WE HAVE a reply – HERE – from the Department for Transport to our September letter to Grant Shapps (see previous post).
There is reassurance that Elland station is still on schedule for the end of 2022 (see also below), and that Network Rail’s revolutionary TDNS (the interim traction decarbonisation network strategy, published September 2020) will inform the Department’s wider decarbonisation strategy.
Meanwhile, at the Yorkshire Post’s Great Northern Conference earlier this Autumn, the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps replied to our question. The tone was a little sotto voce, but yes, the Secretary of State said, we’ll be electrifying more railways. He also mentioned hydrogen but said it took a lot of of power to generate, which seemed to be an acknowledgement that hydrogen trains are a much less efficient way of delivering traction energy than overhead electric wires.
We are optimists. We see evidence the Department for Transport gets it, understands the science. With a holistic economic view electrification will pay for itself through future savings in train operating costs – as well as through the benefits to humanity of having zero-carbon transport. We still have to convince the Treasury and must press the case through our MPs. More on the Electric Railway Charter blog. This should be headline stuff right now with Boris Johnson’s new target to cut greenhouse gases by 68% by 2039, amid a perfect storm of cuts to Network Rail’s budget and lack of progress on schemes promised five or ten years ago. The TransPennine route upgrade was announced in 2011 as a full-electrification project. A decision on how much of the Manchester-Huddersfield-York route will actually be electrified is now expected in mid 2021. That’s a decade gone.
TDNS provides backing for the Northern Sparks task force report that recommended electrification – well beyond TRU – of the Calder Valley and other northern routes. That was to be 12 routes in an initial 5-year plan, recommendations made almost six years ago. There is a clear match-up, as a short report at a November meeting of Yorkshire and neighbouring Railfuture branches explained.
Elland station could be no more than two years away. Ground for optimism include the possibility of the new station providing an alternative railhead when the route through Huddersfield is closed for work on TRU. We know from more than one source that this has been under discussion. With planning on TRU -both 4-tracking between Huddersfield and Dewsbury and the extent of electrification – still under discussion, it makes sense to get Elland done first.
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 transportwhere 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,
J Stephen Waring, Chair, HADRAG
cc MPs, local leaders, media, rail and Electric Railway Charter contacts
ELLAND station should open by the end of 2022. HADRAG says it’s a brilliant project with a superb local access package encouraging active travel – walking and cycling – to get people via regenerated parkland, new bridges and canal side to the station, Lowfields business park and all along from Greetland to Park Road. A phase 2 public consultation here closes on Sunday 16 August – get in quick to support the project and comment on the latest details (you’ll find there’s feedback to read from the earlier consultation). We are determined not to accept any further delay to Elland. The Calder Valley Line will be used for diversions when work is being done for the TransPennine Route upgrade. Elland station could be an ideal alternative railhead for Huddersfield passengers at times when their station is out of use. So we say let’s get Elland done first. More below, and read HADRAG and Railfuture Yorkshire’s response to the consultation at this link. Link to WYCA website for consultation is https://www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/elland2020#!
ELLAND station is already 20 years late and counting, having been shelved to save money when Brighouse opened in May 2000. As planning proceeds to full business case with a target to open before the end of 2022, we say any further delay can not be acceptable.
TRU concern. Following a government announcement last month of £589 million for the TransPennine Route Upgrade on the Huddersfield line, it still is not quite clear when that project will start. When it does start there will be periods when the Calder Valley Line is used for diversions and that won’t just affect the service at the new Elland station. The rumour machine has suggested Elland could be held up while TRU is completed, and whilst we have been told that is not expected to happen, the concern remains. If Elland had to wait for TRU it could take another 5 years, maybe more and that would be massive disappointment for local people who want their railway station and are eager to use the linked package of new and upgraded active travel routes linking the station to town centre, Park Road and Greetland via new bridges and canal path.
So we say get Elland done first.The official target is still to open the station by the December 2022 timetable change. The TRU work will mean there will be periods when Huddersfield station is closed for remodelling work. TransPennine Express services may then be diverted via the Calder Valley Line. If Elland station is already built it could be an ideal alternative railhead for passengers who normally use Huddersfield. The railway geography also tells us there will be periods when the service along the Brighouse and Elland line is also disrupted. But this will also affect other existing stations, and is no reason to delay Elland.
HADRAG will be pressing the case for Elland first, with local representatives, council and WYCA contacts, MPs and the transport secretary Grant Shapps. if anything, we argue, Elland needs to be brought forward by a few months, not put back. Along with the £589M for TRU, Mr Shapps announced a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council to speed up projects across our greater region. There was some understandable disquiet at what seemed to be top-down imposition, but maybe the new body could not just get planning of TRU and other schemes accelerated but also make sure schemes like Elland are not left behind.
