TransPennine Route Upgrade: get it done!

Network Rail has done a second consultation on the Huddersfield-Dewsbury 4-track plan prior to a Transport and Works Act application as part of the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU). The scheme, which includes grade separation (flyover/under) at Ravensthorpe, links with the Brighouse line at Mirfield and Bradley; it will increase capacity and reduce junction conflicts.

HADRAG’s response is a simple message: that this work has to be done without further delay, and without waiting for an inquiry into how it might interact with high speed proposals that could still be decades away. Whether city-connecting Northern Powerhouse Rail goes ahead or not, we need present lines upgrading to enable better services not least on Calderdale’s Elland-Brighouse corridor towards Huddersfield, Wakefield and Leeds. Surely rail in the post-Covid world trains must serve communities even if city-based work is history?

Header Image: “Heaton Lodge Jct Sep 2005” flickr photo by Ravensthorpe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Grand Central…Back Soon?

Update 30 June: Grand Central have announced their return.

No surprise midlockdown, our local inter-city operator Grand Central suspended all services on 3 April initially for a two-month “hibernation”. Since 2010 GC has run trains from Bradford, Halifax, and Brighouse to London, originally three trains, more recently four a day. An open-access operator, GC does not receive the government support that is keeping franchised train operators running in the present crisis, but has been able to make use of the government furlough scheme.

In a statement online (3 April) GC’s managing director Richard McClean said this was “necessary but temporary”. The company would “keep in contact with the three main rail unions,” and “A skeleton team will continue working to ensure Grand Central is ready to resume services as a thriving train operator, serving communities…, once restrictions ease.”

The promise is a come-back “stronger and more resilient”. Trains to London have become an expectation at our stations. They must come back.

Essential Journeys Only

The key workers’ service on our line is hourly Leeds-Manchester on both Bradford and Brighouse routes and 2-hourly Leeds-Preston, with the Bradford-Huddersfield shuttle running hourly. This continued at the 18th May usual timetable change date. Planned enhancements are deferred. The service is for essential workers only. Leisure and other nonessential journeys are not allowed, reflecting the government message and more specifically to protect staff and passengers and avoid spreading the infection. To quote Northern (15 May): “If your only option is to travel by train, please: buy tickets online; respect the 2-metre rule; follow instructions at stations and from train staff; use a face covering if you can; wash your hands before and after your journey; take your face covering and litter with you; and allow extra time for your journey.”

Very few HADRAG contacts have been commuting. We heard there were typically three or four passengers in each carriage which increased only slightly after that slight easing of lockdown. That makes 2-metre social distancing possible, but the limit is said to be no more than 10 per cent of normal loadings. Northern’s average on 15 May was apparently 12.7 passengers/train. Pressure will grow if commuting resumes. The reduced Calder Valley Line service seems to be 3-car or 2×2-car class 195s (the new trains] with 4-car 158s on the Leeds-Brighouse-Manchesters, and single 153s coupled to make two on Bradford-Hud. We gather end-compartments are taped off so conductors can social-distance whilst operating the doors. Clearly longer trains are needed to carry a fraction of normal loadings until we have beaten this virus.

Meanwhile can face-covering help? To quote an update to Northern’s stakeholders (15 May] “it still isn’t clear how effective [masks] are, and whether their use will be mandated on-train.” But by the end of April Germany was requiring face covering on buses and local trains, with masks on sale from machines in at least some stations. And, reinstating something like its normal train service on 11 May, Swiss Railways website said: “Transport companies are counting on their customers to show personal responsibility and solidarity. When a distance of two metres cannot be maintained, the wearing of protective masks is recommended. You can obtain these at various shops at SBB railway stations and elsewhere.” So, back on UK rail, we shall see. 

Please do all stay safe and think of others.

Header Image: “Covid19-Pandenic-Signage-P1640052” flickr photo by citytransportinfo shared into the public domain using (CC0)

Covid 19 and HADRAG Meetings

In normal times we’d have our annual general meeting (AGM) with a speaker in late May or June. That of course is prevented by the need for continuing social distancing, which equally obviously means cancellation of committee meetings for the time being. We had hoped to have our 2020 AGM in Brighouse, just 20 years since the town’s station opened. We’ll hold that meeting as soon as we can – though it may have to be a 21st rather than 20th anniversary. Focus will remain the need to improve services on the arm of the Calder Valley line that serves not just Brighouse but the proposed new station at Elland and potentially improves links between upper Calderdale and Huddersfield, Wakefield, Dewsbury and Leeds.

Some groups have been meeting on-line (formally or informally) using facilities such as Zoom. We are conscious this would not suit all of our members. But should we consider holding one or two informal Zoom meetings for members who would like to be in involved in an on-line discussion?

In the meantime essential AGM business will be conducted by HADRAG’s committee and members by correspondence to be ratified or amended by a conventional meeting later. Just when that can be remains unclear. Let’s all stay safe.