Halifax station: chance to look at options for progress – option  zero not enough!

After years of planning, 2022’s surge of inflation got the better of several West Yorkshire capital schemes. One was Halifax station’s Gateway, a project complicated by involving five (at least) different legal stakeholders. Calderdale Council, owner of ground-level property leased by the Eureka! museum including their car park and the 1855 original station building. Northern Trains and Network Rail have the railway premises. And West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Metro) have an oversight in terms of transport policy and the money from government – money that is no longer enough. (If we have got any of this wrong, please tell us.) So we have moved from about to go ahead to “pause and pipeline”. Pause is obvious. Pipeline means, we think, hoping that funding will come from alternative sources yet to be identified.

So what next for rail’s gateway to our town? The station is ideal as an access point for Square Chapel Arts Centre, the library, the unique Piece Hall and all the shops, cafés and events it hosts. We could go on. With so much work done on planning the Gateway scheme we can see there’s an argument for not doing anything until full funding appears. How long could that be? Five years? Ten?? “Option zero” (our phrase) – wait until the whole scheme can be funded – seems to be in favour. That means waiting for alternative sources of investment.

The plans could be improved. It was good that a new bridge was to be provided for pedestrians – and we hope cyclists – to access the first floor concourse, the bad news was that the ticket office was to be on the ground floor. We were told this was because Northern felt it necessary to keep a physical eye on people going in and out of the public toilet also on the ground floor. But access to the trains is via the footbridge, rather obviously on the first floor. You couldn’t make it up.

“Option 1” would be a programme of incremental improvements retaining what we have without sabotaging future development. Do we really need to demolish the present building containing booking office and shop? Could it be retained and improved, built upon?

What are our priorities?


The issue of “public conveniences” seems to have painfully emerged more often than anything else about Halifax station over 38 years (heaven help us) of HADRAG meetings. Toilets on the station are important, not least because our new trains have only one and if that one is not working discomfort (at best) will result. The present station facility is a single unit at the back of the platform waiting room, so not accessible outside staffing hours. During autumn 2022 it was out of order for several weeks. When it reopened HADRAG’s anonymous secret consumer decently took a peep, initially put off by the lock indicator which has always suggested “engaged” when “vacant”. The sink contained an empty whisky bottle and a crisp packet. Everything else looked “normal”: reasonably clean, but suggestive of a previous century.

We suggest:

  • A new unit be installed at the station entrance where an eye could be kept by staff on who is going in and coming out. There is a staff toilet at that level so this proposal would seem achievable.
  • In Greater Manchester there is a programme of new modular toilet installations (as pictured) at stations including Littleborough. Clearly this must be spread across the Northern network.

Platform access – lift, doors and footbridge

The lift, essential for some rail users to access trains, seems to work but is another feature with a last-century air. What can be done at low cost to modernise it?

  • Sliding doors from the foot of the stairs to the platform have never worked and need to be removed.
  • The footbridge itself appears to need structural repair.
  • How might waiting passengers be encouraged to stand in the best place, promoting efficient boarding and alighting, and on-time departures, whilst and not blocking access from the footbridge stairs to what is actually the narrowest part of the platform. Do trains stop in the best place?

Approach bridge – remove general parking and refurbish

Able-bodied drivers who fill the station car park on the approach bridge early in the morning could park at ground level. A deal could be reached with Eureka! to provide free parking for rail users. Removal of general parking on the bridge ease movement everyone.

  • Direct access by ramp (possibly lift) would be required from ground level to the station entrance.
  • The approach bridge would then be free for walkers, disabled car users and cyclists.
  • There would be more space on the bridge for drop-off, pick-up, and taxis.
  • With at least medium-term future assured the bridge needs serious refurbishment with attractive paint colours.
  • The ticket office and shop are both well used. Many people will queue in the booking office rather than battle with awkward ticket vending machines that can never deliver the ticket and information services provided by the station’s excellent staff. Not everyone wants to depend on a mobile phone.