Consultation response: HADRAG has submitted a joint response with Railfuture Yorkshire Branch to the Phase 2 consultation by West Yorkshire Combined Authority on Elland. You can read our response at this link. If you are reading this before 16 August you also have time to send in your own response (details here). We praise the wider access package of active travel links that will open up Calderdale’s countryside to visitors arriving by rail, as well providing healthy access to the station. And we renew our call for a better service on the Elland-Brighouse line; the aim should be at least half-hourly on both east-west and north-south routes in line with WYCA policy and we say this will be an essential development in the years after the station opens. We expect the TransPennine Route Upgraded, when it is complete, to provide new capacity through Huddersfield and Mirfield that will allow more trains from Calderdale to Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield. But we still say let’s build Elland first! From the start, we hope Grand Central will call at Elland with its popular Bradford-London trains, so the new station will immediately have more than Northern’s Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester-Wigan and Bradford-Huddersfield local trains.
Bus and hospital links. We also call for the new station to be joined up with local bus routes taking people around Elland, Greetland and Stainland. This will need a bus stop by the station on Lowfields Way, and we have suggested a new network of local “hopper” routes. This should be easier as the proposed mayoral devolution deal for West Yorkshire should allow the county to take back control of buses.
We also say Elland could be an excellent railhead for people from the upper valley to access Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS hospitals – staff, patients and visitors. We suggest a minibus link which could be demand-responsive and might even be free to use.
The station will have a reasonably large car park. Past experience suggests station car parks are never quite “big enough”. Covid-19 means transport is in crisis now, but we must work for a future where the car and congested, polluted roads are no longer first choice. Public transport must become sociable transport, popular but not overcrowded, first choice for the whole community. And of course electric as advocated by the Electric Railway Charter.
FUNDING for the TransPennine route upgrade, £598M announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps this week (23 July 2020), should be good news for the Calder Valley as well as the Huddersfield line. New tracks through Huddersfield-Mirfield should mean capacity for more trains via Brighouse and Elland where plans for the new station are approaching the next gateway. But also relevant to our line, uncertainty remains (despite a recent £10M batch of development funding) about a solution the Manchester “Castlefield” problem where promised services will never be delivered without congestion-busting capacity. We welcome the government’s commitment to these schemes but ask now for a truly modern, zero-carbon railway. That means electrification across our region including the full Calder Valley line as recommended in the 2015 Northern Sparksreport. West Yorkshire Combined Authority calls for Calder Valley electrification in its recent submission to the National Infrastructure Commission. In the much longer term a new station in Bradford serving both the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) high speed route and the Calder Valley Line is advocated. That’s a long way ahead. The good news is there is now a realisation that the North of England cannot be kept waiting decades for a high speed route which even when it comes will serve the big cities, not local communities. We have to get on now with upgrading the “classic” routes. More on all this below:
As public transport – let’s call it “sociable transport” – rebuilds after Covid we want to see a railway that serves more and more of the community. City working may be permanently reduced in the future. The old rush-hour with commuters paying peak-rate fares crammed in the worst conditions could be history. So we need to look at a service for the whole community that gets people on trains for a wider range of purposes.
Latest news is that the long-awaited TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU) seems to have the go-ahead. Critical not just for the Manchester-Huddersfield-Leeds route but also the linked Calder Valley line, the plan includes an increase from 2-track to 4-track between Huddersfield and Dewsbury. We expect this to allow more trains off the Elland-Brighouse Calder Valley corridor both into Huddersfield (where there will be more platforms) and through Mirfield towards Leeds/Wakefield. There will be a conflict reducing grade-separated junction (flyover/diveunder) at Ravensthorpe. These extra tracks will probably be vital if the Brighouse/Elland line is ever to get a proper half-hourly service on both Bradford-Huddersfield and upper Calderdale-Leeds services.
As HADRAG has pointed out many times, a fast journey from Brighouse to Leeds via Dewsbury could take about 20 minutes or less compared with today’s almost 35 minutes. This time saving would also benefit trips from upper Calderdale to Leeds via the Brighouse route.
The Elland station project is now on its way towards full business case under WYCA and Calderdale supervision. The required phase 2 public consultation is in progress. As far as we know the planned completion date remains 2022, but there is some concern about how this will marry up with TRU. Fear is that uncertainty about TRU and the phasing of works requiring diversion of TransPennine Express trains via the Calder Valley could delay the new station. Also the major works at Huddersfield station and through Mirfield are likely to affect trains via Brighouse. But if Elland has to wait for all the TRU work to be completed that could be another five, or even ten years, surely not acceptable given that the station originally should have opened alongside Brighouse in May 2000.
