Calderdale commuters facing 'crazy clock-face' of services claim rail campaigners

Campaigners have spoken out about more changes to train timetables
Campaigners have spoken out about more changes to train timetables

Rail timetable changes have left Calderdale commuters facing a “crazy clockface” of services, argues a campaign group.

Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG), which hosts its annual meeting this Saturday, June 1, has voiced criticism of the new rail timetable operated by Northern in its latest newsletter.

In particular the group believes the timing of some peak commuter time services from Halifax to Leeds leaves a lot to be desired, said group chair Stephen Waring.

Northern has responded that the timings of services are designed to provide the highest possible number of Northern services, allowing for other operators and the different calling patterns of the trains – some will stop at all stations, while others were express services.

And while understanding customer concerns the company would continue to work with colleagues across the industry to develop timetables which would get travellers where they want to be, when they need to be.

Mr Waring said that, for example, people travelling from Halifax to Leeds at this time have three trains within 15 minutes at 8am, 8.05am and 8.15am, but then nothing for almost half an hour (8.44am), a pattern repeated during the day.

In its Rail Views newsletter the group, which wants to encourage more people to use rail and other public transport to help reduce traffic congestion and related environmental issues, says:

“Even commuting should be a pleasure; there is surely economic value in people arriving for work relaxed after a pleasant journey.

“And if it’s for cultural, personal or leisure purposes, your journey should be the part of the attraction that gets you away from congested, polluted and polluting roads.

“Our Calder Valley Line looks ideal for this. We say give it a go, especially at times when the trains are not crammed!

“But we’ve seen halting progress since 2016 under the present Northern franchise.

“After the May 2018 shambles this May’s timetable is looking at best like another flawed and unfinished product, trying our patience.”

HADRAG welcomes some of the changes, for example hourly trains to Chester but comments Halifax-Leeds travellers face a “‘Crazy clockface’ with three trains in 16 minutes then nothing for almost half an hour, a travesty of ’15 minute frequency.'”

Mr Waring said HADRAG had written to Northern Rail managing director David Brown about the issues and was continuing dalogue with his office.

“A year on from the shambolic timetable change of May 2018 passengers are still frustrated.

“Train performance may have improved but stations on our line suffer from timetables with completely ridiculous clockface patterns where you get two or three trains in quick succession than nothing for maybe half an hour.

“And early morning commuters have just had a kick in the teeth with withdrawal of the previous first train from Brighouse,” he said.

But a spokesman for Northern said: “We are absolutely committed to providing the best possible service for our customers on the Calder Valley line.

“The timings of services are designed to provide the highest possible number of Northern services, allowing for other operators and the different calling patterns of the trains – some will stop at all stations, others are express services.

“Whilst some changes to timings have been made as part of the new timetable, the number of services remains unchanged and Calder Valley still has strong links to both the east and west.

“We do, however, understand the concerns of our customers and we will continue to work with colleagues across the industry to develop timetables that get rail users where they need to be, when they need to be there.”

Mr Waring said travellers still do not know what will happen with the December timetable change but hoped it would at least sort out the “clockface” issues.

“We want Northern as train operator to demand a fair deal from the planners at Network Rail and a decent timetable for trains that serve our line,” he said.

Halifax and District Rail Action Group’s (HADRAG) annual meeting is at the Carlton Centre, Harrison Road, Halifax, on Saturday, June 1 (10.15am) and rail users, businesses and political representatives are among those invited to attend.

The quality of rail services is of concern to Calderdale Council, which has pledged to step up pressure on Government to electrify the Calder Valley rail line and make other improvements, with Leader of the Council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) saying earlier this year that the Calder Valley line is consistently one of the poorest performers across the West Yorkshire network.

His remarks followed a year of much misery for rail commuters in 2018, particularly following the highly-criticised roll-out of new timetables in May that year.

But the line is crucial to both increasing employment opportunities for Calderdale people as a major commuter route and bringing in people to visit the borough, the council believes.