Network Rail has done a second consultation on the Huddersfield-Dewsbury 4-track plan prior to a Transport and Works Act application as part of the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU). The scheme, which includes grade separation (flyover/under) at Ravensthorpe, links with the Brighouse line at Mirfield and Bradley; it will increase capacity and reduce junction conflicts.
HADRAG’s response is a simple message: that this work has to be done without further delay, and without waiting for an inquiry into how it might interact with high speed proposals that could still be decades away. Whether city-connecting Northern Powerhouse Rail goes ahead or not, we need present lines upgrading to enable better services not least on Calderdale’s Elland-Brighouse corridor towards Huddersfield, Wakefield and Leeds. Surely rail in the post-Covid world trains must serve communities even if city-based work is history?
HADRAG welcomes this summer’s major step forward in planning Elland station as an ambitious transport hub, and calls for the Northern train operator to rise to the challenge of upgrading train services on the line. We say with a decent timetable Elland-Leeds by train could take just over 20 minutes.MORE BELOW…
In June the combined authority’s West Yorkshire and York investment committee recommended allocation of up to £22million from the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund (WY+TF) to an ambitious project that should make the new station at Elland a local transport hub, with pedestrian, bus, park & ride and cycle links, by 2022.
This is a major step forward for Elland, the town that has been waiting for its own railway station since Brighouse opened 17 years ago. The scheme will now move forward towards the next hurdle, outline business case, which should be completed by the end of next year. By then the project will have achieved what Network Rail calls “GRIP 4” – single option development, with detailed design (GRIP 5) following over the next two years.
The £22M (which includes allowance for 20% overrun in delivery costs) buys considerably more than just a simple train station. The key elements of the ambitious project are:
The new station itself, located at Lowfields Way. This would be next to the big “figure of eight” roundabout off the A629 bypass road;
Pedestrian, cycle and public realm improvements to link the new station to Elland town centre as well as to surrounding areas of planned employment and housing growth;
New footbridge over the River Calder. This will link to the Calder Valley Greenway on the canal bank (Route 66). It will also give good links to the station from the north and west where the Local Plan suggests significant housing growth. Current employers in the area could also benefit with opportunities for “intensification” of activity;
New bus infrastructure to enable bus-train interchange at the station, providing sustainable access from a wider catchment area; and
Dedicated station car park and highway access to bring in park & ride to bring in passengers from existing and new housing area around the periphery of the town.
This sounds very much like the sort of local transport hub that HADRAG called for just four years ago after we held our 2013 annual meeting in Elland .
We understand the car park could be built on two levels, and hope bus operators will be persuaded to provide services linking the station and all the surrounding communities. Sustainable commuting and leisure also look to be encouraged by the scheme. We look forward to being able to access the station on foot or with a bike from the canalside “green” route.
The station also has an obvious potential role in hospital transport for staff, patients and visitors. Could shuttle buses linking the two NHS sites at Calderdale (Salterhebble) and Huddersfield (Lindley) be developed to call at Elland station?
In terms of the local community, HADRAG says Elland station, with good park & ride and sustainable transport links should be seen as serving not just Elland itself but also Greetland and Stainland, a total “Greater Elland” population of more than 20,000. As such the station will have a catchment as populous as the areas served by stations like Brighouse or Sowerby Bridge. In fact we reckon any one of Sowerby Bridge, Elland or Brighouse stations potentially serves as big a population as the two main upper Calderdale stations – Todmorden and Hebden Bridge – combined.
Upper valley-Elland-Brighouse rail corridor: we hope for timetable improvements!
But of course Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, along with Halifax, currently have almost double the train service level of either Sowerby Bridge or Brighouse. Sowerby Bridge (and Mytholmroyd) should see some improvement next year with the Blackpool-York trains stopping. We really hope Northern will build on that at the end of 2019 when the next big timetable recast comes. And of course HADRAG continues to argue the case with train operator Northern for a better deal for the Brighouse corridor. In our response to Northern’s timetable plans we have specifically asked for future timetables to include make allowance for all trains that currently stop at Brighouse also to serve Elland. We have also want the Manchester-Rochdale-Brighouse-Leeds “valley bottom service” to run later at night and on Sundays, something that does not, so far, seem to feature in Northern’s plans.