More platforms and future use of 1855 building?

The original 1855 station is part of the Eureka! estate but seems to be little used. It was rejected in early iterations of the Gateway scheme. A strength of the Gateway project was provision for possible future reinstatement of Platform 3, alongside the 1855 building.

Why stop at Platform 3? If mass transit eventually reaches Halifax, or more complex service patterns develop in a future where public, not private, transport is the norm, why not Platform 4 as well? Future plans must respect that possibility.

Community rail at Halifax

If you have seen posters at Halifax station featuring Calderdale scenes and Anne Lister they are down to students at Calderdale College. The college and Northern have developed a station adoption arrangement, involving young people in support for the station. HADRAG enthusiastically supports this.

  • Now that the station is going to stay as it is for the time being, could the posters be more permanent?
  • Community rail groups and the Calder Valley Community Rail Partnership should be involved in developing an action plan for the station.

Conclusion: There is much that can be done and must be done to improve Halifax station for rail passengers and the local community. This cannot wait 5 years or more for a grand scheme to attract funding. A step-by-step process must be considered. – JSW

HADRAG Responds

Integrated Rail Plan: Select Committee Call for Evidence
Northern and TPE Dec’22/May’23 timetable plans
Halifax Station Gateway

LINKS above will take you to HADRAG responses to recent consultations[1]. It was a busy winter. The Integrated Rail Plan proposed a high speed line from Warrington to Marsden, after which “Northern Powerhouse Rail” would be conventional 3-track, 4-track and a final 8 miles of just 2 tracks Dewsbury-Leeds. We say we will support NPR if it benefits our area. So how about extending the line from Marsden in a tunnel to Bradford? A station at Elland could serve Calderdale, linking with local trains, buses and mass transit. We say more important and more urgent than high speed rail is improving our existing Calder Valley line service, getting trains across Manchester, and getting the line electrified

Other consultations have included the December 2022 and May’23 timetables, following the Manchester Recovery Task Force reports. We have repeated our concern that the idea of a service from Bradford, Calderdale and Rochdale to Manchester seems to be indefinitely shelved. Yet this was a central promise when Manchester’s “Northern Hub” was first put forward. The Ordsall chord line, opened to a limited Calder Valley service in 2017 now has just one TransPennineExpress (TPE) train every hour. Which looks like a fixed pattern until “Castlefield corridor” capacity through Oxford Road on the way to Piccadilly is improved.

It’s not just that we all want to get to the Airport, a dodgy objective in world that must, to secure a civilised future, transition to zero-carbon. But Calder Valley passengers need better access to the south side of Manchester city for work, higher education, health services, history and culture, the arts, and sports attractions, as well as onward regional and inter-city connections.

As an interim measure we have suggested extension of the Manchester Piccadilly-Huddersfield stopping service to Bradford via Brighouse, benefiting lower rather than upper Calderdale, but providing useful regional links. It would also provide a useful service from stations such as Greenfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite to Calderdale and Bradford for commuting and outdoor leisure.

We have repeated our concerns about the Calder Valley service pattern, not least trains that miss out places like Sowerby Bridge and as well as the need for a better service via Brighouse and Elland.

Halifax station gateway plans should now move towards local planning approval. We have written a generally supportive response to the second consultation. The new building and foot (& cycle?) bridge will transform of the whole area. We have expressed concern at a decision to put the ticket office on the ground floor, OK for people arriving by car but useless for those accessing on foot via the new bridge. We say ticket offices will still be needed in the future and putting them out of the way of half the passengers is unhelpful. Just an idea, but how about combining ticket issuing with general retailing? This has been done stations such as Southport and Liverpool Central for years.             Train operator Northern told us they want the ticket office downstairs so that staff can keep an eye on people going into the toilets.         Understandable. But you couldn’t make it up, could you?

[1] Postal members of HADRAG will be sent paper copies.

