How do you specify future transport provision when it is not clear what the future will be? A recent blogpost by Transport for the North got us thinking (Benefits of a ‘decide and provide’ approach to transport planning | Insight -Transport for the North). Can uncertainty be turned into an opprtunity to shape what happens instead of trying to predict? Traditionally predictions based on trends drove provision – predict and provide. Put crudely, that could mean “more people are using cars, let’s build more roads”. An alternative says decide and provide. What sort of future do we want in a better world after Covid? Needs will be different and unpredictable. But everyone will still want to travel. So how about setting out a zero-carbon, low congestion, healthy, sociable transport system, based on active travel and good public transport? You’d still have to win people over to the idea – including car users who are understandably hesitant.
Transport for the North, soon to become the first statutory subnational transport body, has published its draft Strategic Transport Plan. Rail North, the body of local/combined authorities that in partnership with the Department for Transport oversees the Northern and TransPennine Express train franchises, will become part of TfN. TfN looks to the long term, well beyond the nine-year horizon of the present Northern train franchise. The strategic plan can be found as a hefty collection of on-line material on the Transport for the North website and includes an update of the Long Term Rail Strategy.
All of which will take us some time to digest – but not take too long as the whole thing is out for consultation and responses must be in by 17th April. You are encouraged to attend consultation events, in various venues, including one looming in Halifax as we write this. See panel.
The emphasis seems to be on strategic links between cities as a means of driving economic growth. All transport modes are covered — road and rail, passenger and freight. It’s no surprise that a central proposal is high speed rail linking Liverpool with Hull and Newcastle with a new cross-Pennine line aiming to get the journey between Manchester and Leeds city centres down to 30 minutes. This is Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR — aka HS3, Crossrail of the North etc). The favoured route for the new line would include a station in the city of Bradford, probably in the centre. We can speculate about the precise route, but much tunnelling is inevitable, on a truly alpine scale. The timescale is unclear but may go some way beyond the projected 2033 completion date for HS2, the high speed line from London to Leeds and Manchester.
For campaigners on the Calder Valley Line it is perhaps difficult to see how the benefits will trickle down to our line. Whatever is built in 15, 20, 25 years time we are surely right to be primarily concerned with shorter term but nonetheless strategic developments that can yield benefits for regular train passengers in a timescale we can see the end of. We want to get people off congested, polluted roads onto free flowing, clean and sustainable railways. With our environmental perspective it is not just about getting into the city centre, or getting between them, as quickly as possible but about making rail the natural mode for more and more people for more and more purposes — social and leisure, personal development, education—not just business and work. Surely its about the quality of everyone’s lives.
But if HS3, sorry NPR, comes through Bradford the intriguing possibility is whether, and how, it might be linked with the “classic” Calder Valley Line. Trains on NPR could get from Bradford to Leeds in maybe 6 or 7 minutes. What if a junction were built in Bradford linking the new line with our line and also Airedale/Wharfedale? Calder Valley trains could run fast Bradford-Leeds cutting the journey time from Halifax to Leeds from 35 minutes or more today to maybe less than 20. And trains from Ilkley or Keighley could run on the high speed line to Manchester. Are we dreaming? Or is this something for which we can realistically campaign? —JSW
Consultation events on the STP are drop-in events open to everyone but if possible you are asked to register your details on the TfN website . Events have already been held in Halifax and Bradford. The Halifax one was led by TfN’s strategy director Jonathan Spruce and started with a presentation lasting about half an hour, followed by a good hour’s open and informal discussion. Several HADRAG members were present and raised issues including the need for a stronger environmental focus combatting climate change, linking NPR (HS3) with the Calder Valley Line, and the importance of smaller local stations.
The session format includes a repeat of the opening presentation at the end. So you don’t need to be there for the full three hours. Next event is:
- Leeds – Monday, 5 March at The Tetley, Hunslet Rd, LS10 1JQ, 1600-1900.