HADRAG says if anything Elland station should be opened sooner rather than later, and could be an alternative railhead for Huddersfield station users when diversions are in operation during the TRU works.
The consultation on Elland Rail Station and Access Package Phase 2 is open until 16th August 2020, details at this link: https://www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/elland2020 . This is an ambitious scheme, not just a train station but a package of transformative local improvements. Make your views known!
Electrification – and NPR
As reported in our previous post, HADRAG responded to the National Infrastructure Commission call for evidence on rail needs in the North (here).
We also strongly welcome the submission made by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (jointly with W&N Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce) – at this link. They call for “a single strategic programme of investment in rail covering the next 30 years”, and say this must include improvements at Leeds City station, completion of TRU by 2026, links to HS2, and
“Delivery of the NPR network including a new station in the centre of Bradford incorporating both NPR and Calder Valley services and early delivery of a new line between Leeds and Bradford”
“A rolling programme of electrification to create an electrified city region metro rail network the supports the government’s wider plans to decarbonise the economy, starting with the Calder Valley line” (we’ve added the italics).
Whilst CV electrification is the last item in a 6-point list, HADRAG would expect this to be the next scheme after TransPennine route upgrade, as recommended by the March 2015 task force report Northern Sparks. We need a zero-carbon transport system if we are to build better, post-Covid. More on electrification, and Grant Shapps’s TRU announcement on our Electric Railway Charter site.
Remove Bradford turnback?
HADRAG has expressed concern that a high-speed line between Leeds, Bradford and Manchester would do little for Calderdale. The Bradford “NPR plus Calder Valley” station proposal is perhaps rather long term, though we note the request for “early delivery” of a high-speed Leeds-Bradford route. The WYCA submission says the possibility of integrating the Bradford station with the Calder Valley line could remove the turnback at Bradford Interchange and create “a new through station which would also improve services [from Leeds] to Calderdale and east Lancashire”. So that is potentially good news for our line.
HADRAG has previously said that if Calder Valley trains could run on the NPR high speed line from Bradford to Leeds that would cut Halifax-Leeds journey time from the present 35 minutes plus, to about 20 minutes. Maybe we’ve been heard! We have also said in our own submission to NIC that NPR should have more intermediate stations including one in Calderdale itself.
Classic routes and Manchester capacity
Meanwhile the classic routes need improving. The government seems to realise we need upgrades way ahead of NPR. Alongside the TRU they promise the capacity issues in Manchester and Leeds will be addressed. £10M has been allocated for more design/development work on the Castlefield corridor where lack of through platforms is preventing improvements, including Calder Valley-Manchester Airport services, that were promised by the Northern franchise. There was of course a plan about 5 years ago for remodelling Oxford Road and providing two extra platforms at Piccadilly. We can only assume this is still one of the options. Another possibility is a tunnel from Ordsall Junction (west of the city) to Piccadilly station. This, on the face of it, could be decades away. Perhaps the Northern Transport Acceleration Council announced by Mr Shapps really will bring this forward.
CAMPAIGNERS in West Yorkshire are extremely concerned about lack of progress by the Government and Network Rail on infrastructure proposals that should deliver improvements for travellers in the next few years, including the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU) and enhancements in Manchester if the railway is to honour promises made to the Calder Valley line and other routes across the North. Three rail user groups and the Yorkshire Branch of Railfuture have written to Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail, who was recently been quoted as casting doubt on TRU. In a magazine interview (RAIL 897, 29 Jan’2020) Haines had said the scope of TRU could depend on the high-speed rail proposal “Northern Powerhouse Rail” (NPR). The campaigners, in Stalybridge Huddersfield Rail Users Group and Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group, say NPR is decades away and will not benefit stations on regional routes that desperately need investment now.
The groups have also written to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP, and to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, calling for urgent, overdue projects to go ahead without further delay.
A 30-minute (2 trains per hour) service throughout the day at the four busy stations between Huddersfield and Stalybridge which currently only have an hourly service, and better services at local stations between Huddersfield and Leeds/Wakefield.
Improved services along the linked Calder Valley Line through Brighouse using the extra tracks TRU should provide towards Huddersfield and Leeds. In effect Brighouse at present only has an hourly service (though on two routes). But the station saw high growth in footfall over ten years, and serves a population of significantly more than 20,000, comparable with many stations with a minimum of two trains per hour. A new station planned at Elland (next to Brighouse) will serve a similar population.
Despite last week’s prime-ministerial announcement on high speed rail, it is still unclear when NPR will be complete. It seems very unlikely to be before 2035 and probably considerably later. In the meantime the need for more capacity on classic rail routes is urgent but progress on planned schemes seems to be at a halt.
