One railway for the North

Could a new “Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway” deliver quality and reliability for 21st Century passengers?

After the timetable shambles a year ago, HADRAG made this argument:

Trans Pennine Express and Northern operate nearly all local and regional trains across the North of England. Each of these companies has its own team of train planners. Each must each bid for timetable slots to nationalised Network Rail, with its own train planning office in Milton Keynes (where knowledge of the needs of Brighouse or Sowerby Bridge may be limited). Three organisations, three timetabling offices, to plan a single network of services. Would it not be better to have one organisation, whether publicly or privately owned, planning service patterns and delivering a timetable that works across our northern sub-nation?

As a group HADRAG does not take a view on “renationalisation” versus continued private-sector involvement in the railway. But it is clear how having so many companies involved in running the railway can lead to inefficiency, increased costs and increased me to get anything done. Surely a devolved system that unites track and trains, and works with regional bodies like Transport for the North instead of distant Whitehall bureaucrats must be more efficient and more effective in delivering decent services for all? As it is, it seems like the whole timetable across the North is built around the need to get a relatively small number of TPE’s customers from North East England to Manchester Airport.

The Rail Review, chaired by Keith Williams, is looking at the whole organisation of British railways. A White Paper is expected in the Autumn.

A railway for the common good

The proposals put to Williams by Paul Salveson’s Rail Reform Group would reintegrate rail opera ons at a regional level. It looks like a middle way between top-down nationalisa on and a flawed franchising model. The aim, star ng in the North, is “a railway for the common good”, with less call on the public purse, less pressure on Government to micro-manage, and higher quality, reliable services supporting economic regeneration of the regions. The brand “Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway” chimes well for those who know a bit of history and see lessons to be learned.

Be quick and have your say!

The Williams Rail Review remains open until 31 May. Anyone can make a submission via the government website. HADRAG contributed early on: see our Spring update.  Feel free to support our views, and/or those of the Rail Reform Group, or just put forward your own.

Williams’s objectives talk about balancing the needs of passengers, taxpayers and wider society (including the environment). We say there should be no conflict. Yes, rail receives a high level of government support and passengers (themselves taxpayers) expect good service. Perhaps getting better value for taxpayers’ money should be about continuing to invest in improvement and turning more taxpayers into passengers.—JSW

Reforming rail: come to our Annual Meeting!

 

Dryclough 153 xcrop 2029.05.04
Manchester Leeds train glides through greenery into Halifax. The Calder Valley Line is a scenic route, so why shouldn’t commuting be a pleasure? We want rail to be first transport choice for more and more people. All are welcome at our annual meeting on June 1st. Come and tell us how you think the railway could be made better.

COME AND TELL US what you think! Rail users in Halifax and along the Calder Valley Line hold their Annual Meeting in Halifax on Saturday morning 1 June 2019 (details below). Theme will be reforming rail in the north – making our railway better. For HADRAG the most urgent needs are a better deal for commuters, and a better deal for stations like Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse that serve sizeable towns but are the “Cinderella stops” on our line. As a new timetable starts (20 May) early morning commuters from Brighouse and Halifax and Bradford and Leeds face a cut in service. We want the present flawed timetable replaced by a fit-for-purpose service ready for when the new station opens at Elland hopefully by 2021. And wearing our Electric Railway Charter hats we want to see progress towards a truly modern and sustainable Calder Valley Line.

The meeting on June 1st is open to all rail users and others interested in developing better train services through our part the Pennines as a stimulus to quality travel, good growth and a clean environment, and starts at 1015, at the Carlton Centre, Harrison Rd, Halifax HX1 2AD. Doors open from about 0945 with light refreshments available before the speeches start.

Guest speaker will be Prof Paul Salveson, community rail pioneer, and now chair of the Rail Reform Group. Retired from the railway “establishment”, Paul provides an independent voice and interesting ideas about how a truly Northern-based railway could serve the cities, towns and smaller communities across the central belt of the North from west to east centred once the territory of the “Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway”. The Rail Reform Group, a body of respected former railway professionals, proposes a “railway for the common good”, bringing together functions that are at present fragmented, to create a railway shackled neither by top-down nationalisation, nor by a need to put profit before passengers. The RRG has submitted its ideas for a new “L&Y” to the Williams Rail Review. See also Paul’s piece in the Yorkshire Post earlier this year.

Williams was commissioned by government to look at how rail could work better following the May 2018 timetable shambles. The review is still open until 31 May to receive ideas and evidence from any member of the public – so readers of this blog may still have a little time to send in views online. HADRAG submitted comments early on.

We want a truly modern, sustainable transport system that provides commuters with a good deal, encouraging people off congested roads – polluted and polluting – and plays the maximum role in tackling the climate emergency.

