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.
We’re hoping that the city region’s transport strategy could encourage development of the rail corridor through Brighouse and Elland.
The following from HADRAG’s newsletter Halifax & District RAIL VIEWS, Autumn issue (October 2016):
<< Public consultation on West Yorkshire’s 20-year Transport Strategy closed earlier this Autumn. Coordinated by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) and involving district authorities and the wider Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership, the strategy is written at a “high level” which means there is little detail of specific schemes, but that did not stop HADRAG calling for development of the Elland-Brighouse rail corridor, not just for a proposed city-region metro system but also for faster journeys between Calderdale, Huddersfield, Leeds and beyond.
With a cross-cutting theme of environmental health, wellbeing and inclusion, the five core themes of the Strategy are:
- Road network — for efficient movement balancing needs of different users.
- Places to live and work — making cities, towns and neighbourhoods more attractive.
- One System Public Transport — transformational, connecting different modes.
- Smart futures — using technology to better plan, manage and improve user experience of transport.
- Asset management and resilience — involving best use of existing/future transport assets, fitness for future, sustainable, environmentally friendly and cost effective.
Centrepiece of the One System theme is a multimodal mass-transit network encompassing Halifax, Huddersfield, Barnsley, Wakefield, Selby, York, Harrogate, Ilkley and Skipton. “Heavy rail” is the core solution here and specifically emphasised for the Leeds-Bradford-Halifax-Huddersfield/Dewsbury-Leeds corridors. Use could also be made of “tram-train”, light rail or bus rapid-transit. Transfer of some rail routes to tram-train, using both existing train lines and new town and city alignments is seen as a possible means of providing the capacity for rail growth around Leeds station. Part of the idea maybe that if certain services (say from the Harrogate Line) could run tram-style into the city this would release heavy-rail capacity for more services going into or through the main station. Some campaigners may have mixed feelings here.
The first broad policy under the One System theme is to enhance the rail network as the core of an integrated ‘metro-style’ public transport system. Chiming with Rail North objectives, the aim is “to replicate across the city region the quality of rail travel (capacity, frequency, journey times, quality) currently enjoyed by customers using services between Leeds, Bradford Forster Square, Skipton and Ilkley”. These are of course the electrified Airedale and Wharfedale Lines.
And, talking of electrification, West Yorkshire will also press the case with the rail industry for a rolling programme of electrification building on the Trans-Pennine (Huddersfield Line) scheme and prioritising the Calder Valley and Harrogate lines. Still under the general heading of rail network enhancement, the policy promises “solutions to improve connectivity for strategic growth areas”, including Leeds-Bradford airport. New stations mentioned include Elland (as well as Thorpe Park in eastern Leeds).
The hope is that more local trains will be cross-city, continuing through rather than terminating at Leeds. This is seen as more efficient, enabling longer-term growth. Leeds train station will become the Yorkshire Hub (as in a sense it is already) linked to high-speed (HS2) platforms expected in the mid-2030s. The aim, indeed, is to be “high speed ready”, which we take to mean connecting regional links in place before HS2 arrives. (HS2 does seem likely to go ahead!)
On “HS3”, or Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the Strategy calls for a Leeds-Manchester route with an intermediate hub in West Yorkshire. This is now thought likely to be in Bradford, causing us to speculate about routes and links with existing railways including most obviously the Calder Valley Line. Expect more on this from Transport for the North soon.
Remember, the NPR aim, in about 20 years time, is a 30 minute journey Leeds-Manchester. So let’s hope it’s not still 35 minutes Halifax-Leeds! >>