The campaigners’ letters to Haines, Shapps and Sunak ask for TRU and other schemes to go ahead, without being scaled back, leading to much earlier benefits for communities that will not directly benefit from NPR when it comes, and in any case cannot wait that long to have their service improved.
The call is for significantly improving regional connectivity in the next five years, making train travel more attractive for more people as an alternative to congested roads, and part of the transition towards low-pollution, zero-carbon transport.
Along with TRU, the groups are calling for:
enhancements around Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations (Castlefield corridor) that were planned more than five years ago, essential to provide additional capacity reducing delays to existing services, and allowing additional services. A new hourly service from Bradford and the Calder Valley Line to Manchester Airport should have started last December but has yet to be delivered. The January 2020 Transport for the North board meeting again called on the government to give this work the go ahead (https://transportforthenorth.com/wp-content/uploads/Item-5-Central-Manchester-Report.pdf ).
Nina Smith, Chair of Railfuture Yorkshire Branch and UCVRSTG said: “The Trans Pennine upgrade and work to improve capacity across central Manchester – including the Castlefield corridor – must be started as a matter of urgency now. They are complementary to the longer-term Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is years away and will not directly benefit local commuters. It is not an ‘either-or’. Until these essential works are completed, passengers using local stations on the Leeds to Manchester via Huddersfield route will continue to have a poor service, as will Brighouse passengers. The poor connectivity from the upper Calder Valley to Huddersfield will continue, and the Calder Valley line will not see the promised services to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.
Stephen Waring, Chair of HADRAG and joint coordinator of the Electric Railway Charter (www.electriccharter.wordpress.com ) said “We need the TransPennine Route Upgrade to restore a four track railway into Huddersfield so we can have a better service through Brighouse and the planned new station at Elland. Twenty years ago Brighouse succeeded in getting its station reopened, but the town is still waiting for a decent service, prevented by track capacity through Huddersfield and Mirfield. The TransPennine Route Upgrade opens up massive possibilities but now we are worried the Chief Executive of Network Rail is questioning the amount of 4-tracking. We need that full scheme.
“And we need full electrification. It’s just about 5 years since the Northern Electrification Task Force effectively proposed a rolling programme of electrification across the North. Strategic routes across the Pennines including our Calder Valley Line need to be wired if we are to create a modern, reliable, zero-carbon transport system. The Electric Railway Charter will keep up the campaign.”
Mark Ashmore, Chair of SHRUG said “With the banning of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2035/40, and the government’s commitment to the UK becoming carbon neutral by 2050 the need for full electrification of the trans-Pennine route from Manchester to Huddersfield, Leeds and York, along with more four-tracking, has never been more necessary.”
HADRAG wants local people to respond positively as the Elland rail station project takes a further step forward. WYCA (West Yorkshire Combined Authority) and Calderdale are consulting on the latest outline designs with drop-in sessions to look at the plans and meet members of the project team, and an on-line consultation. Downloadable displays show visual impressions of the new station itself and plans of the proposes wider access package, which could include pedestrian and cycle links from as far away as West Vale, with new bridges over the River Calder and canal. There is also a booklet which sums up both station and access schemes.
Fingers crossed, we can be confident now that the station is on course to open by 2022 – who knows, maybe before? The whole combined scheme – a 2-platform station with lifts, car park and wider access package costed in total at a little over £20 million – is a lot more than just a simple train halt. It’s in the West Yorkshire Transport Fund capital programme, but there are still hoops to jump on the journey through outline then full business case to construction and commissioning for trains to stop there. The present consultation is part of that process. Deadline for responses is 20 July 2018.
WYCA is working on the station, and Calderdale on the wider sustainable access. This public engagement period is to allow everyone to see the work to date and give their thoughts. The scheduled drop-in sessions are:
•Thursday 28th June – 12pm to 6pm – Elland Southgate Methodist Church
•Wednesday 4th July – 12pm to 6pm – Brighouse Civic Centre
•Saturday 7th July – 10am to 2pm – Elland Southgate Methodist Church
•Monday 16th July – 12pm to 6pm – Halifax Town Hall
HADRAG holds its annual meeting in Sowerby Bridge on Saturday morning, 2 June at the end of what seems to be the most chaotic first fortnight of a new train timetable that anyone can remember. The meeting, at St Paul’s Church centre, Tower Hill, Sowerby Bridge HX6 2EQ from 10am, is open to all Calder Valley Line rail users to make their views known. Invited guest speaker is Adam Timewell, commercial franchise manager at the Rail North Partnership. The Partnership involves North of England transport bodies and the Department for Transport. Adam has a key role in overseeing the Northern trains franchise operated by Arriva and will be expecting to field a variety of questions about the present state of Northern trains and how we move forward towards a real alternative that offers not just the promised new destinations but also a well-designed and reliable service for local users, attractive to the whole community. The meeting on Saturday at St Paul’s is doors open 10.00 (light refreshments); speeches from 10.20 and discussion until 11.45, followed by business meeting to finish at 12.30. READ on for more on our concerns:
HADRAG is concerned about Sowerby Bridge and the Brighouse corridor. The new timetable (even when it’s working properly) has lost the easy connections we used to have from upper Calderdale to Huddersfield, and we can see people who used to change trains at Brighouse leaving the station and getting on the bus instead. There are also still questions about future service patterns and exactly which trains will stop and Sowerby bridge and Mytholmroyd from 2019. From this month Brighouse itself sees an effectively reduced service to Leeds with the slow train via Bradford overtaken in both directions by the direct service via Dewsbury – surely a mockery of the specified 2 trains/hour pattern. HADRAG wants to see a commitment from the railway to provide more trains over the Brighouse corridor, particularly important when we get Elland station open.
