Better timetable for our line?

There remains the former franchise promise of a service from Bradford to Manchester Oxford Rd, Piccadilly and the airport. Responding to the MRRTF report, we asked for this to be included in the recast expected next year. We showed how the Calder Valley line to Bradford serves a similar population to the Bolton line to Preston, but has a much less well-connected service. Demanding a new link when other routes in the area are having to accept cuts is a big ask, but we ask for a fair approach, saying Calder Valley and TransPennine Express could both have an hourly path round the “Ordsall Chord” to Castlefield, with connections at Man Vic – see our diagram (times are illustrative only). We also say that is that if there is to be a wider recast of the timetable next year the opportunity must be taken to deal with the faults in the present Calder Valley
service pattern. Fast trains timed to go slow following freight trains. Missing late night stops for Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd. And no Manchester trains at Mytholmroyd on Sundays. We need more trains to stop at Sowerby Bridge including the York-Blackpools. And a better service on the Brighouse/Elland line – including more trains going up the valley on Sundays for leisure trips. Keeping up the struggle – JSW

Performance and Infrastructure Worries

The next November 2015 downpour is about to start as the Manchester-Leeds train heads towards Mytholmroyd. Recent weather, rail conditions, floods and landslips played havoc with our service recently, not helped by a timetable that is barely fit for purpose. Our trains have miniscule turn-round times at Manchester and Leeds so if a train is delayed going one way it has little chance of setting off back on time. Arriva say they have tough targets and will design a robust timetable. But not even German efficiency can instantly improve the British weather in a grimly changing climate.

Our line needs infrastructure upgrades to cope with more trains including freight. The scene in the picture was once four-track, a place where fast trains could pass slower ones. Before restoration of loops is even considered Network Rail has to complete linespeed and capacity improvements all the way from Manchester to Bradford. These improvements are needed to support the faster and more frequent service planned by 2019. The DfT has promised us that work will start on the ground in January 2016. But this is the “west” work around Rochdale. The Hendy Review of Network Rail projects is now out, but it is still unclear whether Hebden Bridge-Bradford capacity and linespeed, and capacity improvements at Bradford will be sorted by the end of “CP5”, the 2014-19 control period. It is also rumoured that construction of extra through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly – on the route to be used by our Manchester Airport services – will be delayed into CP6 (2019-24).

The works at our end of the CVL are vital if the franchise is to deliver what is promised. We hope to have a further update in our next newsletter.