains/hr through Halifax and Hebden Bridge and 2/hr N-S and 2/hr E-W though Elland and Brighouse. Freight and open-access (Grand Central) would be extra.

Dare we dream this might be possible? HADRAG would welcome the opportunity to discuss the above ideas in more detail with Northern, Great British Railways, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and TfN.

Header Image: “York Station Clock” flickr photo by ahisgett https://flickr.com/photos/hisgett/5441620708 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Elland Progress

Elland station plans are with Calderdale planning department awaiting approval as we write this.

With a linked access package involving new foot and cycle links along the canal bank to Greetland already approved, we still hope the station will open in about 18 months’ time – if not less. The station will be on the embankment next to Lowfields business park, close to Morrison’s, housing, and around Elland Lane and Lower Edge Road, the Calderdale Way main road and local bus stops. Clear potential exists to serve a wide surrounding area.

Latest plans show ramped access to the platforms, as well as stairs and lifts.

Still Hoping for Good News, Meanwhile…

With COP26 underway, the integrated rail plan (IRP) is now expected in mid November, after a Downing Street rewrite. So are we still being softened up for cancellation of big projects like the eastern arm of HS2 from Birmingham to Leeds? How will Northern Powerhouse Rail end up? What about the TransPennine Route upgrade, which should be fully electric and with extra tracks Huddersfield to Dewsbury? (Is HM Treasury really going to agree to both full-scale TRU and high-speed NPR via Bradford?) And what about Northern Sparks electrification, recommended by a task force six years ago? Top ranking was given to the Calder Valley. And a year ago Network Rail’s TDNS (decarbonisation network strategy) effectively called for a rolling programme. We hope for good news from IRP.

And rail decarbonisation would be a great thing to announce in the run-up to COP26 summit in Glasgow. So let’s hope we have something positive to report in our Winter issue.

Manchester plans: report hardly mentions our line

Meanwhile this seems to have been a year, mid-pandemic, of consultations on timetable changes. The government has recently published the response to the Manchester Rail Task Force (MRTF) consultation. HADRAG responded earlier this year as did the three North of England branches of Railfuture. Among other demands we pointed out that Bradford and the Calder Valley line really need the promised service round the Castlefield curve to the south side of central Manchester, serving work, education and leisure attractions, as well as onward connections and trains to the airport. We understand that MRTF’s purpose was to simplify the timetable and make it more reliable. So we are not surprised that proposals for a new service would be difficult to swallow – even though the service was a commitment under the now defunct Northern franchise.
So whilst Southport will get an hourly service to Manchester Oxford Rd (alternating with an hourly service to Victoria and Stalybridge), the derived “Option B+” service pattern cuts the service round the Castlefield chord to 1 train/hr. The Colder Valley line and Bradford are barely mentioned. Good news is that the Option B+ service diagram does show the useful CV-Chester continuing hourly as now, improving on original Option B. Worryingly, however, it is not mentioned in the text of the document. There is a promise to look at options to restore a South Yorkshire-Manchester Airport service, but nothing about bringing in a CV-Airport service.

The Option B+ timetable is expected to be introduced in December 2022. Actual times of trains are yet to be revealed. Transport for the North were not happy about the option selected but the only alternative they were given was continuation of the Covid timetable.

ECML recast and Calder Valley needs

Readers will know that the proposed recast of the East Coast Main Line timetable, proposed for May 2022 has been postponed by at least a year. There will be a further consultation in Spring 2022. HADRAG has supported a submission by Yorkshire campaigners calling for a single exercise based on a timetable showing all operators’ trains on the route. The exercise held earlier this summer required consultees to respond separately on draft timetables produced separately by train operating companies LNER, TransPennine Express, Cross Country and Northern – each table showing only the trains proposed by each operator. This made the overall picture less visible, and seemed to be in defiance of the recently announced move towards a more unified national Great British Railways.

