Mytholmroyd (in picture) and Sowerby Bridge should be getting all York-Blackpool trains stopping when the May 2018 timetable plan is implemented (which may not be May 2018!). Worryingly, however, both stations were threatened in the draft timetable with losing Sunday services to/from Manchester as well as late night trains back in the week—unintended consequences of the service specification in the franchise agreement. We are more hopeful Sowerby Bridge will see improvement by December 2019 when the “Northern Connect” regional express brand is launched. Sowerby Bridge is to be an NC-designated station, and we are told all NC trains should stop there even though this would go beyond the franchise specification. We’ve asked Northern to clarify their intentions and we’ll let you know!
Northern Connect stations will also get “full staffing”, which is starting to sound something like a proper booking office. Mytholmroyd and Brighouse are meant to get for partial staffing, the meaning of which will doubtless become clear. When its big new car park is complete Northern may discover that Mytholmroyd needs more trains! Brighouse certainly deserves better.
Campaigners in HADRAG, the Halifax & District Rail Action Group, are calling for Elland to be next new railway station in West Yorkshire following opening of Low Moor earlier this month. We want the Northern train operator (Arriva Rail North) and Network Rail (who oversee tracks and timetables) to declare their commitment to Elland station and ensure provision is made for trains to stop in new timetables planned for the next 2-3 years. Meanwhile we continue to argue for a better deal for Calder Valley stations currently missed out by “semi-fast” or “express” services. We say Brighouse and Sowerby Bridge deserve something more like the service level and quality enjoyed by Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. More below:
Low Moor station is on the Calder Valley Line between Halifax and Bradford. HADRAG joined with other groups including the Bradford rail users (BRUG), and the Friends of Low Moor Station (FOLMS) in celebrating the first trains at Low Moor station on the first Sunday in April (02/04/17). Low Moor is served by hourly trains on the Leeds-Bradford-Halifax-Brighouse-Huddersfield route. It also has intercity services to London operated by the Grand Central open access operator. With the other groups, HADRAG wants to see a better service at the new station and we hope a Manchester service can be arranged to stop every hour by the end of 2019.
December 2019 is the second of two big timetable change dates when services are expected to be transformed under the Northern trains franchise under Arriva. By then Bradford-Manchester should have 3 trains/hour (compared with 2/hour at present) and we say that should be an opportunity to boost the service at intermediate stations, not just provide an extra fast train that misses out a lot of stops.
If increasing usage is the measure (Office of Road and Rail station usage statistics, 2016), Brighouse and Sowerby Bridge should be the Calder Valley Line’s top two stations. (See also our newsletter piece: Two Cinderella stations again top table!)
Usage of Sowerby Bridge station has risen steadily and now stands at 392,000 passengers/year, an increase of 132% on ten years ago. Although passenger numbers are historically higher at Hebden and Tod, their ten-year percentage increase is somewhat less than Sowerby Bridge’s. Sowerby Bridge station serves not just the town itself but also the Ryburn valley and the eastern side of Luddendenfoot. This represents a catchment area of more than 20,000 population, and probably more than that of Hebden Bridge and Todmorden combined. Yet the basic half-hourly service at Sowerby Bridge is only about half the frequency enjoyed by the upper valley stations. HADRAG continues to argue that all of the York-Blackpool semi-fast trains should call at Sowerby Bridge (at present just a few do at peak hours). We also say that when an extra service every hour is introduced between Bradford and Manchester at the end of 2019, that train should also serve Sowerby Bridge.
