Major blow for Calderdale rail passengers with delays to key destination services

Rail passengers face delays to improvements
Rail passengers face delays to improvements

Rail users face a double blow after it was announced that a number of direct services linking the area to key destinations like Manchester Airport and Liverpool will not be introduced in December as planned.

And the much hated Pacer trains that were due to be removed from service by the end of the year will still be used on local lines until next Summer.

A new report into rail services in West Yorkshire reveals that direct services from Bradford to Nottingham, via Sheffield, new direct links between Bradford and Liverpool, and between the city and Manchester Airport, were due to be introduced in December as part of Northern Rail’s Train Service Requirement.

But those services, as well as a new Bradford to Manchester train and an extra hourly Sunday service on the Calder Valley line, will now not be going ahead as soon as planned.

Reasons for the delays include insufficient capacity, a shortage of trains and a lack of staff working on Sundays.

The same report reveals that despite promises from the government that the hated Pacer trains would not be operating after Christmas, at least 23 Pacers would still be operating, with a phasing out now expected by Summer 2020.

Some services, including the services between Bradford and Huddersfield will still be operated using Pacers.

The Combined Authority’s Transport Committee will receive a report on Friday that says: “It can be seen that some changes that should have been introduced in December 2019 under Northern’s Train Service Requirement will not be.

“The main such improvements not taking place are:

New Bradford Interchange – Leeds – Wakefield Westgate – Sheffield – Nottingham fast service.

Direct links from Bradford, Halifax and Calder Valley to Manchester Airport and to Liverpool.

New additional Bradford to Manchester train via Halifax and the Calder Valley.

An additional hourly service on Sundays the Calder Valley line Leeds – Bradford Interchange – Halifax – Manchester Victoria.

“The main reasons for these services not being introduced are due to their being insufficient capacity at present on the network (especially around Leeds and Manchester) with some infrastructure schemes not having been delivered, and/or due to a shortage of diesel trains.

“The availability of staff to cover operation of additional services on Sundays is an also an issue, and subject of ongoing discussion between Northern and trade unions. It remains a priority to ensure network capacity constraints to enable these services are addressed.”

The shortage in trains is also behind the decision to keep pacers operating long after the promised finish date.

The report says: “It is now clear that Northern will need to keep around 23 of its pacer trains in passenger service beyond the end of 2019, in diminishing numbers to achieve complete withdrawal by summer 2020. Whilst this situation is clearly unwelcome, the alternative is a potentially worse situation of having to cancel trains and / or reduce capacity of peak services.

“Northern proposes that a small number of very early morning and late evening trains will continue to be operated by Pacer trains on a number of routes. In addition, the majority of trains on the Penistone Line, on local services between Bradford and Huddersfield, on local services between Castleford and Huddersfield, and trains on the York – Pontefract – Sheffield service will continue to be operated by Pacers.

“Pacer trains are widely regarded as failing to meet passenger expectations, and their timely removal from service was a significant and high-profile ‘promise’ when the new franchise was awarded.”

One of the reasons Pacers are being phased out is that they do not provide adequate disabled access. After January 1 the trains will not meet new regulations.

It is understood that because of this, Northern will be applying for a a “temporary dispensation” from meeting these regulations.

The committee meets in Wellington House, Leeds, on Friday at 11am.