HADRAG will respond to the new consultation. This year we commented only on Northern’s proposals for Calder Valley services and took the opportunity to restate concerns about the present service and our aspirations, starting with issues from the present (effectively Dec’2019) timetable that remained in the May’22 draft:

Sowerby Bridge (SOW) and Mytholmroyd (MYT) stopping pattern. Note particularly that SOW serves a population comparable with Hebden Bg and Todmorden combined but has little more than half the service frequency of these stations.

  • 2-hour gap in eastbound evening services calling at SOW and MYT. Manchester Vic dep 2121 then 2319, with 2 trains from Manchester and one from Blackpool running non-stop Hebden Bridge to Halifax in between. This evening gap can surely be fixed.
  • Poor peak-hour service particularly at Mytholmroyd to/from Leeds.
  • Sundays no trains Mytholmroyd to/from Manchester – no obvious reason for this.
  • Blackpool trains call at SOW and MYT on Sundays only. No Blackpool service Mon-Sat (apart from three evening-peak calls at SOW). Every Blackpool service should call, at least at SOW, as they did from May’18 to Dec’19. Present timings appear to make that possible.
  • We believe every CV Manchester (and every Blackpool) service should also call at Sowerby Bridge.
  • Pathing of nominally fast services westbound towards Manchester behind freights. Several “fast” services’ which do not call at SOW and MYT, have significantly extended timings between Bradford and Manchester: see for example deps from Leeds at 0712,1712, 2112 and 2212. There are also irregularities in the timing of westbound services from Man Vic.

HADRAG says that our Chester trains, connecting at Warrington with the West Coast Main Line, should now be seen as an established link. Issues in the present timetable need to be dealt with as soon as possible – by Dec’22 if not May’22, i.e. the above issues including illogical and inconvenient stopping patterns. Sowerby Bridge – a potential interchange – should have full service frequency on both Manchester and Blackpool routes. Mytholmroyd, with its enlarged car park, also needs more trains. And the timetable should be arranged to accommodate freight trains without making a nonsense of “fast” passenger services. (Provision of passing loops could help this.)

Header Image: “195104 at Mytholmroyd 28/07/20” flickr photo by Aaron 56125 https://flickr.com/photos/aaronsrailwayphots/50538650177 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

HADRAG online meeting Sat 6 November @ 10.30 till 12.15

This will start with AGM business. We then have speakers (at 11.00) and Q&A session focussing on the Calder Valley line timetable, electrification and community rail. Speakers expected are:

Councillor Daniel Sutherland (Calderdale + WYCA transport committee)

Pete Myers (Northern Rail)

Mick Sasse (West Yorks Combined Authority)

John Lewer (Calderdale Council, transportation)

If you’d like to be at the meeting please use contact form to message us and we’ll send you a Zoom link. Have your say!

More in our latest newsletter

For electrification and modal transfer – developing rail as other modes catch up: Railfuture and HADRAG respond to TfN’s decarbonisation report

HADRAG responded to Transport for the North’s decarbonisation strategy at the end of August. We supported the submission made by Railfuture’s four north of England branches, adding weight to proposals benefiting the Calder Valley line:

  • Electrification as proposed by the 2015 task force report, which gave the full Calder Valley line top ranking
  • Development of poorly served routes centred on the Elland/Brighouse corridor, Bradford/Calderdale-Huddersfield, upper Calderdale-Leeds, Wakefield and York. Rail can succeed as low-carbon mode of transport whilst other modes are still planning their catch-up.

Here is HADRAG’s submission, with links to the longer Railfuture document:

HADRAG supports the ambitions of Transport for the North to decarbonise transport across the North.

We agree with the submission made by the northern branches of Railfuture which can also be found on the Railfuture website at www.railfuture.org.uk/display2779 (freeform response – also appended to this report) and www.railfuture.org.uk/display2780 (questionnaire response).

