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

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Timetable booklets are a mess.

Sorry Northern (Arriva Rail North), we support all the good things you are doing and planning to do to improve services, but there’s no polite way to say this. Your new line timetable booklets are a dismally poor substitute for the excellent former Metro booklets. As expected, the train operating company has taken over publication from West Yorkshire Combined authority. There seems little point WYCA expending resources on duplicating a role given to the TOCs. Sadly, however, whilst WYCA/Metro’s single Calder Valley Line booklet showed all trains running on our line between Leeds and Blackpool/Manchester plus the Brighouse line, that information is now spread across three or four separate publications. Booklet 8 shows York-Blackpool services only. Booklet 36 shows Leeds-Todmorden-Manchester services.

New Booklet 45 shows all Northern services Leeds-Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge including Brighouse trains. This is a sensible idea. But there are no times shown for stations outside that area, through trains to York, Blackpool and Manchester being indicated only by footnotes with no indication of journey time or intermediate stops such as Rochdale or Blackburn. It’s good to see that Grand Central services are shown. But TPExpress trains on the Huddersfield Line are left out which means there is no timetable booklet showing the complete train service between Leeds and Huddersfield. Surely ridiculous. It’s doubly strange because we were told TPE and Northern would be cooperating, and because Northern’s Wakefield Line booklet (42) also shows East Coast and Cross Country trains. We’d actually like timetables that show all trains on a given route. A separate mini-timetable (44) shows Blackburn-Man Vic “Tod Curve” trains—one of three separate booklets needed to find all trains between the Lancashire towns of Accrington and Blackburn!  The  new format also means full-line posters are no longer displayed on West Yorkshire stations. And at the start of the new timetable Halifax station had only been supplied with local line booklets, not other WY routes. “MetroTrain” timetables served the county’s rail users well for over 40 years and were also available as an all-county book. What we have now is a confusing mess. We hope it can be sorted out for the May timetable change. It’s in our New Year message to Northern!

WYCA Also Wants More!

The new Northern franchise is indeed transformational. But we aren’t the only ones saying even more is needed to meet potential travel needs. West Yorkshire Combined Authority oversees the Metro brand in the county. At a recent  transport committee meeting, a report from officials highlighted gaps and areas for improvement, some of them close to HADRAG’s heart. “Adjustments” and smaller changes for discussion with Northern include:

  • Moving to 2 trains/hr at Low Moor
  • Sunday trains Leeds-Dewsbury-Brighouse-Manchester (one of two routes in the city region without a Sunday service);
  • Earlier Sunday trains Hebden Bridge/Brighouse to Leeds.
  • Possibility of starting the Bradford-Manchester Airport service before 2019 (it is actually to start 2017 on Sundays)…

And classed as “enhancements”:

  • WYCA goal of 4 trains/hour between Bradford and Manchester…
  • …with restoration of link between local stations like Walsden and Bradford. We could support that!

A separate report sets out a rail narrative for West Yorkshire. Elland tops the list of new stations listing benefits of connectivity, modal shift, network access and park & ride.

 

One System Public Transport could yield benefits for Brighouse-Elland corridor

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! >>

 

Farewell, faithful timetable!

Under the new Northern franchise responsibility for producing timetable booklets “passes to the franchisee”. So, from this December timetable, the familiar West Yorkshire Metro A6-size booklets for “Calder Valley Line” and other routes will be replaced by Northern booklets. The all-county combined volume will, we understand, be no more. Avoiding duplication is one thing. But we say Northern needs to improve significantly on its current booklets. At present the company shows York-Blackpool and Leeds-Manchester trains in separate tables, and some local Northern trains on our line are not shown in any Northern booklet at all—that includes  more than half the trains serving Brighouse! Metro officers at West Yorkshire Combined Authority have been working with Northern “to ensure local rail passenger needs are maintained”. The booklet for any route must surely include all operators’ services, meaning Grand Central and the rest as well as Northern itself. We have expressed our concerns with both Northern and WYCA, and await the new booklets with nervous interest. The all-county timetable will be greatly missed by those who travel widely about West Yorkshire. We might even be prepared to pay a cover price for a wider regional volume. How about it?