Defiant warning to Government as battle lines are drawn for rail electrification

Calderdale will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other West Yorkshire authorities campaigning for rail electrification and other improvements.

Last night (Monday, September 3), Calderdale Council agreed to work with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and its local authority partners to develop a coherent rail investment strategy, a lobbying programme to press the case and identify resources required.

Halifax train station

Halifax train station

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They also agreed the council should become signatories of the Electric Rail Charter and adopt an effective strategy for lobbying the Government, the Department of Transport, local MPs, Network Rail and others to bring forward electrification of the Calder Valley line.

Resulting benefits are vital to the borough’s economic resilience, councillors were told.

Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said with Transport for the North asking for comments on government proposals by the end of this month, the time was right to strike while the iron was hot.

“Over the next few weeks we have the opportunity to remake the case for Calder Valley line electrification.

“That’s what we’re going to do and let’s see if Government dare to ignore it,” he said.

Coun Collins said the Calder Valley line was absolutely fundamental to Calderdale for people who worked in Leeds or Manchester, and for those living in other areas who worked in Calderdale.

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Thousands of people used it and the council would be part of a campaign with West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.

Leader of the council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town), chairing the meeting, said the effect of rail timetable alterations had been felt from May across the region and the effect of the distruption had been discussed at a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority – where rail chiefs were subject to fierce criticism.

“Who is going to sort this out became a question very difficult to answer. You could quickly see what a complex and fragmented system we have currently,” he said.

Government needed to give organisations in the north the powers to make a difference, said Coun Swift.

On a campaigning level, there was a need to press for electrification of the Trans-Pennine and Calder Valley lines.

Coun Dan Sutherland, Cabinet member for Planning, Housing and the Environment, said electrification was the greatest single investment which could be made for the Calder Valley line.

Previously the north had been told by Government Ministers that it would be a priority but sadly that had not proved to be the case, he said.

Line electrification is said to bring economic and environmental benefits by allowing faster acceleration and deceleration of trains to improve journey times, less wear and tear on rail infrastructure increasing reliability and reducing costs, reductions of harmful carbon dioxide emissions and a consistency across other electrified lines in terms of overall engine stock increasing flexibility, said the briefing paper to councillors.