In January the Arriva-owned Northern train operator announced that it would be forced to defer some of its May 2018 enhancements. This was because delays to electrification on the Bolton line would result in a shortage of diesel trains. (Commuters forced to endure sardine-can conditions already knew there was a shortage of carriages.) It is not clear why it only became clear in January that certain works would not be completed for May. Plans were eventually announced in April: service extensions to Manchester Airport and Chester deferred, and the popular Blackpool-York service temporarily cut back to Preston-Leeds, a big disappointment. But at least we were expecting a timetable that would work. Sadly this was over-optimistic; now it seems driver shortages are leading to delays and cancelations that are worse than anything that any of can remember for a timetable change.
Back in February we had serious concerns about what we’d seen online about the May timetable. Promised trains to Manchester Airport and Chester sounded great, but it looked like Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd could be missing Sunday trains to Manchester, some important peak services seemed to be missing and there was a serious issue about “clockface” patterns. The good news was that the April announcement, despite the deferred enhancements, suggested that concerns had been at least partly addressed. Which didn’t prepare us for the collapse of reliability and punctuality when the new times actually came in. It is hoped some of the promised enhancements and reinstatement of Blackpool-York will be made by the end of this year when more trains cold be available. We shall be pressing Northern to introduce the new destinations without doing further damage to existing local connectivity. Much more urgently however, we are looking for an action plan to be implemented in the coming days and weeks to get the present timetable running properly.
Here (dated 30 May and updated from our Spring newsletter) is HADRAG’s review of the May 2018 changes – based on what they are supposed to be running not the chaos that’s been happening over recent days:
Peak commuter services. With a major recast a lot of times have changed. A relief for Calderdale-Leeds users is that the extra Halifax-Leeds train operated by a 5-car Grand Central unit not only continues to run but will start back from Hebden Bridge at 0702. And it will have a return working at teatime. The latter in particular means additional capacity. But it is difficult to be optimistic about further early relief for overcrowding at least until the new trains are in full service by the end of next year.
Blackpool-York trains are temporarily cut back to Preston-Leeds, with connections at Preston, but will run through on Sundays. You can see the logic given a shortage of diesel trains and the Blackpool line now electrified; but this is still very unwelcome. Some other CVL trains will be linked through to/from York or Selby in compensation for existing Calderdale cross-Leeds users. With the Airport and Chester services deferred, it’s odd that extension of Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester trains to Southport has gone ahead, increasing frequency on the Manchester-Atherton-Wigan line. Calderdale’s loss is Atherton’s gain? Southport is surely the least useful of our new destinations. Southport and Wigan people would really rather have trains to Manchester Airport. Wouldn’t we all?! Northern have said they will restore Blackpool-York as soon as trains become available. It is expected that the service will then become fast Leeds-York, which sounds like good news.
Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd do, thankfully, keep their hourly Sunday service to Manchester, and in addition have all Blackpool/Preston-Leeds/York stopping — good news we’ve been waiting for, except that there is now going to be a wait for most of these trains actually to run through to York and Blackpool! (They do go through on Sundays.) But Mytholmroyd is not shown in Northern’s online pdf York-Blackpool timetable. We shall see if it’s in the eventual printed version. At time of writing online timetables were still showing a 2-hour late evening gap in trains back from Manchester to these stations, despite two services running through non-stop in between. We raised this with Northern in late April and it sounded like a genuine error the train planners could fix. We are waiting.
