London rail link blow: Service will be delayed until May

CALDERDALE'S direct rail link to London has been delayed until May after train firm Grand Central admitted it would not be ready for a December start.

The three high-speed trains that are needed for the route have still not been secured, while staff training is only timetabled to begin in the new year.

The news will come as a blow to rail users who have campaigned for years for an express route to the capital.

Stephen Waring, of Halifax And District Rail Action Group, said: "It's not a massive surprise because projects like this do tend to be delayed. But it's still slightly disappointing.

"I don't think rail users will be totally happy until the company confirms it has acquired the three new trains it needs. Until then everything else is on hold really."

The new connection, which will set off from Bradford and pick up at Halifax and Brighouse before going on to Doncaster and London King's Cross in just two hours and 45 minutes, was announced in January this year.

It followed a four-year Courier campaign.

But Grand Central has promised the new service, which will run a return journey three times a day for a walk-on fee of about 34, will not be jeopardised by the setback.

Spokesman Rupert Brennan Brown blamed a national shortage of rolling stock for the delay but said it had now secured trains and the lease should be signed shortly.

The nine-year-old trains will then become available later this year and need modifying.

Mr Brown said the company remained fully comitted to West Yorkshire services and under the terms of the rail regulator had from December 2009 to September 2010 to implement them.

"As soon as we have enough trains to operate a viable service we shall do so. The timing is dependent on having the trains fit for purpose and crews trained," he said.

The delay has meant the company has missed out on Christmas trade but Mr Brown said that was the earliest start date and was never confirmed.

"We hope to announce we have acquired the new rolling stock within days and there will be a service running by May 2010 if not before," he said.