HADRAG is a founding group of the Electric Railway Charter (www.electriccharter.wordpress.com). We support a rolling programme of electrification across the North of England as envisaged by the Northern Sparks task force (NETF) report (spring 2015). Northern Sparks gave top ranking on the basis of business, economic and environmental criteria to electrification of the full Calder Valley line from Leeds via both Bradford and Brighouse to Manchester, East Lancashire and Preston. Thus described, the CV Line was placed first in list of a dozen schemes for an initial 5-year programme (the five years being 2019-2024). We still await a government go-ahead for any kind of rolling programme. Indeed we still await a definite go ahead for electrification of the Huddersfield line under the TransPennine Route Upgrade, and for the Midland main line from Market Harborough to Sheffield. These two schemes were baseline assumptions of NETF.

The recent Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy (TDNS – summer/autumn 2020) by Network Rail generally reinforces the Northern Sparks recommendations. TDNS recommends that about 85% of unelectrified railways across Great Britain should be overhead electrified. Overhead electrification offers at least about 80% energy efficiency (source to wheel) compared with about 70% for battery-electric trains and 34% or less for hydrogen. 34% efficiency means 66% of original energy wasted. All energy transfers involve wastage. Overhead line electrification wastes least because fewer intermediate transfers or conversions are involved. Given the low energy storage density of batteries and hydrogen it is no surprise that TDNS recommends batteries for only 5% and batteries only 9% of unelectrified routes. (For references see Railfuture submission below.)

Northern Sparks and TDNS surely provide the basis of a rolling programme in the North.

Modal shift and the Calder Valley Line

Rail is already low-carbon compared with other modes, and overhead electrification will increase this advantage. Whilst the road, air and marine transport are still working on solutions to decarbonisation at least a modest start can be made by encouraging modal transfer to rail. Whilst our Calder Valley Line is waiting for electrification there are opportunities for decarbonisation by services particularly by increasing frequency over at present underused route through Brighouse (with a new station expected at Elland in the next two years).

The Railfuture submission (appended) lists some possibilities for the CV Line focussed on the Brighouse and Elland route. Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield network:

From Preston/East Lancs/Calderdale via Brighouse, and from Manchester via Stalybridge to Huddersfield, Wakefield, Castleford and York; including links via routes crossing at Elland/Brighouse between Bradford, Calderdale, Huddersfield and Leeds, where greater frequency is required;

  • New/increased services could include some of the following –
  • New service Preston-Wakefield-Castleford-York (additional to existing Blackpool-Bradford-York)
  • Huddersfield-Castleford service extended to Pontefract/Knottingley
  • Manchester-Stalybridge-Hud service extended to Wakefield and York
  • Increased frequency upper Calderdale-Brighouse-Leeds/Wakefield connecting into increased frequency Bradford-Huddersfield at Elland/Brighouse
  • New service upper Calderdale-Huddersfield.

The sub-paragraph in bold suggests a “taktfahrplan” approach with half-hourly west-east services connecting into half-hourly north-south services at Elland/Brighouse. Other solutions are possible. We would also like to see services developed along the Preston-Wakefield-York corridor opening new opportunities for rail for to offer low-carbon alternatives, for example for a direct from Calderdale to Wakefield, Castleford and York avoiding Leeds. We refer to the Railfuture submission attached for further points. 

Let’s prioritise Calder Valley enhancement and electrification!

THE Manchester Rail Recovery Task Force (MRRTF) has consulted on tactical options to simplify the timetable through Manchester. The plan is for fewer trains on the Castlefield corridor operating more reliably as passenger levels once again increase – no return to the May 2018 chaos. It’s a plan for the next few years until long-awaited capacity upgrades happen.

Meanwhile West Yorkshire combined authority published its long-term connectivity strategy including radical mass transit proposals and a long-term rail vision.

To all these consultations we say: after the pandemic, railways must repurpose to flourish. People want to travel. City life and city travel will revive. But less commuting and business travel should be an opportunity for public transport to meet an ever-widening range of needs supporting the diversity of human development. Modal transfer to zero-carbon rail, bus and mass-transit will reduce congestion, improve health, [next pageà   à and combat climate crisis. This is what we mean by transport for wellbeing, more relevant to an ever-growing community of passengers making healthy, stress-reducing and green choices for work and leisure.

