Let’s prioritise Calder Valley enhancement and electrification!

THE Manchester Rail Recovery Task Force (MRRTF) has consulted on tactical options to simplify the timetable through Manchester. The plan is for fewer trains on the Castlefield corridor operating more reliably as passenger levels once again increase – no return to the May 2018 chaos. It’s a plan for the next few years until long-awaited capacity upgrades happen.

Meanwhile West Yorkshire combined authority published its long-term connectivity strategy including radical mass transit proposals and a long-term rail vision.

To all these consultations we say: after the pandemic, railways must repurpose to flourish. People want to travel. City life and city travel will revive. But less commuting and business travel should be an opportunity for public transport to meet an ever-widening range of needs supporting the diversity of human development. Modal transfer to zero-carbon rail, bus and mass-transit will reduce congestion, improve health, [next pageà   à and combat climate crisis. This is what we mean by transport for wellbeing, more relevant to an ever-growing community of passengers making healthy, stress-reducing and green choices for work and leisure.

Our response to the West Yorkshire plan is copied to the new mayor, Tracy Brabin. HADRAG’s priority is improvement to the service on the Calder Valley Line, including decarbonisation through electrification and capacity improvements, delivering benefits in the next 5-10 years. We welcome WYCA’s continuing commitment to “Northern Sparks” – Calder Valley first! – and say:

  • There is an urgent need for structural improvement of the Calder Valley line timetable, and for the new station at Elland. We call for development of new train services over existing routes – for example direct from East Lancs/Calderdale/Kirklees to York via Wakefield and Castleford. Beyond existing lines a reopened Horbury-Crigglestone curve could provide a new semifast service north-south Bradford/Calderdale/north Kirklees-Barnsley-Sheffield.
  • We strongly welcome the mass-transit proposals as a key aspect of a transport-for-wellbeing package extending to Halifax, Elland and Brighouse.
  • If Northern Powerhouse Rail proceeds it must directly benefit communities through which it passes. So we want not only a genuinely central Bradford station, but also NPR stations in Calderdale and Rochdale districts linking with the Calder Valley Line, local buses and active travel routes. But long-term high speed rail projects must not divert resources from improvements to our present rail network that are achievable much sooner. Surely a high-speed line based primarily on city-travel is very pre-Covid thinking.

We welcome proposals in the “by 2025” programme for a passing loop near Hebden Bridge. Track capacity enhancements at Halifax are in longer term options. We ask for these to be brought forward.


Explainer: Mass Transit

So what is mass transit? West Yorkshire’s “Mass Transit Vision 2040”offers four candidate technologies:

Advance bus rapid transit – on street or segregated, rubber tyres on road, 30-50 seats/vehicle, potentially battery or hydrogen powered (remember Harrogate already has battery-electric buses)

Light rail/tram – on streets or segregated, steel wheel on steel rail, 50-80 seats/vehicle, can be discontinuous electrification with batteries. Try it in Manchester or Blackpool.

Tram-train – tram that also shares tracks with big trains. Working in Karlsruhe since 1992, Sheffield-Rotherham since 2018.

Ultra-light rail – mini-tram, 20-30 seats, Coventry system under development.

Solutions selected may vary across the county according to local geography, traffic density, and cost. On present thinking, all vehicles at full capacity could take at least as many people standing as seated – what price social distancing?

Header Image: Florian Fèvre, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Queensbury Lines for Mass Transit?

West Yorkshire’s ambitious 2040 mass-transit vision shows a potential route from Bradford through Queensbury, Illingworth, Ovenden to Halifax, Calderdale Hospital, Elland, Brighouse and back to Bradford via Chain Bar. Interchanges with rail are suggested at Halifax, Elland, Brighouse and Low Moor. An obvious question is could we see trams running through a reopened Queensbury Tunnel and down through Holmfield along the former Great Northern Railway track bed? The initial proposal for reopening the tunnel is a greenway for cycling and walking, linking with the Great Northern Trail. We must surely support such active travel alternatives encouraging healthy as well as zero- carbon commuting and leisure. At the same time there’s an intriguing possibility of using the GNR line whether for some form of tram or advanced, bus down to Dean Clough and on to Halifax train station. Mass transit could be 20 years away so much could change.

Header Image: “Holmfield Station” flickr photo by Alan Burnett https://flickr.com/photos/alanburnett/49813617448 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license