COLUMN: Government is failing us on rail services

Talking Politics by Tim Swift, Calderdale Council Labour group leader

By Zoe Drye
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 12:12 pm
Halifax train station
Halifax train station

Tempting though it is to share in the anger of all decent people about ‘partygate’, I intend instead to use this column to talk about other ways this Government is failing our area.

Because unless they are reversed, the broken promises over rail will continue to damage our prospects long after Boris Johnson and his sad crew have become a distant political memory.

A quick reminder.

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In November, the Conservative Government published their so-called ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ (IRP).

This tore up Johnson’s previous promises to bring HS2 to Leeds, and to build a new direct rail line between Manchester and Leeds.

In the process, this abandons plans for a new station in Bradford and explicitly leaves us condemned to the continued use of Bradford Interchange, so Calder Valley trains will continue to have to drive in and reverse out, losing the time advantages a new through station would offer.

In Calderdale we are sadly already used to Conservative Secretaries of States for Transport failing to deliver on their promises.

In both the 2015 and 2017 General Election campaigns, they came to Calderdale and promised that the electrification of the Calder Valley line would be a priority.

Nothing has happened, and there is no mention of this in the IRP.

The most recent study into rail electrification in the north of England, led by a Conservative MP and published in 2015, said that the Calder Valley line should be a tier one priority for electrification.

Six years later, there is, of course, no mention of this in the Government’s plans – only a proposal to electrify the short stretch of line between Bradford and Leeds.

This makes little or no difference whilst the Calder Valley line is ignored.

Meanwhile, many of us fear that the welcome upgrade of the Trans Pennine Route will inevitably mean significant disruptions to Calder Valley services to accommodate diversions whilst that route is closed for works to take place.

And the loss of planned investment in Leeds will continue to limit the scope for additional services on the Calder Valley line.

This is a grim prospect for Calderdale. The Government seem to have no idea that rail in West Yorkshire serves any purpose other than getting between the cities.

They have ignored the importance of the Calder Valley line as a local commuter route, connecting so many of our towns and villages together as well as providing links to Greater Manchester, Bradford and Leeds.

If we are to avoid further clogging up our roads with commuter traffic, then a reliable, regular and efficient train service with increased capacity is vital.

This requires more capacity at key locations; significant investment to replace Bradford Interchange; and the electrification of the Calder Valley line to fully connect with other planned developments.

None of this is now on the table.

These plans need to be rethought now before they cause lasting damage to our future prospects.