Upper Calderdale connectivity to Huddersfield is damaged. So if you are travelling from say Mytholmroyd or Sowerby Bridge you can no longer get off at Brighouse and board a closely following train to Huddersfield. Worse, the trains that stop at MYT and SOW do not connect with the Huddersfield trains at Halifax. Journey planner recommends going travelling to Dewsbury and then doubling back at an inflated fare with no cheap returns available. Ridiculous. The situation is slightly better for Todmorden/Hebden Bridge-Huddersfield as the fast trains that stop there connect with the Brighouse/Huddersfield trains at Halifax.
Clockface patterns are far from ideal. Just as an example, Halifax towards Leeds is now roughly 00, 12, 34, 43, deviating significantly from even-interval. Annoying variations between hours could make people miss trains. Some journey times increase. Eastbound Preston-Leeds trains call at Bramley, whilst Huddersfield-Hfx-Leeds trains are non-stop from New Pudsey. Overall verdict: rather messy.
Brighouse Line. More clockface and journey time issues. Leeds-Brighouse-Manchesters are fast Rochdale-Manchester, a gain partly lost by extra time westbound Brighouse-Sowerby Bridge. Would it not be better to hold them in Brighouse station, rather than have the trains waiting for signals at Milner Royd? Issues like this should be helped when new signalling is commissioned. The Leeds-Brighouse direct trains overtake the ones via Bradford in both directions. This makes a mockery of the franchise Train Service Requirement of 2 trains/hour Brighouse-Leeds. If you just miss the direct train (or it’s cancelled) you might as well wait for the next one a full hour later rather than get on one that is overtaken. With “pathing” time approaching Huddersfield—which actually means waiting at the signals at Bradley Junction—Brighouse-Huddersfield now typically takes 14 minutes. Surely some better solution to both of these problems can be devised? Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester will be running later in the evening, but not yet on Sundays: we shall keep pressing for that. Sundays Leeds-Halifax-Brighouse is more or less hourly, a promise delivered, though with irritating variations (dodgy clockface again).
Three Northern booklets (8, 36 and 45) are still required to show the whole CVL service—somewhat unsatisfactorily. We understand there is a plan to improve the booklets. Dare we hope for a clear, well presented Calder Valley line booklet showing all services when Northern Connect branded services are introduced in December 2019? This is clearly something that Northern find difficult, but remember West Yorkshire “Metro” produced complete line timetables right through from the 1970s to a year or so ago. Why can’t Northern under Arriva replicate what the county body used to do?
December 2019 will be another major change with an extra service each hour Bradford-Manchester and through trains to Liverpool as well as Man Airport and Chester. We say this should be an opportunity to deliver a better clockface pattern, and serve more local stations with the Airport trains. Enhancements must surely be brought in without damaging the service at local stations. Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and the future Elland station deserve a much better train service. —JSW
Calderdale Council is setting the ball rolling to transform Halifax station. The expected result will be a new centrepiece in the lower part of town linking with Halifax’s developing cultural hub, shopping and business areas.
Bus-rail interchange should improve with bus stands serving a wide range of destinations located by a new public square below the complex of attractions around the Piece Hall. New pedestrian access to the train station is expected to be via improved public domain in the new square and pleasant “station gardens”. Direct routes will lead pedestrians arriving by train towards Square Chapel, Library, Piece Hall, Industrial Museum as well as the towns shopping and business areas. As currently envisaged the transformation will include a new glazed concourse complementing and literally reflecting the original 1855 station. There will be space for increased numbers of passengers and increased facilities for them both in both new and old buildings. The 1855 building could be home to new leisure or retail facilities attracting more people to the site. The original Navigation Road underpass will be opened up as a pedestrian link not just for station users but for anyone needing to access between new development to the east around the Nestlé site and the town centre.
Comparison has been drawn with Sheffield where the rail station, at bottom of town as in Halifax, now opens out onto a modern public square.
It needs to be emphasised that concept designs described in the report to the council’s cabinet on Monday 19 March are just a starting point. HADRAG will keep up pressure to get a final design that puts first the needs of train passengers, whether they access on foot, on bike, by park and ride or by drop-off/pick-up/taxi. And we encourage others to make their views known.
HADRAG fully supports the transformational aspirations. There now seems to be a consensus that the present road approach bridge with its road congestion and indeed safety issues has to go. The bridge, inadequate for the coming and goings of station users on foot or in vehicles, is also an architectural detraction from the glorious original 1855 station building .
Initial suggestions in the concept design would relocate not just rail users’ car-parking but also taxis and drop-off/pick-up to the east side of the railway. All levels from restored underpass up through the new concourse to the footbridge would be connected by a new lift. Clearly the lift will have to be highly reliable! But we have a serious concern that the proposed arrangements could mean indirect and inconvenient transfer routes between car and train. We say this needs further thinking. One idea known to be under consideration is having a further lift and stairway going up through the Navigation Road archway direct to Platforms 1 and 2.