Our response to the West Yorkshire plan is copied to the new mayor, Tracy Brabin. HADRAG’s priority is improvement to the service on the Calder Valley Line, including decarbonisation through electrification and capacity improvements, delivering benefits in the next 5-10 years. We welcome WYCA’s continuing commitment to “Northern Sparks” – Calder Valley first! – and say:

  • There is an urgent need for structural improvement of the Calder Valley line timetable, and for the new station at Elland. We call for development of new train services over existing routes – for example direct from East Lancs/Calderdale/Kirklees to York via Wakefield and Castleford. Beyond existing lines a reopened Horbury-Crigglestone curve could provide a new semifast service north-south Bradford/Calderdale/north Kirklees-Barnsley-Sheffield.
  • We strongly welcome the mass-transit proposals as a key aspect of a transport-for-wellbeing package extending to Halifax, Elland and Brighouse.
  • If Northern Powerhouse Rail proceeds it must directly benefit communities through which it passes. So we want not only a genuinely central Bradford station, but also NPR stations in Calderdale and Rochdale districts linking with the Calder Valley Line, local buses and active travel routes. But long-term high speed rail projects must not divert resources from improvements to our present rail network that are achievable much sooner. Surely a high-speed line based primarily on city-travel is very pre-Covid thinking.

We welcome proposals in the “by 2025” programme for a passing loop near Hebden Bridge. Track capacity enhancements at Halifax are in longer term options. We ask for these to be brought forward.


Explainer: Mass Transit

So what is mass transit? West Yorkshire’s “Mass Transit Vision 2040”offers four candidate technologies:

Advance bus rapid transit – on street or segregated, rubber tyres on road, 30-50 seats/vehicle, potentially battery or hydrogen powered (remember Harrogate already has battery-electric buses)

Light rail/tram – on streets or segregated, steel wheel on steel rail, 50-80 seats/vehicle, can be discontinuous electrification with batteries. Try it in Manchester or Blackpool.

Tram-train – tram that also shares tracks with big trains. Working in Karlsruhe since 1992, Sheffield-Rotherham since 2018.

Ultra-light rail – mini-tram, 20-30 seats, Coventry system under development.

Solutions selected may vary across the county according to local geography, traffic density, and cost. On present thinking, all vehicles at full capacity could take at least as many people standing as seated – what price social distancing?

Header Image: Florian Fèvre, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“GBR” Questions

Here it is, “The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail”, and a new brand, Great British Railways. His name hyphenated pointedly onto independent chair Keith Williams’s (ghost-written) magnum opus, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is surely committed to making it work. Since the May 2018 timetable omnishambles, many of us have said a disintegrated railway needs putting back together. GBR will be a guiding, unifying mind, controlling what goes into the timetable. Private train operators (TOCs) will be on contracts, concessions, not franchises. But a managerial frontier will remain between track and train operation, even if the terms of engagement are new.

What about devolution? Who should be in control? Initially GBR is to be based on Network Rail “regions”, large north-south oriented structures like Eastern (spanning Southend and Berwick-upon-Tweed) and North West & Central (London to Carlisle). Each region encompasses several locally managed “routes” (really areas). A couple of years ago we heard talk of the Northern TOC being split into east and west halves lined up Network Rail north-east and north-west “routes”. The rumour was denied. The white paper promises engagement with regional bodies. So Transport for the North (TfN), planning strategic transport and engaging with a rail network that spans the Pennines, will have to work, at least at first, with two separate GBR regions/routes and possibly still separate TOCs. The white paper does say that, come Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – however that turns out – there might be a cross-North organisational unit. We say such integration should happen from the start. Why have another reorganisation later?

There is a 2-hour gap late at night in services back from Manchester calling at Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge. Two trains fly through non-stop. We asked for stops to be added, surely a minor operational inconvenience with the benefit of getting people home. The gap remains.

Will Great British Railways help bridge these gaps? Tell us what you think! – JSW