Chancellor told to end ‘raw deal’ of Calderdale's under-funded railway

Passengers at Halifax railway station
Passengers at Halifax railway station

Rail commuters face a “raw deal” after years of under-funding, the leader of Calderdale Council has warned, demanding action over spending and a clear commitment to the North’s economic growth.

Labour’s Tim Swift, in an open letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond has called for vital investment in the Calder Valley train line, urging for its “long overdue” electrification to be urgently addressed.

Indecision is hampering the district’s housing growth, he warns, adding to congestion and air pollution and leaving commuters faced with too poor a service.

In a direct appeal to Mr Hammond MP ahead of Monday’s autumn Budget, the letter calls for action to “demonstrate a clear commitment to the future economic growth of the North”.

“Passengers on the Calder Valley currently get a raw deal,” said Coun Swift. “Trains are often severely overcrowded and delayed. The line is consistently one of the poorest performers across the West Yorkshire network.

“And this was exacerbated by the introduction of the new timetable in May 2018 which caused chaos throughout the national rail network.

“We deserve better. We deserve a high quality rail service which is reliable and has the capacity to meet demand.

“The case for electrification has already been made; the significant economic benefits which it would bring to our region have already been clearly demonstrated. But we need the investment from Government before we can unlock this growth.”

The Calder Valley line links Leeds and Manchester via Bradford, Halifax and Rochdale, and serves around two million people.

Councillors have long stressed that its electrification should be a priority, backed by a taskforce three years ago.

But in the midst of uncertainty over planned upgrades on the trans-Pennine route and no updates on progress for the Calder Valley line, councillors argue that indecision and poor services are hindering the borough.

Underinvestment is holding the area back, Coun Swift says, while funding would enable high quality metro links across the Pennines, increase capacity, and enable strategic and sustainable housing plans while attracting new business to the area.

It would also enable the authority to address issues over air quality, road safety and congestion.

“The Government spends £1,943 per person living in London on current or planned projects compared with just £427 in the North, according to IPPR North,” adds Coun Swift.

“Whilst we appreciate the economic value of London and the importance of investing in the capital, there needs to be a more equitable distribution of investment if we are to compete on a global scale.”