Brighouse line – and Elland! Brighouse has an even better case for more trains, but apart from some increase to peak hour and Sunday services to be introduced by May 2018, little extra seems to be promised for Brighouse under the Northern franchise. This is in stark contrast to Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden on the Bradford-Manchester route which will benefit from “Northern Connect” branded regional express services by 2019. Like Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse serves a population covering at least two local council wards – 20,000 plus. The ORR’s figures show a ten-year increase of 476% at Brighouse station which now sees footfall of over 400,000 entries and exits annually. No better than Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse’s best local service frequency is hourly on each of two routes (Leeds-Brighouse-Todmorden-Manchester and Leeds-Bradford-Brighouse-Huddersfield). The Sunday service is at present 2-hourly (on the Bradford route only); the commitment is to increase this to hourly. HADRAG has been pressing for a speed-up of the Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester trains which we say should also run on Sundays. We hope that changes to stopping patterns may see these trains running semi-fast west of Todmorden in the next year or so. A few peak-hour trains on the Brighouse-Manchester route are planned to run non-stop Rochdale-Manchester from December 2017. We do not yet know whether this will become the pattern for all of these trains. Beyond 2019 and Northern’s initial franchise commitments we hope that the Brighouse-Leeds service will also be improved with fast or semi-fast operation. Non-stop running time Brighouse-Leeds is about 17 minutes but the current stopping service takes double this time. This is very much an area where we expect the train operator to deliver beyond its basic franchise commitment.
Which brings us to Elland, one of the top three sites in the West and North Yorkshire new stations study (now getting on for three years ago). The October 2014 Atkins report forecast demand at Elland as 240,000 annually. In the latest feasibility studies, consultants report a strong business case and confirm the buildability of an impressive-looking new station on the strategic site next to the A629 and Lowfields. HADRAG believes this could work well as a park and ride serving the whole “Greater Elland” settlement – again, a population of 20,000 plus. We understand the money for building Elland station (price-tag maybe £14 million) could come from West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund, though there may be further hoops to jump before that can happen.
And the train timetable must be designed to allow trains to stop at Elland. So HADRAG calls on the Northern train operator (Arriva Rail North) and on Network Rail to declare their commitment now to operating Elland station with a good train service. Every local train that stops at Brighouse must also stop at Elland! There looks to be slack in the current timetable to allow that to happen but obviously with major timetable recasts in May 2018 and December 2019 that allowance must also be built in for the future. Faster line speeds on the Bradford-Manchester route and hopefully a semi-fast pattern for the Brighouse-Manchester trains should make this easier. The railway – train operators and infrastructure managers – should commit to this without further delay or equivocation. What’s to stop them? HADRAG is clear that after massively successful Apperley Bridge and Kirkstall Forge, and now Low Moor:
Network Rail say rail passenger numbers have doubled nationally over 20 years and will double again by 2041. But the top stations on our line can better that! Halifax station usage has doubled in just 10 years. Latest batch of station usage estimates from the Office of Rail and Road reinforce previous years’ results. ORR’s estimates are based on ticket sales. Refinements of methodology over the years mean caution is required when identifying trends. But some trends are clearly significant.
We have again done our homework on the ORR spreadsheet and calculated increases in estimated footfall over the last ten years (up to last spring), as well as the latest year-on-year figures. Our Calder Valley Line (CVL) table is ranked by 10-year growth, and once again Brighouse and Sowerby Bridge come out top. Brighouse has had another growth spurt (8.1% over last year), consolidating a spectacular 476% over ten years. Sowerby Bridge may have levelled off slightly this time — sign of demand starting to be suppressed by service limitations? — but 132% over ten years is still double the national average. These are of course our “Cinderella” stations; they serve medium-size towns comparable with Todmorden and Hebden Bridge but have significantly fewer trains. As we keep telling people, better services at Brighouse and Sowerby are surely overdue.
10-year growth exceeds the national average at all Calder Valley stations within West Yorkshire except Walsden and Mytholmroyd, the latter a significant village halt where untapped potential may emerge when the new car park opens. Overall, CVL stations are a little behind national growth figures, more significantly so on the latest year-on-year results. Again, is this the limitations of provided service suppressing demand?
Walsden is interesting with a sudden apparent spurt against declining trend. Look also at New Pudsey where morning peak trains regularly leave passengers behind. And Bramley, third from the top, last station before Leeds (but compare with Moston at the other end of the line). Any theories?