Restoration of the archway below the station pedestrian link will put the station on a through route for pedestrians between the town centre and potential new development to the east. So the station will no longer be a dead end for people on foot. An underused office block owned by sweet manufacturer Nestlé (who make Mackintosh’s Quality Street on the site) could be demolished to make way for the new car park. Could this be a general as well as rail users’ car park?
We also want a design that offers flexibility to develop new and improved train services, and we shall be working to persuade the railway authorities that our station needs not just the reinstatement of Platform 3 to deal with growing numbers of passengers, but also a third operational train track to deal with potentially increased and more complex services in the future.
The concept designs envisage widening, building out P3 to serve the track currently serving P2. This would vastly increase circulation space for passengers with trains going west and south using P1 (as now) and trains for Bradford, Leeds and York using the restored enlarged P3. In effect the station would be doubled in size, creating physical room for crowds arriving for events at the Piece Hall as well as providing a spacious, modern environment for business and tourist visitors.
At present rail infrastructure company Network Rail seems to be saying it can not see the need for a third operational train platform within its current planning horizon. At a station where passenger footfall has roundly doubled in a decade, we ask whether the railway is being sufficiently ambitious. We want a design that is truly future-proof!
Here is the statement given to Halifax Courier by HADRAG chair Stephen Waring: (published Fri 9 Mar’2018):
“It is many years since HADRAG first called for Halifax train station to be transformed as a welcoming gateway between railway and town. The station gateway proposal coming from Calderdale Council shows the ambition to do this. We discussed the concept designs at HADRAG’s committee meeting this week (Monday 12 March), and they look truly transformational, making the station itself a much more attractive feature at the centre of a greatly enhanced environment linking with new bus stops, the Piece Hall, cultural hub and town centre.
“HADRAG therefore welcomes the broad concept as presented but wants to see further work done to ensure the best possible access for existing rail users. Wherever possible, level horizontal routes are better than either stairs or lifts. The architects of the final scheme must consider how passengers will negotiate changes in levels, as well as the need to create a direct route between the proposed new east-side car park and the current station platform.
“We also think that, rather than completely segregating pedestrian and vehicle access, drop-off, pick-up, cycle and taxi access could be retained on the west side of the station – the “town side” – where pedestrians will access through the proposed station gardens and a new public square.
“The final design must be future-proof, allowing for greatly increased train services and new service patterns. Reinstatement of platform 3 will create space for growing numbers of passengers. We think it should be done so as to allow in the future for an additional railway track, giving three fully operational lines so that more trains can run through, terminate and reverse in the station. So far the railway authorities haven’t seemed interested in doing this. We need to persuade Network Rail and the train companies to have greater ambition matching the local ambition of the station scheme itself.
“Opening up the Navigation Road arch puts the station on a transformed pedestrian route between new development east of the line and the town centre. This should make the station a centrepiece. With new development in and around the historic 1855 Building the station hub should become an attraction its own right.
“But most importantly it must also be designed to work for train passengers, better for both existing users and increasing numbers in the future.
“HADRAG hopes there will be early public consultation on the proposals, getting present-day station users involved.”
Campaigning group HADRAG has again written to the managing director of the Northern train company, with a renewed call for action on commuter conditions and questioning the policy of taking trains out of service for refurbishment when there is a clear shortage of carriages. The group wants “a train service that gets people to work, and home again, rested and relaxed, not tired and jaded” – benefitting productivity and the economy. Following an initial response from the train company HADRAG representatives expect to meet with Northern early in January.HADRAG’s latest letter, addressed to David Brown, the new managing director of Arriva Rail North, HADRAG reflects the anger of commuters about overcrowding on the Calder Valley Line. HADRAG appreciates that the problems are part of a national situation and not directly the fault of the regional train company, but calls for early action by the company to deal with the issue of trains on the Calder Valley frequently not having enough carriages for the number of passengers wanting to travel at peak times. The campaigners also welcome the good news that more trains – brand new trains – will be introduced before 2020, with a 37% increase in morning peak capacity across the franchise. But HADRAG’s letter says that with commuters reasonably arguing that the trains they travel on are more like 100% overcrowded “we feel bound to ask whether the promised capacity increase will be enough!”
HADRAG wants action sooner to help passengers and in the letter asks Northern specifically:
Can the present programme of taking trains out of service for refurbishment, affecting both capacity and reliability, be justified when commuting conditions are so difficult?
Can a popular extra morning train, the 0728 Halifax-Leeds be kept on at least until all the new rolling stock is in service? This train is a 5-car intercity-type unit and it is not yet clear whether it will still be in the timetable after May 2018.
Can we expect more trains to be “cascaded” from other regional train operators in the next few months given expected progress to complete electrification of lines in Scotland and on the Great Western route?
