Call for urgent rail improvements in Calderdale after district misses out in billion-pound project’s plans

editorial image

Rail campaigners say long-term projects must not get in the way of “desperately needed” improvements to the Calder Valley line.

Plans recently submitted to the government concerning the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project - designed to dramatically improve journey times between northern cities - have not directly included Calderdale.

Stephen Waring

Stephen Waring

Transport for the North’s plans include a new line linking Leeds and Manchester via Bradford, including the option for either a Bradford city centre station or a parkway site.

Coun Tim Swift, Calderdale Council’s Leader, said: “We recognise that a stop at Bradford has the potential to offer seamless interchange opportunities with the Calder Valley line, and therefore bring more journey options for people in Calderdale and beyond, improved connectivity to areas of economic growth, reduced congestion on the roads and greater health benefits through improved air quality.

“It is vital, now more than ever, that we achieve a commitment to electrifying the Calder Valley line, to make the most of these benefits and to ensure consistent quality across the network. We continue to lobby for electrification through our #electricvalley campaign.”

Stephen Waring, chair of the Halifax and District Rail Action Group, said: “Whilst some aspects of NPR could start in about five years time it seems likely that the proposed major new route will take somewhat longer. So there should be time to get this right.

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“In the meantime planning for long-term projects must not get in the way of desperately needed improvements to Calder Valley Line services in the short to medium term.

“Calderdale rail users can not wait for a future high speed route that looks like it will bypass our district or actually tunnel underneath it.

“In the next year or so we need the improvements promised by the Northern franchise with more services through Calderdale, new destinations such as Manchester Airport, but above all a timetable that works reliably.

“Next we need to create a truly modern railway that attracts people away from congested roads, protects the local environment and joins the fight against climate change. That means a fully electric Calder Valley rail route from Leeds through Calderdale to Manchester and Preston, as promised as top-ranked scheme by the Northern Sparks report of the Northern Electrification Taskforce nearly four years ago.

“Electrification of the Calder Valley Line can be achieved in a fraction of the time needed to plan the proposed NPR high speed route and will benefit passengers at every station. With other groups along the line we have recently renewed our call for electrification with the Electric Railway Charter.

“If and when a new high speed line from Manchester to Leeds is eventually built it is likely to be mostly in tunnel.

“But we say it must have physical rail junctions with the Calder Valley Line. One such junction could be in or near Bradford so trains from Calderdale into Leeds could travel on the new line cutting Halifax-Leeds journey time (at present 35-40 minutes) to about 20 minutes. Or if, indeed, the new line is to tunnel underneath Calderdale, maybe Calderdale should have its own station on the high speed route.”