Rail campaigners in Calderdale have welcomed proposals to overhaul the north’s transport network, but have called for more urgent action to improve current services.
A £70bn plan to upgrade roads and railways across the north by Transport for the North (TfN) include creating a new rail network, called Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), focused on cutting journey times, upgrading existing lines and adding new lines to the network.
Stephen Waring, chair of the Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG), said: “TfN’s strategic plan is commendable. We are encouraged by ideas about simplifying fares to make travel simpler.
“But whilst we are waiting for new high speed inter-city lines that could still be decades away, we want to see achievable plans that will provide benefits for existing train passengers in a much shorter time and make rail travel attractive to more and more people, as a real alternative to increasingly congested roads.
“NPR still looks to be very much about connecting the big cities. It is little help to commuters enduring overcrowded conditions on trains from Calderdale to Leeds and Bradford to tell them that a new high speed line that won’t even serve their local station may be built in 20 years time.
“The strategic plan does mention the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU), basically on the Huddersfield Line, that should be complete within five years. We hope this will deliver capacity benefits that will also help the Calder Valley Line, particularly the route through Elland and Brighouse.
“But there is a lot of detail that needs to be filled in on how key regional routes serving medium size towns and local communities will be developed between TRU and NPR.
“The Calder Valley Line is a prime example of such a key route. Building on the TRU, we need more carriages on our trains and more service development over the next five years, going beyond what is already promised by the current Northern franchise.
“That should include much better services for stations like Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse and of course the planned new station at Elland.
“We hope TfN is pressing the Department for Transport to approve serious capacity improvements as part of TRU by 2022 that will also help our line, pressing the rail businesses to deliver better services such as fast trains upper Calderdale-Brighouse-Leeds when Elland station opens in 2022 and pressing for electrification, including the Calder Valley Line, which was top ranked scheme of the 2015 task force report.
“Rail development should be not just about the big cities but about opening up to the whole community a sustainable transport alternative that doesn’t damage the environment. We need action on that now.”