CVL station usage statistics: entries and exits
(extracted from Office of Road and Rail station usage estimates, December 2016 – growth calculations added for HADRAG by JSW)
It’s all systems go for HADRAG’s annual meeting in Brighouse on Saturday (14 May’16). Our speaker David Hoggarth, Director of Rail North has confirmed. Start time is 13.00 (1pm) at the Central Methodist Church with an update on HADRAG’s campaign to get a better deal for the Calder Valley’s “Cinderella Line” through Brighouse and Elland that links Halifax and Sowerby bridge with Huddersfield and Mirfield, after which we’ll have David’s talk followed by questions and discussion. All actual and would-be rail users welcome! The meeting will conclude the group’s formal AGM business all of which will be done by 15.30 (3.30pm).
Doors open 12.30 for “light refreshments” (probably tea/coffee and biscuits unless somebody decides to bake a cake).
The weather forecast for Saturday morning in Brighouse looks pretty fair. So why not make a day of it? Take a stroll on the canal bank, seek out the open market, and enjoy brunch in one of the town’s cafes before coming along to the meeting.
Weekdays, Brighouse has two Northern trains an hour in each direction over two routes. Leeds-Dewsbury-Brighouse- Rochdale-Manchester “valley bottom” trains run daytime till early evening. Brighouse- Manchester takes an hour. Leeds-Brighouse (via Dewsbury calling most stations in between) takes 30-35 minutes. The slower “semi-circular” Leeds-Bradford-Huddersfield service mainly leaves Leeds at 35 minutes past the hour and (after pausing in Halifax) arrives in Brighouse just under an hour later. Train times in our table are a rough guide: check on line at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk. Best printed timetable for Brighouse trains is Metro’s Calder Valley Line booklet.
The valley bottom service is great for a day out along a line of market towns—Dewsbury, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden, Todmorden—as well as Brighouse itself. There are some famously great pubs and cafés close to the stations. West Yorkshire day rover tickets are still excellent value (currently adult £8, bus and rail, family £12) but watch out for the evening peak trap.
The valley service via Brighouse does not run on Sundays—a missed opportunity to promote local leisure journeys HADRAG says. The new franchise is to increase the 2-hourly Sunday service on the Leeds-Halifax-Huddersfield route to a more useful hourly frequency by the end of 2017. HADRAG, of course, says more is needed.
Brighouse is also of course served by open-access train operator Grand Central (another Arriva company) with four trains daily (including Sundays) to London also serving Wakefield Kirkgate, sometimes Pontefract and Doncaster. Wakefield’s Kirkgate station, recently improved, is a good stop-off for the Hepworth Gallery. Grand Central trains accept most normal rail tickets including West Yorkshire MetroCards and Day Rovers (but sadly not the regional South Pennines Day Ranger). Have a good trip!
As HADRAG has been pointing out with mind-numbing regularity since Brighouse station opened fifteen years ago, potentially fastest existing route from Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge and upper Calderdale to Leeds actually uses part of the Huddersfield Line through Mirfield and Dewsbury. A fast train from Brighouse to Leeds via Dewsbury would take about 20 minutes; it would be 30 min from Sowerby Bridge and at most 40 minutes from Hebden Bridge – bettering present times either via Bradford or on the Dewsbury stopper. There is also an obvious need for a better service from upper Calderdale via Brighouse to Huddersfield. But the invitation to tender for the new Northern Rail franchise prohibits more trains Brighouse-Huddersfield round the “Bradley curve”. Bradley Jn is where our trains routinely stand at the signal waiting for a path into Huddersfield. Similar junction conflicts occur at Heaton Lodge Jn, Mirfield where CV Brighouse services have to give way to TransPennine Expresses in both directions. Mirfield-Huddersfield used to be a 4-track railway and could be again without major difficulty – given the will and the funding. With four tracks, parallel movements would be possible. A train from the Calder Valley would be able to run into Mirfield or Huddersfield alongside a TPE service instead of having to wait