As an ambitious transport hub, Elland station will be another reason to upgrade the timetable. Opening 22 years after neighbouring Brighouse, the new station may still seem frustratingly in the future. But at least by 2022 we hope there may be further timetable improvements. Under the existing service patterns, Elland would be served by hourly trains on the Manchester-Brighouse-Leeds and Huddersfield-Bradford-Leeds routes, effectively an hourly stopping service to key destinations. We have joined our colleagues in the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group in calling for a service from the upper Calder Valley to Huddersfield, meeting commuting, educational and other sources of demand. That would give an additional service along the Sowerby Bridge-Elland-Brighouse corridor. But we also need better services Elland/Brighouse-Leeds.
Potential for fast journey to Leeds
We want Northern, Network Rail and their train planners to rise to the challenge of providing an upgraded timetable for Elland/Brighouse rail corridor. It probably needs some capacity improvements in the Huddersfield and Mirfield area as well as a more ambitious approach by the train operator.
Finally, HADRAG has repeatedly, over may years, pointed out the potential to speed up trains on the direct Brighouse-Dewsbury-Leeds route. At present Brighouse-Leeds takes about 34 minutes, calling at nearly all stations. So that would be 37-38 minutes from Elland. A fast service, with maybe just intermediate stop, would easily cut the Brighouse-Leeds journey to 20 minutes. So stations all the way up the valley would get a Leeds service that could be 10-15 minutes faster than at present. Elland-Leeds could be about 23 minutes.
What could go wrong? One complication is the TransPennine Route Upgrade. This is the project that was meant to include Huddersfield Line electrification, though it sounds increasingly as though it may not. With or without electrification there is likely to be upgrade work to improve capacity that will mean diversions of TransPennine Express via the Calder Valley line while the work is going on. The plan seems to be that this will be completed before Elland opens. Fingers crossed, then. -JSW
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:
As part of the rail investment in the North, Network Rail are investing over £1 billion on targeted upgrades to the rail network, helping to support and grow the regional economy.
The Calder Valley Route Upgrade is part of this investment programme. The route upgrade will deliver faster services and improve connections between key towns and cities across the North.
As part of the upgrade plan, we will be carrying out track and signal upgrades along the Calder Valley route, this will pave the way for faster journeys.
We have already completed the upgrade to signals and track between Manchester Victoria and Littleborough. We are currently working on upgrades between Littleborough and Bradford Interchange.
From 19 March until 15 May 2017 (excluding Easter and Tour de Yorkshire weekends), we will be working weekends to renew and lower track in locations along the route. We’re working closely with train operators to communicate changes to services with passengers and advising passengers to check before you travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk
We understand that our work will also impact on communities (especially people who live and work nearby the railway); we will notify in advance of working, explain what work is planned and when we expect our work to be noisy.
We’re working with businesses, local authorities, media and politicians to make sure the general public know what is happening and when.
We are holding a series of community information sessions about the Calder Valley Route Upgrade; we would like to invite you to attend. Representatives from Network Rail and our contractors will be on hand to answer any questions about this planned work.
Network Rail managers joined members and friends of Halifax & District Rail Action Group at our December open committee meeting at Halifax Town Hall. Vanessa Conway (project sponsor) and Salim Patel (project manager) presented on the Calder Valley Route upgrade, the project that will enable higher line speeds and increased capacity between Bradford and Manchester. Completion is due by Autumn 2018.
Funded by farepayers, taxpayers and property income, and with 35,000 of its own staff, Network Rail is the effectively nationalised agency that owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure — maintaining, renewing, replacing and enhancing. Regulated by ORR, the Office of Rail & Road, it also coordinates and manages the railway timetable between different passenger and freight operators.
Britain’s rail infrastructure comprises 20,000miles of track, 32,000 bridges and tunnels and 8200 commercial properties, along with 2500 stations the operation of which is largely devolved to train operators. Passenger demand nationally grew by 100% over the last 20 years and is expected to double again by 2041 alongside freight growth of 90%. In the North, rail investment is seen as part wider transformation under the Transport for the North banner. Long term, this means “Northern Powerhouse Rail” and a new line across the pennines, but in the meantime smaller schemes like the Calder Valley Line enhancements, radiating from the Manchester-centred “Northern Hub” are essential to get more trains carrying more passengers at higher speed.
