Parking Question

A couple of things stark-staringly obvious about Halifax station approach: you can’t park after 06.30 in the morning; and whenever a big train arrives there is a veritable chaos of cars, taxis, pedestrians and the occasional two-wheeler, with vehicles trying to get in to pick up while others are leaving. Pedestrian provision is limited to a footway on one side only, leading to highway-code defying behaviour. A sensible idea would take parking off the bridge, leaving more room for pedestrians (and perhaps taxis and drop-off). Many would say transformed access arrangements should at least double the current amount of rail users’ parking, perhaps with a 2-level car park. But do we really want to encourage more and more people to access Halifax station by car increasing road congestion at the bottom of town? Might it be better to develop best possible access for pedestrians, buses, cycles, disabled and pick-up/drop-off whilst developing neighbouring stations such as Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse for park and ride? Both would require enlarged car parks, and improved train services to match. Just a thought !

Crossing the City

Calder Valley Line (CVL) trains are expected to be running across Manchester via the new Ordsall curve at the end of this year. Northern has consulted on the December 2017 timetable change. Daytime off-peak, the hourly semi-fast Leeds (xx18), Halifax (xx54) trains to Manchester Vic will continue to Oxford Road station, serving the south side of the city directly from our area for the first time. The intention is for these trains to be extended to Manchester Airport in May 2018. Though only off-peak for now this is good news because the franchise “train service requirement” (TSR) does not specify through CVL trains to Manchester Airport until the additional hourly Bradford-Manchester service is introduced at the December 2019 change (known as TSR3).

Also in the December 2017 timetable, there will be some extra Rochdale-Manchester stoppers at peak hours. This will allow a small number of Leeds-Brighouse-Todmorden-Manchester trains to run non-stop Rochdale-Victoria. Hopefully this will improve both journey time and reliability. We have not yet been told whether the intention is for all of these trains to do this, which would improve the Brighouse-Manchester journey. HADRAG has of course repeatedly said we would like the Brighouse trains to become semi-fast west of Todmorden.

Major recasting of the timetable is delayed until (hopefully no later than) May 2018 in a “phased introduction” of the original December 2017 plans—”TSR2″. The cascade of second-hand trains from other franchises is behind schedule because of projects elsewhere running late. The Great Western Railway franchise can not release diesels to Northern until Network Rail electrification work is complete and GWR can run electric trains.

The latest we know however is that May 2018 should implement “full TSR2”, which should mean extension of the other hourly Calder Valley Manchester train to Chester. It should also mean Brighouse Sunday services modestly improved (hourly instead of 2-hourly Leeds-Bradford-Huddersfield), and half-hourly on Sundays Bradford-Manchester, including an hourly Sunday service to the Airport.

HADRAG insisted on making detailed comments on the December 2017 timetable consultation. The May’18 consultation is due anytime now and we expect to be included in that too!

We continue to argue the case for more trains stopping at Sowerby Bridge, both the York-Blackpools and the extras to be introduced in 2019. We believe the linespeed improvements and new rolling stock should enable this without unduly compromising the journey time commitment. Looking at catchment areas and population HADRAG believes Sowerby Bridge station potentially serves as many local people as Hebden Bridge and Todmorden put together, despite having little more than half the service level. We have also supported the submission by our colleagues in the Rochdale/Oldham group STORM for a better service at Littleborough.

We think Halifax-Leeds will be five trains per hour by the end of 2019, though again that seems to be implied rather than confirmed. It was promised back in December 2015 when the Arriva franchise was announced and is consistent with a map of “Northern Connect” routes published with the Dec’17 consultation. All CVL Manchester trains via Halifax (but not the ones via Brighouse) will be of “regional express” quality by the end of 2019. All of these Halifax trains (3/hour by 2019) look to be going through to Leeds, plus the Blackpool-York trains (also NC) plus the local Huddersfield-Brighouse-Bradford-Leeds. So that looks like 5-an-hour. By the way, we hear the Huddersfield-Bradford-Leeds service will linked with a new Leeds-Hull-Bridlington service (by Dec’19) giving an hourly Brighouse-Brid through train!

Obviously Brighouse needs a lot more than that. We keep mentioning the need to speed up Brighouse-Todmorden-Manchester trains. “Turbostar” trains cascaded from Scotland could help. Improvements Brighouse into Leeds will depend on outputs of the TransPennine Route Upgrade—that’s the project that includes Huddersfield Line electrification— sometime in the 2020s. Semi-fast Leeds-Manchester via Brighouse and Rochdale would surely make sense.