Could InterCity 125 trains coming out of service in other parts of the country be used temporarily to provide additional capacity in the North?
The HADRAG letter, signed by the group’s chair, Stephen Waring, reiterates a welcome for planned enhancements to the Calder Valley Line timetable from May 2018, when it is hoped trains will run through to Manchester Airport and Chester. The plan is also for Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd to be served by the York-Blackpool express service – fulfilling a long-standing HADRAG demand.
But the group is concerned about the planned service pattern between Leeds and Calderdale and raises issues about service patterns and journey times the could impact on local passengers from next May.
The letter calls for Sowerby Bridge station to be served by the Manchester Airport trains, and asks for an assurance that service levels not just at Sowerby Bridge but also at smaller stations such as Mytholmroyd will not be adversely affected when most Calder Valley Line trains become express-style “Northern Connect” services at the end of 2019. HADRAG also supports calls by other groups along the line for improved services at Littleborough and at the new station Low Moor, in Bradford.
Beyond 2019, HADRAG calls for an improved service along the Brighouse line with a faster journey upper Calderdale-Brighouse-Leeds, ready for when the new station opens at Elland, hopefully by 2022.
The letter also calls for improved quality published and printed timetable booklets, and expresses concern that proper booking offices should be maintained at stations and developed to offer a wider range of retail and information services.
HADRAG Chair Stephen Waring commented: “We have written to the new managing director of Northern, to introduce ourselves as a group that has been supporting positive development by the train operators as well as putting forward our own ideas for development for 32 years. We welcome much that the Northern franchise is planning, but we must reflect the daily concerns of people using our line who are crammed in conditions that frankly seem unhealthy. We want a train service that gets people to work, and home again, rested and relaxed, not tired and jaded. That will surely be better for productivity and the economy.
“We have had an initial response from Northern and they have offered to meet us in the coming weeks. That is really good because we want to continue to engage with them in a positive way.
“To describe Calderdale commuters going into Bradford, Leeds and Manchester in the morning as hard-pressed would perhaps be too literally true. The good news is that new trains are coming, but people crammed daily in frankly unhealthy conditions are still being asked to wait for this. We hear of regular instances of passengers being left behind at the station because it is physically impossible to get on the train.
“We really hope the new trains when they arrive will be enough, but meanwhile we really hope Northern can get hold of more carriages, sooner rather than later.
“And we must question the present train refurbishment programme which can only reduce peak capacity whilst the work is going on. We also suspect it puts pressure on maintenance leading to reduced reliability. The refurbished trains now running on our line are a big improvement and we welcome that. There is more work to be done on them. But it’s not much comfort having a nice modernised train in smart new colours if it’s so crowded that you can’t get on it.”
On service development, Stephen Waring added:
“We have already welcomed positive aspects of the May 2018 timetable proposals, but there has to be a better deal for stations serving medium-size towns like Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse that always seem to miss out on the faster services. Again, there is good news that Sowerby Bridge – and Mytholmroyd – will be getting the York-Blackpool trains, but we are a bit concerned that service improvements given next year could be taken away when the Northern Connect brand of fast services is introduced in 2019. They are planning an extra service every hour between Bradford and Manchester from December 2019. HADRAG wants that to be used to improve the service more stations, with places like Sowerby Bridge sharing in the benefits of the new service across Manchester to the Airport.”
First public trains are due to run over a brand new railway in Manchester starting Sunday 10th December – and they will be Calder Valley Line services from Leeds via Halifax and Rochdale, operated by Northern. The Ordsall Chord will link lines through Manchester Victoria station with the ones through Deansgate, Oxford Road, Piccadilly and towards the Airport. From this month Calder Valley trains will run through, daytime off-peak only for now, to Oxford Road station. This is a prelude to a full hourly service to Manchester Piccadilly and the Airport in May 2018. First train scheduled over the new curve on the Sunday morning should be an 0840 local working from Manchester Victoria station to Oxford Road. This returns at 0857 to Calder Valley stations and Leeds. First westbound Sunday service from Calderdale is scheduled 0945 from Halifax through to Oxford Road. Hopefully there’ll be one or two HADRAG members on these first trains to mark the historic occasion – we are keeping an eye on the forecast as wintry weather threatens.
Weekday services will be the ones that leave Leeds around 18 minutes past the hour. The first Oxford Road weekday service will be the one that picks up at Halifax at 0756, after which they’ll be more or less hourly until late afternoon. Hopefully this is a taste of a much more useful service to come. From May 2018 Calder Valley Manchester trains should run not only round Ordsall to Manchester Piccadilly and the Airport but there will also be an hourly service to Warrington and Chester.