Rail works to improve travel times "won't work" and could make journeys worse

Major rail works designed to improve travel times  “won’t work” and could make journeys worse for passengers – Councillors have claimed.

By Chris Young , Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 28th January 2022, 6:00 am

When the Government published its Integrated Rail Plan in November, there was disappointment throughout the North after it revealed that the long planned Northern Powerhouse Rail line that would link Northern Cities had effectively been scrapped.

It was a particular blow for Bradford, which could have had a stop on the high speed rail line.

One seemingly positive announcement in the plan was that the Bradford to Leeds line would be electrified – which would reduce travel times between the two cities.

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Halifax train station

However, at a recent meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, members questioned how effective this work would actually be.

It was pointed out that although it would mean electric trains could run faster between the cities, the Department for Transport was not clear on how it would effect diesel services passing through.

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Calderdale Councillor Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddendenfoot) questioned if passengers on diesel trains travelling from Calderdale to Leeds via Bradford would have to change to an electric train in Bradford to continue their journey.

She said: “We’re pleased about the electrification of Bradford to Leeds, but we wanted to see more of that.”

She pointed out that the plan included no mention of electrification in Calderdale, adding: “In the case of Calderdale this plan makes things worse. It may mean people travelling to Leeds from Calderdale have to get off a diesel train and switch to an electric one in Bradford.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council and Transport lead on the Combined Authority, said of the plan: “It doesn’t work. Trains that leave Bradford don’t just go to Leeds, but other areas beyond Leeds and Bradford.

“Would this mean people have to get off an electric train onto a diesel train to continue their journey?

“They just haven’t thought it through. There is nothing in their plan to convince me that we don’t need Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

James Vasey, Chairman of the Bradford Rail Users Group, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he had similar concerns.

He said most commuters from Bradford to Leeds started their journey before Bradford city centre. He said: “People who start their commute from Bradford Interchange, not coming in from bus or on another train, is probably in the hundreds, not the thousands needed to justify this kind of investment.

“It seems like they wanted to do some electrification and thought electrifying Bradford sounds nice. But if you’re travelling from Halifax you might have to get off a diesel train in Bradford to get on an electric train in Bradford.

“The journey between Bradford and Leeds might be faster, but if you have to switch trains a lot of these commuters will find their journey becomes slower overall.

“It could be that they spend all that money and rail operators can’t really use the lines.”

He said to make the scheme a success the Department for Transport would have to electrify the line beyond Bradford, ideally the Calderdale line to Manchester.

The Department for Transport has been contacted for a comment.

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