Writing on 19 May 2019, we hope last year’s timetable shambles is not about to be repeated.  HADRAG made this argument: Trans Pennine Express and Northern operate nearly all local and regional trains across the North of England. Each of these companies has its own team of train planners. Each must each bid for timetable slots to nationalised Network Rail, with its own train planning office in Milton Keynes (where knowledge of the needs of Brighouse or Sowerby Bridge may be limited). Three organisations, three timetabling offices, to plan a single network of services. Would it not be better to have one organisation, whether publicly or privately owned, planning service patterns and delivering a timetable that works across our northern sub-nation?

We hope Williams hears what we and others are saying about creating a railway that is integrated, devolved and puts passengers first, a railway that is simple to use with fares that are not seen as extortionate, and flexibility that will attract people from their cars. Williams talks about balancing the needs of taxpayers and passengers. But are not passengers themselves taxpayers, and is not the railway a massive public asset that should be providing an increasingly attractive public service with non-user benefits? Trains – passenger and freight – can reduce the volume of cars and lorries on the roads. Should we not reject the term “subsidy”?  We do not talk about “subsidies” for other public services such as the NHS, the police or indeed the programme of road building that we continue to see. We need investment in the North that matches that in London and the South East.

Transport seems likely always to require social payments, especially if it is to provide a comprehensive service promoting high quality growth and wider values of environmental protection and social inclusion. Perhaps the best way to get the best value for taxpayers is to develop a railway that turns more taxpayers into passengers. – JSW

Brighouse Woes and Crazy Clockface

The train in our picture takes 34 minutes Halifax-Huddersfield including 4 min standing in Brighouse and another 5 min at the next junction waiting the train coming the other way. Unless there are late changes (there were last December!) this looks to be little improved in the May 2019 timetable, despite some retiming. It seems the railway just can’t get the Brighouse line timetable right. Yet Brighouse has shown the biggest footfall increase of any Calder Valley Line station over ten years. Latest blow is withdrawal of the 0606 from Huddersfield via Halifax to Leeds, scuppering early commutes from Huddersfield/Brighouse to Halifax/Bradford. Halifax- Leeds will have nothing from 0600 until 0645, leaving only 3 trains between 0600 and 0700 compared with a long-established four.

The late evening 2-hour gap in call from Manchester at Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge remains despite an obvious easy fix of adding stops by trains that currently fly through. Good news is a new late-night York-Blackburn train that will provide a later service back from Bradford (2320) for these stations. Hourly York-Halifax-Blackpool through trains are restored (but just Leeds-Blackpool on Sundays).

Our Manchester trains will extend hourly to Chester, also welcome if it works. Halifax’s crazy clockface to Leeds gets worse with departures at about 00, 07, 15 and then nothing till 43 minutes past — four an hour but effectively little better than half-hourly. Some

hours the gap is more than 30 minutes. We are pressing Northern on these issues with another letter to David Brown, Managing Director. We hear there could be interesting, even helpful changes in December.

Another flawed timetable. How can rail run better?

A Manchester-Leeds train sneaks through lush verdure into Halifax. Even commu ng should be a pleasure; there is surely economic value in people arriving for work relaxed a er a pleasant journey. And if it’s for cultural, personal or leisure purposes, your journey should be the part of the a rac on that gets you away from congested, polluted and pollu ng roads. Our Calder Valley Line looks ideal for this. We say give it a go, especially at mes when the trains are not crammed!

But we’ve seen hal ng progress since 2016 under the present Northern franchise. A er the May 2018 shambles this May’s metable is looking at best like another awed and un nished product, trying our pa ence. Hourly trains to Chester are welcome, but Halifax-Leeds travellers face a “crazy clockface” with three trains in 16 minutes then nothing for almost half an hour, a travesty of “15 minute frequency”. Early morning commuters from Hudders eld, Brighouse and Halifax to Bradford and Leeds face a kick in the teeth with withdrawal of the rst Brighouse line train.

The franchise speci es an hourly CVL train to Manchester Airport from December, but this looks to be delayed because of lack of capacity round Manchester. Planned extra pla orms at Manchester Piccadilly seem lost in the long grass of the Department of Transport, whilst TransPennine Express’s franchise commitment to run 2 trains/hr from the North East to Man Airport seems to be a higher priority than Northern’s supposedly equal commitment to more Calder Valley trains including our own Airport service.

HADRAG’s response to the Williams Rail Review calls for a single operator to deliver services across the North that work for all. We con nue to engage with Northern, Network Rail, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Transport for the North and poli cal contacts. And the Electric Railway Charter (www.electriccharter.wordpress.com) con nues to build the argument for a clean, green, modern Calder Valley Line that helps combat the climate emergency. — JSW.

