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

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

Halifax Railway Station plans: last chance to comment – for now

UPDATE 14 February 2021. Consultation on latest plans for Halifax railway station closes today. So you might just have time to do the online survey! (Halifax Railway Station | Your Voice (westyorks-ca.gov.uk)) Highly positive plans for a new gateway building with enlarged concourse and better have been influenced in part by HADRAG. We rate the scheme very good but have some points that need improving. See our earlier notes further down this post and our response just sent in to the consultations HERE. More detailed plans are due this summer with a further chance to comment. We are expecting more detail on how the new concourse building will link up with the station’s “island” platforms 1 & 2. We understand there could be minor changes on the platforms to help passenger circulation.

Some notes from HADRAG while you review the proposals

HADRAG supports the overall proposals for Halifax station’s new entrance building that will link to the existing platforms whilst retaining the possibility of a third platform in the future. There are details that we want to make sure the planners get right. You can have your say in a current consultation until 14 February. Please join us in supporting the scheme whilst putting forward ideas to make it even better. Here are some points to think about:

  • Much as it would be nice to re-use the 1851 building, it appears too narrow to hold the modern facilities needed.
  • We believe the layout and plan is future-proofed, allowing for further development, including the option of a new ‘platform 3’, which could give amore operational flexibility in the long term as well as more space for passengers.
  • Importance of the pedestrian bridge access on the level, between station concourse and town – iconic designs are suggested! Support active travel is proposed by the reinstated underpass and refurbished ramped pathways (cycle and pedestrian) to Berry Lane, Waterside and the Hebble Trail, as well as at the front of the station.
  • Bus stops are some distance away, and earlier versions of the scheme proposed a mini-bus station at car park level. At least the pedestrian bridge provides reasonably direct access, albeit with a road crossing. The scheme does include space for rail replacement buses to access when needed – alongside taxi and disabled parking right next to the station entrance – and that will be a massive improvement. 
  • Could a high-quality minibus service linking town centre, train and bus stations, Dean Clough and attractions (e.g. Shibden Hall, Bankfield Museum) start from the station entrance? This, of course, would be a separate development.
  • We’d suggest a possible improvement to the ticket office, which is shown, as in many modern stations, with the counter opening directly onto the concourse. Maybe a more enclosed design, more of a walk-in travel shop, that would be quieter for people negotiating complex transactions?
  • Access between ticket hall and ground level. Only one public lift is proposed. The illustrations show a proposed goods lift in the staff area: could this be re-located and made suitable for public use? An alternative would be ramped access but that would be a major additional structure.
  • Access to platforms. We don’t think the present plans involve any significant changes to the island platform but access should improve at least cosmetically.


Parking Question

A couple of things stark-staringly obvious about Halifax station approach: you can’t park after 06.30 in the morning; and whenever a big train arrives there is a veritable chaos of cars, taxis, pedestrians and the occasional two-wheeler, with vehicles trying to get in to pick up while others are leaving. Pedestrian provision is limited to a footway on one side only, leading to highway-code defying behaviour. A sensible idea would take parking off the bridge, leaving more room for pedestrians (and perhaps taxis and drop-off). Many would say transformed access arrangements should at least double the current amount of rail users’ parking, perhaps with a 2-level car park. But do we really want to encourage more and more people to access Halifax station by car increasing road congestion at the bottom of town? Might it be better to develop best possible access for pedestrians, buses, cycles, disabled and pick-up/drop-off whilst developing neighbouring stations such as Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse for park and ride? Both would require enlarged car parks, and improved train services to match. Just a thought !

What, no gates?

Northern were to install automatic ticket gates at Halifax by the end of March.

Shelving for a moment the question of whether or not passengers actually want these awkward barriers, there are franchise targets to meet which seem to mean gating as many stations as possible. Oh, but hang on, it’s now April and no Halifax gates. They’re going in somewhere else first (possibly Skipton, we heard). Apparently there is concern over increased loading on Halifax’s 19th century footbridge when large crowds are queuing to get through. So Halifax gates are postponed (just postponed).

