Station parking debate

Brighouse station “park & ride”. Most of the cars are there all day — no chance if you set off late. Does every car belong to a rail user?

Hebden Bridge station will soon get 50 per cent more car parking, going up to 127 standard + 4 blue badge bays. Mytholmroyd, currently with no official park & ride, shouldn’t be far behind with an ambitious build, still subject to Network Rail approval, to create 195 + 8 spaces. Mytholmroyd will take £3M from £32.5M of WY+ Transport Fund money allocated to West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s initial programme of a dozen stations across the county due to be complete by 2019.

Sowerby Bridge had its car park doubled in size about five years ago, but now on weekdays its 105 or so spaces are nearly all taken by 07.30. Brighouse has a bigger problem with just 64 spaces. Calderdale Council’s transport working group (on which HADRAG’s Chair is a coopted member) discusses station parking and there’s local pressure on West Yorkshire Combined Authority to include more of our stations in future plans. Land could be available at Sowerby Bridge. Brighouse is more difficult. The former dairy site next to the station was sold off commercially by its private owners and is now an office development: in effect WYCA (Metro) was outbid. Future station car parks could be two or more storeys. That would reduce land-take but could be disruptive to build over the existing facility. At Brighouse another issue has been non-passengers parking in the station car park to walk into town, not noticing “rail users only” signs. Station car parks are run by the train companies or their contractors. We have heard of genuine rail users being fined for parking outside the marked bays (perhaps in frustration), but it would seem non-passengers abusing the facility are a more difficult nut to crack.

So what do you do if you want to park at the station and use the train, say mid-morning, but find the car-park full? Many would-be rail users will simply not bother and complete the journey by car. A lot of us have done just that. And it does seem unfair that station parking is effectively unavailable for work, business and leisure travellers setting off later in the day. Most Northern Rail car parks in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester are free, whilst in other parts of the country – though not all! – charging is the norm. Should West Yorkshire drop its policy of having free train station parking? That would surely cause resentment. Would it not lead some commuters, already jaded by overcrowded trains, to drive to work?

HADRAG’s friend Steven Leigh of Mid-Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce is also a coopted member of Calderdale’s transport working group. Steven has suggested stations might have more than one category of parking, maybe with some restricted-time (but free) spaces and maybe some at premium rate for people who want to travel later in the day. Steven emphasises it’s just an idea. But what if a train ticket plus premium parking ticket is more than you are prepared to spend? And if travelling on business you might be just as prepared to pay for a taxi to the station. It’s a real conundrum and no doubt the debate will continue. What do our readers think?

At Halifax, 30-odd spaces, regularly filled before 07.00, are to be moved off the station bridge to ground level as part of town centre Eastern Gateway plans. The plans also include a public car park on two levels. So whilst there may not, at least initially, be a lot more free parking for rail users, there will at least be pay-to-park spaces, well connected to a transformed station and providing those “premium” spaces for train users setting off later.

Final point. Taking Sowerby Bridge as an example, the station has an annual footfall (passenger entries & exits) of 392000 (ORR, 2015-16). So that’s roundly 1100 per day or the equivalent of 550 return trips, more than five times the station car park capacity. Applying a similar calculation elsewhere you see that most local station users don’t actually park at the station. They may walk, take the bus, cycle or be dropped off by friends/relatives/partners. Shouldn’t we encourage more of this? How many who park at the station before 0700 live walkably close? Maybe a few — and maybe they have good reasons, like getting up at 0530 to get the train when every minute seems to count in busy lives. Park & ride is a significant part of the mix and we need to keep pressing for more.

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Summer update: Part 2 – Elland station good news. Ambitious transport hub is another reason to upgrade Brighouse Line timetable!

 

Low Moor 153 edited
Huddersfield-York Sunday train calls at Low Moor station on the recent new station’s first day. In not too many years time this train should also serve Elland. Time for an update on this summer’s good news:

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…

Elland map

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

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 !