As the pandemic goes from wave to wave, we can be certain of nothing. But we understand Elland station is still planned to open “on time” (debatable concept) before 2023. There is an obvious interface with “TRU”, that long-awaited (not as long as Elland) Trans-Pennine (Huddersfield) route upgrade. So when the Huddersfield line is “under possession” for track remodelling or electrification TP Expresses will be diverted, and at times this will mean using the Brighouse and Elland route. The worry was that with TRU works due to start, who knows quite when, this could mean Elland being delayed. So we added this to a list of concerns in a HADRAG letter to Grant Shapps in September. The reply from a Department for Transport official (two months later) said West Yorkshire Combined Authority intends to seek an approval in principle for production of an outline design (outline?) early in 2021, and that WYCA would be expected to work closely with Network Rail, DfT and train operators on coordination with other schemes including TRU, and develop a timescale. Opening “by December 2022” was still the expectation. “Elland first” is surely sensible. We pointed out that when Huddersfield station is out of use during works on the big project, Elland – right next to the A629 – could be an ideal alternative railhead for Huddersfield passengers. The DfT did not respond to that, but more local contacts suggest the idea is under consideration.
Elland station will not only serve commuters (however many of them there are in the post-Covid future), but with a package of active travel links will be ideal for the local community and visitors seeking leisure on foot or cycle in our beautiful valley. This, surely, is just what we need to rebuild and repurpose our railway.
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.