Campaigners aiming to improve the rail infrastructure in Calderdale face a battle to get improvements they have demanded delivered on time.
The Government has cast further doubt over plans to electrify the region’s rail links by 2023, after the Transport Secretary warned of “unexpected issues” with schemes elsewhere in the country.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling refused to “get into dates” for the completion of the delayed Midland or Transpennine electrification schemes, saying only that work is underway.
The Halifax & District Rail Action Group is now demanding the Government and Network Rail commit to the electrification of the Calder Valley Line when the work on the Huddersfield line is complete.
Chairman Stephen Waring said the group is concerned that, with Network Rail and the Government apparently unable to confirm a target completion date for the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU) – which includes electrification - via the Huddersfield Line, plans to electrify the Calder Valley line by 2025 will be further set back:
“There is huge frustration at the length of time taken by the railway and its masters at the DfT to get projects off the ground.
“Two years ago the taskforce was recommending electrification of our line by 2025, but now we have increasing doubts about whether Network Rail is able or the Department for Transport and indeed the Treasury willing.
“The good news is that capacity and linespeed improvements are already giving benefits on Calder Valley Line trains running into Manchester and will enable a speeded up, more frequent timetable by the end of 2019.
“But we want that to be just the start.
“We really hope the TransPennine Route Upgrade will deliver capacity in the Huddersfield and Mirfield area that will allow more trains on our line through Brighouse and Elland. After that the next step should then be electrification of the Calder Valley Line itself.”
The deadlines for completing work on the Transpennine have already been pushed back once, from 2020, due to overspending by Network Rail.
Mr Grayling also refused to set a date, citing difficulties with electrification on the Great Western Line.
“I’m not an engineer, and as you know so far the Great Western electrification has run into some unexpected issues,” he said.
“Given what’s happened on Great Western, where things haven’t quite gone to plan, I’m not getting into dates right now.
Mr Grayling went on to say that the Government is “clearly” committed to electrification “where it makes a difference”.
However, he stressed that advances in rail technology – including the development of hybrid and battery trains – means “some of the paradigms” around rail travel and investment “are changing”.