Annual General Meeting

All welcome at HADRAG’s Annual Meeting Saturday morning 1 June 2019, in the Carlton Centre, Carlton Terrace/Harrison Rd, Halifax HX1 2AD (lower ground floor, level access available).  10.15 start (light refreshments from 09.45)

Speaker: Prof. Paul Salveson MBE: “Reforming Rail in the North”

Paul is visiting professor in the Department of Transport and Logistics at Huddersfield University, well known advocate of community rail, and Chair of the Rail Reform Group promoting new approaches including a new “Lancashire & Yorkshire” integrated rail and train operating company.


Formal Agenda

From J Stephen Waring, Chair and Acting Secretary, 6 May 2019

Dear HADRAG members, friends and rail users,

The Annual General Meeting of the Halifax & District Rail Ac on Group will be held on Saturday morning, 1st June, 2019 at The Carlton Centre on Harrison Rd, Halifax HX1 2AD starting at 10.15. Doors open 0945 for light refreshments. Location on details below.

—Stephen
1 (a) Welcome, notice of any urgent business to be added,
AGENDA apologies and Chair’s opening remarks
(b) Speaker ( med business 10.30) Prof Paul Salveson MBE followed by open Q&A

2  Minutes of 2016 AGM ( med business 11.50 approx) NOTE: minutes circulated to members with this newsletter.

3  Matters arising/discussion points from items 1 and 2

4  Reports including (a) Treasurer (b) Membership

5  Election of Officers (Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer) and Auditor for 2018-19

6  Election of Committee Members (8, including membership secretary) for 2018-19

7  Next year’s AGM — ideas, and when’s best?

8  Announcements/other urgent business of which no ce given at start.

9  Close of meeting by 12.45.

Header Image: “Carlton United Reformed Church” flickr photo by Tim Green aka atoach https://flickr.com/photos/atoach/12160303493 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

New Trains: Stating The Obvious

People are so used to being on the “Cinderella Line” that if you tell them brand new trains are coming they tend not to believe it. But Northern’s promise when Arriva secured the franchise (late 2015) was new stock for Calder Valley services via Bradford to Manchester and on to the Airport, Chester and Liverpool, plus the established York-Blackpool service. All these services would be branded “Northern Connect”, the franchise’s new regional express product, by December 2019. We sincerely hope all of this happens though our priority (and we believe Northern’s) is a service that works for existing users. It seems new kit can not be expected to work out of the box. The new “Class 195” diesels from Spain are being tested and de-snagged as we write but fingers crossed we might see some of them on CVL trains to Manchester and Chester before the summer solstice. Meanwhile we already have the Leeds-Brighouse-Manchesters going through to Southport. This service was promised modern “Class 170s” from Scotland. The 170s are already familiar on the Harrogate line and are good trains to travel on, a step up from the Class 158s and a giant leap from the crummy “150s” that still make our line look like a 1980s throwback. But apparently there was a “gauging problem” meaning the 170s don’t quite fit on the Calder Valley Line. Though we also hear that work has been done to make sure TransPennine Express new trains do fit. Latest we hear is the 170s will be used (instead) on Hull-Sheffield Northern Connect services. So either the Calder Valley line will see even more of the new trains (come on, let’s be optimistic), or else have to soldier on with 1980s “sprinter” and “express” stock for some time. Oh, and by the way, the hated Pacers, still very much around, really will be going, but the longer it takes to commission the new trains, the longer the old will stay in service.

Which is, perhaps, stating the obvious.


Header Image: “Northern Scotty” flickr photo by JohnGreyTurner https://flickr.com/photos/johngreyturner/45494410864 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Elland Station: Progress and Questions

When it comes to investing public money you can’t “just do it”. Every project must jump a course of hoops. Elland station’s Outline Business Case is due to be signed off at West Yorkshire Combined Authority as we write this. Detailed plans should now be developed and Full Business Case (FBC) is due by the end of next year, allowing work to start in 2021. That puts station opening in Spring 2022. We have some concerns about how the project might be affected by the TransPennine Route Upgrade. TRU is the

Huddersfield Line electrification and capacity project, a “CP6” scheme, meaning Network Rail’s 2019-24 control period. Work on TRU will mean blockades — weekends and probably some longer periods — of the line through Huddersfield, in turn meaning diversion of TransPennine Express trains via our Calder Valley line through Brighouse and Elland. We really hope this will not mean Network Rail saying “We can’t stop trains at Elland because we need to run too many diverted services along the route”. CP6 begins in a few weeks but, lacking a communicative fly on the wall at Network Rail HQ, it is still not clear what work will be scheduled when. If the works run till 2024 could it mean a two-year delay for Elland? Surely that must not be acceptable. We have waited long enough for a station originally envisaged as part of Brighouse line reopening nearly 20 years ago. But what if there were another possibility? With major works to put up electrification structures, and – we very much hope -add extra tracks, Huddersfield station could be temporarily closed for significant periods. So could Elland be a convenient alternative railhead for Huddersfield passengers? And so could there be a good argument for bringing the Elland project forward and opening the station sooner rather than later? HADRAG has asked the questions; we shall press for answers.