Network North plans do nothing for train users in Calderdale, says campaign group

The Government’s recent Network North transport proposals do nothing for Calderdale, say rail campaigners.
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Hadrag, the Halifax and District Rail Action Group, wants action to improve and build on local services, not least on the routes that go through Brighouse.

Benefits would be for travellers using the line now and for others who would use the line more if it served more places with more trains.

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The Calder Valley line, all the way from Leeds through Bradford and Brighouse to Manchester and Preston, was given top ranking by the Northern Sparks government task force report which covered all lines across the North. Northern Sparks was published in 2015.

Rail passengers at Halifax Train Station.Rail passengers at Halifax Train Station.
Rail passengers at Halifax Train Station.

Now West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA)’s new rail strategy puts the Calder Valley line alongside Harrogate and Leeds-Wakefield-Sheffield in the county’s top rank for electrification.

But only the Sheffield link, lines to Hull and Sheffield-Manchester are mentioned in Network North. Leeds-Bradford electrification has been proposed by the government but is not mentioned in Network North.

A new Bradford-Huddersfield route via Huddersfield could be 20 years away, say Hadrag, and will do nothing for Brighouse, Elland, Halifax and upper Calderdale.

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Hadrag assumes the proposed line described as giving a Bradford-Huddersfield journey time of 12 minutes, will completely by-pass Calderdale stations.

Brighouse Train StationBrighouse Train Station
Brighouse Train Station

West Yorkshire’s mass transit plans are mentioned in Network North. But they are unlikely to reach Calderdale before the mid-2030s, say Hadrag, and will not speed up journeys compared with local rail routes.

Stephen Waring, chair of Hadrag, said: “Local communities need their present services transforming with electrification and more trains particularly on the route through Brighouse and Elland. We are still waiting for confirmation that work Elland station is to start.

“Rail electrification is the most economical means of decarbonising powered transport.

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"Electric railways will become zero carbon as electricity generation progressively decarbonises. Fully electric trains are cheap and simple to operate.

Stephen Waring of Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG)Stephen Waring of Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG)
Stephen Waring of Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG)

“Train users cannot wait 20 years for new lines that may not even serve our area. We need to make better use of existing lines now, for the benefit of present and would-be passengers.

"For more the 10 years before the pandemic Brighouse station repeatedly claimed top place for percentage passenger growth on the Calder Valley line. Sowerby Bridge was not far behind.

"These towns need a better deal. Brighouse effectively has only an hourly service, with services spread across two routes that don’t connect properly.

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“WYCA proposes two trains an hour on the direct route Brighouse-Leeds. That could be an important start.”

Hadrag says the service needs at least doubling in frequency.

“A possible service proposed by the Greengauge 21 group, from Bradford to Sheffield could come through Halifax, and give a journey time Brighouse-Sheffield of about 50 minutes via Barnsley,” said Stephen. “Trains through Wakefield to York are another possibility.

“The Sheffield service via Barnsley would need a short length of track reopening near Ossett. This would be a tiny cost compared with the billions Network North proposes for what appears to be a new railway between Bradford and Huddersfield, the route of which we can only speculate about.

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"Many fear it will never happen. Meanwhile residents may fear where it might be put.

“Hadrag members have mixed views about the now-cancelled HS2 northern section. It seems HS2 services routed over existing lines Birmingham to Manchester could be both slower and have fewer seats than existing services. So much for increasing capacity.

“Network North is a misnomer. Not so much a network as a thrown-together list of projects that many fear may never happen. We shall see.

“But meanwhile we need a plan to electrify the Calder Valley line and as part of a rolling programme coupled with quick plans for better train services throughout Calderdale.”