It should now be full speed ahead for improvements to Calder Valley line, say rail campaigners

Improvement to the Calder Valley line should now be full speed ahead, say campaigners after the government unveiled their new rail plans for the north.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 10:45 am
A train heading towards Hebden Bridge station

Plans for HS2 were meant to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds city centres, however, the eastern leg to Leeds has been scrapped, leading to criticism from business and government leaders in the north. Plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail have also been downgraded.

But rail campaigners say a more localised approach should take place, which would make a huge difference to commuters.

Stephen Waring, Chair, Halifax & District Rail Action Group, said: “A pure electric train is spectacularly more energy efficient than one powered by batteries or hydrogen. It wastes much less energy.

Martin Hathaway

“This is vital to help decarbonization, both for passenger trains and for the heavy freights that come along the Calder Valley. Whatever Grant Shapps has said, most of the new lines in the Integrated Rail Plan will not happen before 2040 and even then will do little for Calder Valley line users who need improvement much sooner.

“So we need the bottlenecks unblocking now to help get a decent service at our local stations. That means getting started on the shovel-ready Huddersfield-Dewsbury four tracking project, so we can have more trains through Brighouse and Elland. And sorting out Manchester so Bradford, Calderdale and Rochdale trains can get to the south side of the city and the airport, as promised years ago.

“Transport for the North has been unjustly shorn of responsibility for Northern Powerhouse Rail, threatening the subnational body’s existence. TfN should transform this threat into an opportunity to prioritise early improvement of regional routes like the Calder Valley over high-speed links many of us may not live to see.”

The Mayor of West Yorkshire Travy Brabin sent an open letter to the Prime Minister about the issue.

Stephen Waring

She said: “If we are to give the North the fair chance they deserve for prosperity, equality of opportunity and for the vital decarbonisation which will ensure we meet critical climate targets then the Government must give us the HS2 Eastern Leg in full and deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

The Mid Yorkshire Chamber say the cancellation of the eastern leg of the Government’s rail plan is a “significant downgrading” of previous schemes.

Managing director, Martin Hathaway, said: “The announcements from the transport secretary mentioned levelling up multiple times, however this is not how it feels for our region’s businesses who see this as a significant downgrading of previously announced transport schemes.

“Our members say transport is already a major issue when it comes to moving people and goods across the north, with current transportation systems often underperforming and being under-resourced.

“Cancelling the HS2 eastern leg and downgrading the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans so that they do not include a full upgrade of the Transpennine route will severely damage the opportunities for the growth of northern businesses, as well as significantly reduce the opportunities available for our communities.

“The cancellations means that these struggles will remain and provide yet another example of why we here in Yorkshire need more control over our own destiny.

“We will continue to work with other business leaders in the north to persuade Government to devolve transport, skills and community infrastructure funds and powers to local leaders.”

Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift, said: “Along with other political and business leaders across the north of England, I’m disappointed and concerned about the content of the Integrated Rail Plan, which omits the Eastern Leg of HS2 and the new Leeds to Liverpool route of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“We’ve seen the way that Birmingham and surrounding towns in the midlands have benefitted from major rail investment and it’s a huge blow for the north of England that the promised infrastructure upgrades are being pared back.

“A well-functioning rail network increases economic activity, shapes job creation, and creates social value and the impacts of scrapping these plans will be felt across West Yorkshire. The announcement is also a real blow for our work to tackle the climate emergency and is particularly disappointing so soon after the COP26 agreement.

“Anything that’s bad for West Yorkshire is bad for Calderdale and although we aren’t directly affected by the announcement in the same way as our neighbouring cities, this announcement undoubtedly has many wide-ranging implications. We’ll be seeking answers about what the revised plans mean for our area and keep pushing for much-needed investment in the Calder Valley line and our outdated and underperforming wider rail network.”