West Complete, East Ongoing
The Calder Valley upgrade falls into several parts. Journey time interventions (JTI) involve upgrading track for higher speed at various points between Manchester and Bradford. The boundary between Network Rail “LNE” and “LNW” so-called “routes” – the old regional boundary west of Hebden Bridge is an administrative dividing line. The “West” project ending at Todmorden has been completed over the last year and includes a new west-facing bay platform, now operational, at Rochdale station as well as higher speed limits which are now in place. The Rochdale “turnback” platform will allow trains from the west terminating at Rochdale to layover in the station clear of the main lines increasing capacity and reducing delays for through CVL services. North-west trains that currently terminate at Manchester Victoria station will increasingly come through to Rochdale and to Stalybridge in turn releasing platform capacity at “Vic”. And of course by the end of 2019 most Calder Valley Manchester trains will be running through to/from Chester, Liverpool, Southport or Manchester Airport.
Work has also now started on the “East” interventions from Hebden Bridge to Bradford. HADRAG is seeking further clarification on certain details for example precise linespeed improvements. We understand however that the aim is, by the end of 2018, to increase general line maxima from 60mph (Hebden-Halifax) and 55mph (Halifax-Bradford) to at least the “70” that already rules on the West section. Intermediate speed restrictions, for example at Milner Royd Junction seem likely to remain for the time being though there seems to be a possibility Milner Royd could be remodelled in a future project. It does seem, however that the 30mph restricted approach to Halifax from Shaw Lodge will be improved as part of the current scheme. Works to be carried out include, at various points, track lowering or slewing to improve alignment, work in tunnels, new track and re-railing. “Route hardening” will improve the quality and resilience of track and signals.
Network Rail’s presentation also included the new station at Low Moor (by May’17), and access-for-all works at Hebden Bridge with new lifts and platform level access (by end of 2018).
Signalling and Capacity
Huddersfield to Bradford resignalling is a slight misnomer because in order to deliver Manchester-Bradford capacity improvements the work must extend to Hebden Bridge. Traditional signalboxes at Hebden Bridge, Milner Royd, Halifax and Bradford Mill Lane will become redundant with control transferred to the rail operating centre (ROC) at York. Work starts this March and is in two stages, both to be completed by October 2018. Stage 1 is to bring existing signals around Huddersfield and as far west as Greetland Junction under York ROC. Stage 2 is enhanced signalling of the CVL section from Hebden Bridge through Halifax to Bradford. When this is complete trains will be able to operate at 4 minute headways all the way from Manchester to Bradford. This does not, of course, mean 15 trains an hour! What it does mean is more signals between Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge, and between Halifax and Bradford, reducing delays caused by existing long sections and allowing a significant increase in frequency without compromising punctuality. Currently, for example, a train can not proceed from Halifax to Bradford until the one in front has passed a signal nearly 4 miles ahead at Wyke; the enhancements deal with this.
Linked with the resignalling are two additional crossover tracks to be installed at Bradford to allow up to three simultaneous parallel movements in/out of the Interchange station where, famously, all trains reverse in order to continue their journey.
“East” linespeeds will be raised when the new signalling is ready. All should be done by 20 October 2018. Journey time “fast” Bradford-Manchaester with four intermediate stops should come down from current 58-61 minutes to 53-54 minutes, probably at the end of 2018. This may not seem spectacular and is a bit less ambitious than everyone originally hoped but it is a marketable improvement. The journey time estimate is based on current (Class 158) trains; there’s hope the new CAF trains (Class 195) ordered by Arriva may perform better. More important perhaps are the capacity improvements that will lead to more frequent services, starting with Northern’s commitment under the Arriva franchise to an extra Bradford-Manchester train every daytime hour through to the Airport 7 days a week by the end of 2019. We hope more will follow.
The HADRAG meeting with Network Rail, a public body sometimes criticised for being less than public-facing, was at their initiative.
We are grateful to Network Rail for that, and look forward to developing the relationship in the future.
Network Rail has confirmed projects to enable Calder Valley service improvements are programmed for completion over the next three years:
Calder Valley (West) already started, due for completion by the end of this year — track renewals, bridge strengthening and signalling work for higher line speed and capacity.
Calder Valley (East), on site next March, for commissioning Dec’18 — various track work Hebden Bridge-Bradford for higher line speed. Increased capacity linked to Huddersfield-Bradford resignalling (which we understand goes right up to Hebden Bridge).
Bradford Mill Lane Junction capacity — new crossovers to enable more parallel moves and increased services Halifax- Bradford-Leeds. Also due to be commissioned Dec’18.