Our station is pretty congested now and could see more massive crowds in future, when, for example, there are big events at the Piece Hall. It’s obvious gates mean delays and queues, inconvenience for people with disabilities, and potential mishaps as people juggle tickets, bags, small children, dogs and cartons of hot drink. But if structural strength of the footbridge is an issue could that be a game changer? Maintenance on the road approach bridge is on hold pending a decision on whether it goes or stays. Currently a weight limit prevents large buses getting near the station entrance. One view says pull the lot down, build a new station building at ground level, have level access to a regenerated Platform 3 and a subway to the island platform utilising space underneath the arches. Some of us (maybe including some rail professionals) wonder if the subway idea is feasible. So maybe what’s needed is a new bridge. Or bridges.

Gateway plan could put station at heart of town. But what’s best for rail users?

UPDATE March 2017. HADRAG hopes to make Halifax station plans a central topic at this year’s Annual General Meeting, being planned for Saturday 13th May in Halifax. We should have a presentation from Calderdale council officers, and we are also inviting West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Northern train operator. Watch out for details of time and venue.  Meanwhile here are some points to ponder (just slightly expanded) from our newsletter earlier this year:

HALIFAX station is a mixture of old and new that somehow works. Could it work better? The road approach bridge that once spanned a railway goods yards now separates car-parking from play area on the Eureka childrens’ museum site. It’s a good level access for pedestrians between town and the modern station entrance. Rail users’ car-parking is demonstrably inadequate, and competes with taxis and drop-off/pick-up for space. Viewed from ground level the bridge may be seen as a historical feature that tells a story — or as a barrier between the Eureka site and town-centre attractions. We’ve heard it called an eyesore. With a jocular twinkle in the eye, one HADRAG committee member recently dubbed it a “cast iron leviathan”. Arriving train passengers come out of the entrance and take in a true panorama of notable and some truly great structures—India Buildings, the Imperial Crown Hotel, Square Chapel and the Piece Hall both nearing transformed rebirth, the new Library, Industrial Museum, Halifax Minster.

But the existing bridge funnels people towards Horton Street, dreaded approach that fails to show our great town at its best.

Plans linked to town centre development should move rail-users’ parking to ground level and hopefully create a bus mini-interchange. Beyond that a masterplan hints at what might be done with the approach bridge removed to create an open “station gardens” with pedestrian as well as bus and car links radiating towards the wider attractions. A low-level station entrance could work well with restoration of Platform 3. A third platform would give more space for growing crowds of passengers. But the railway authorities seem to have been at best lukewarm towards the idea. The wider masterplan is truly transformational, potentially linking town and station with a regenerated area around the Nestlé site east of the railway.

The regenerated Piece Hall has potential to attract thousands of visitors to events and many of these could arrive by train. So station access must be adequate to deal with crowds potentially even larger than those of today’s commuters who fill the island platform.

Rail users’ needs foremost, HADRAG is committed to campaigning for retention of level pedestrian access between the bottom of Horton St and the footbridge that leads to platforms. (There is perhaps a small assumption here that the footbridge itself is adequate for future needs.) But does that have to mean keeping the existing road approach bridge? How about a new iconic pedestrian bridge linking to a station with both high and low level entrances. What we do not want to see is the station made less convenient for the large number of existing local train users who access the station on foot via the present bridge.  We are actively engaging with Calderdale council officers and elected members to get the best solution for train users whilst putting the station at the heart of our town.  —JSW


Adoption Group Wanted for Halifax Station

Northern’s franchise agreement requires them to develop community links. Former individual station adopters have been “let go” in favour of encouraging group adoption. This has caused some unhappiness with the former adopters who used to play a regular voluntary role reporting faults and issues. Moving on, however, Northern is understood to have a budget to work with local groups who would take initiatives to make their stations more attractive. Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd undoubtedly show the way for others, involving local businesses in providing sponsorship for small projects, drawing in schools and community groups. It all helps to make our stations places where people want to go. And it should not be about volunteers taking on jobs (such as cleaning) that are properly done by rail staff or contractors. So what about Halifax? There may be less scope for gardening at our big-town station but more opportunity for other community-led improvements.

If you think you could help run such a group for Halifax station, we’d like to hear from you!