Response to Halifax Gateway Plans

HADRAG has welcomed the latest stage of plans for Halifax station. A pedestrian footbridge will give level access to and from to town. A new concourse building on two levels will provide a much more spacious waiting area for passengers. Concerns include need for more lifts, and perhaps a better ticket office. We also highlighted needs for climate awareness and green design. There will be a further  consultation later this year. Meanwhile here is an edited version of our February response.


The latest plan includes the following essential features, greatly improved on earlier iterations:

(a) Level pedestrian bridge between concourse at ticket hall level and town centre will be a massive improvement on the present congested approach bridge, and will mean pedestrians and cyclists will continue to have level access.

(a)            potentially much better café and retailing facilities.

(b)           potential for community rail development e.g. work by local students, artists, poets and performers, heritage displays, space for community events. Diverse and inclusive. We ask:

  • How about developing links with the varied and fascinating history of local transport? Part of the “future development” retail areas on the ground floor could be a “pop-up” exhibition area or mini-museum. (Perhaps it could even be a “taster” installation for the nearby Calderdale Industrial Museum.)
  • Could a community room be provided for meetings and events?
  • We would like to see encouragement of a station adoption “Friends” group to develop the station’s role in the community, working alongside the station operator and the proposed Calder Valley Line Community Rail Partnership.

(c)            Wider access links – very good, particularly for walking and cycling with links to the Hebble Trail as well as town. Indeed the station will become a hub linking the Hebble valley and town centre.

(d)           Bus stops: whilst the bus stops in are not as close to the station entrance as we might have liked, this must will be turned into an opportunity:

  • We hope bus operators will be persuaded to serve the new stops providing interchange from the train station to all parts of Halifax.
  • We welcome the long-needed provision for rail replacement buses to pick up immediately outside the station entrance.
  • Whilst the nearest stops for main buses will be in Alfred St East, Horton Street and Church Street, we hope the station entrance by the drop-off point might become a terminus for a round-Halifax local minibus service linking train and bus stations, shopping and leisure areas close to town as well as Dean Clough business area, and visitor attractions such as Bankfield Museum and Shibden Hall. The design must allow for this.

(e)            Improved car parking. Whilst people understandably continue to demand “park and ride” at rail stations, sustainable access to the station must be encouraged. We note that Eureka pay-parking will be available in addition to the parking specified by the railway. Electric vehicle charging is mentioned, and we hope most if not all parking spots will have EV charging points nearby.

Concerns and suggestions

(b)    Ticket office/travel centre/information: as with many modern stations, proposed ticket windows look to be direct onto the concourse, potentially causing difficulty because of noise or other distractions. Would a walk-in ticket office more like the one in the present station building would be better? – a travel centre providing a wide variety of information on journey options and local facilities. It is assumed that ticket vending machines would be located at several points about the concourse. We hope information screens, at various points around the concourse will show local bus and other information as well as train times.

(c)     Access to platforms (existing footbridge and single lift). We hope this will not be a step from bright modern newness into an old building looking down-at-heel. Work will be needed to keep the heritage buildings around the island  platform at their best. Concern that there will still only be a single lift (the existing one) down to the platforms needs to be logged as a priority for future investment though we appreciate there is no simple solution.

(d)    We understand here may be some changes on the platform to help reduce passenger congestion. We hope these will include features to encourage waiting passengers to move away from the narrowest part next to the waiting room. Assuming new modern toilets in the concourse building will allow the present unsatisfactory single unit, could this make space for an exit from the waiting room at its south end, accessing the widest covered part of the platform area? There needs to be liaison with and between Network Rail and the train company about where trains stop along the length of the platforms and how this affect passenger movement and efficient boarding and alighting.


Final big positive: Town footbridge concept – the consultants have given three examples of iconic designs reflecting local heritage in a modern way. It’s a concept worth supporting. We say the gateway must make a big mark. It must be visible from a distance – for example from the Southowram hillside as well as lower parts of the town – and attract people towards the station. Seating should be provided on the bridge, alongside art and heritage displays reflecting the history and diversity of our community. – JSW