But with all this talk of service development the elephant in the room is the sardine-can conditions in which many of our peak-time commuters endure their daily journeys to and from work in Leeds and Manchester. We were angry last year when the “market” grabbed good trains from the North for the Chilterns, indirectly cutting seats for Calderdale commuters. We were thankful when Northern arranged with sister Arriva company Grand Central to put on a comfortable extra train Halifax-Leeds. More of these initiatives are needed.

Brand-new trains come to our line from December 2018 plus refurbished “cascades” from other companies. A 37% increase in morning capacity is promised across the franchise by 2020. Will that be enough? Will it be soon enough? What (if anything) more can be done while we are waiting?

And what, indeed, is the economic value to society of city workers arriving in a relaxed state and getting home rested, not frazzled by the return journey? Has anyone quantified this? Or is it simply unmeasurable, meaning it does not count?

HADRAG will continue to put the case for more. —JSW


Featured Image: “castlefield chord illustration4” flickr photo by mwmbwls shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Lansdslip, Signal Woes

Commuters reported confusion down at the station after another landslip at Salterhebble blocked the Halifax-Sowerby Bridge route in early March. Trains were diverted Sowerby-Leeds via Brighouse, and a limited Leeds-Halifax/Huddersfield service was maintained, so canny users could get a train to Brighouse and pick up diverted services there (though a separate problem in East Lancs delayed Blackpool-York trains). Thankfully Network Rail got the line clear by teatime the day after the landslip. A speed restriction remained in place at time of writing, whilst work continued to stabilise the cutting under Dudwell Lane. We were disappointed more trains were not diverted between Halifax and Sowerby Bridge by reversing at Greetland, which might have maintained a train service Sowerby Bridge-Bradford during the blockage and provided better for Halifax. We think this sort of thing happened in the past, but hear that the signals at Greetland now only allow such a move in one direction. Progress? Perhaps not.

Image courtesy Network Rail Media Centre.

What, no gates?

Northern were to install automatic ticket gates at Halifax by the end of March.

Shelving for a moment the question of whether or not passengers actually want these awkward barriers, there are franchise targets to meet which seem to mean gating as many stations as possible. Oh, but hang on, it’s now April and no Halifax gates. They’re going in somewhere else first (possibly Skipton, we heard). Apparently there is concern over increased loading on Halifax’s 19th century footbridge when large crowds are queuing to get through. So Halifax gates are postponed (just postponed).

Our station is pretty congested now and could see more massive crowds in future, when, for example, there are big events at the Piece Hall. It’s obvious gates mean delays and queues, inconvenience for people with disabilities, and potential mishaps as people juggle tickets, bags, small children, dogs and cartons of hot drink. But if structural strength of the footbridge is an issue could that be a game changer? Maintenance on the road approach bridge is on hold pending a decision on whether it goes or stays. Currently a weight limit prevents large buses getting near the station entrance. One view says pull the lot down, build a new station building at ground level, have level access to a regenerated Platform 3 and a subway to the island platform utilising space underneath the arches. Some of us (maybe including some rail professionals) wonder if the subway idea is feasible. So maybe what’s needed is a new bridge. Or bridges.

HADRAG Annual General Meeting

Domestics and Venue

Saturday 13th May: tea and coffee from 1300 (1pm) for a 1320 start

Orange Box Centre, Halifax, HX1 1AF


To venue from Halifax train station — straight up Horton St; turn right by small car park into Thomas St; continue to end and turn right.

From bus station go south along main street past Tesco; turn left at Westgate pub.

Meeting room upstairs — level access by lift.

Guest speakers

Paul Barnfield, Regional Director (East), Arriva Rail North (Northern)
on Northern’s service development vison

Chris Hoesli, transport fund programme manager, Calderdale
on the Halifax station gateway scheme

Come and have your say!

More Details

This page and next are members’ calling notice and agenda for HADRAG’s 2017 Annual General Meeting along with last year’s draft minutes for adoption. The AGM is HADRAG’s main open event. Formal business will be in the latter part of the meeting, after speakers and discussion. Tea and coffee will be available before the meeting which will open with a short Chair’s report followed by the main item, our guest speakers.

Back in Halifax this year, we shall be pleased to welcome two speakers. Paul Barnfield is the regional director for the train company we know as Northern under the Arriva franchise. Paul will talk about the transformation of services that will benefit Halifax and the Calder Valley Line between now and 2020. And with decisions due in the next few months on plans to transform Halifax station using resources from the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund, Calderdale programme manager Chris Hoesli will be bringing us up to speed on what could be planned. So this this is an opportunity to hear about positive developments in the offing and also for members to ask questions and raise concerns.