Why the time is right to get rail electrification back on track

Electrification is key to the development of Halifax train station
Electrification is key to the development of Halifax train station

The fight to deliver rail improvement promises has taken a step forward as Calderdale Council leaders demand answers over the electrification of the Calder Valley Line.

Councillors agreed to put a strategy in place and to start work with other local authorities to lobby for rail improvements across the borough.

The move to put the electrification bid back in the spotlight has come to the fore as a key meeting is due to take place this month between the Department of Transport and Transport for the North where they will discuss planned upgrades to the Trans Pennine route.

Calderdale Council Leader, Coun Tim Swift, said: “We think it’s time to re-raise the profile and the issues.

“Reflecting on the problems we have seen over the last few months since the new timetables were introduced I think that has just highlighted the problems there are with the rail network and investment in the north in general but in particularly how vulnerable the Calder Valley is to disruption and how important it is to local people.

“Our concern is the electrification of the Calder Valley line should be a major priority. It is in danger of getting lost in all the discussions

“We have the uncertainty about what the Government is going to do about the Trans Pennine electrification which was supposed to be pretty well signed up and committed to - now we still don’t know.

“When we were lobbying on this before in 2014 our hope was that it would go ahead and then the Calder Valley electrification scheme would be logical next step.

“We are really concerned that this message is not lost.”

The Calder Valley line links Leeds and Manchester via Bradford, Halifax and Rochdale, plus several other towns in the Upper Calder Valley. It also provides a connection between York and Blackpool and Huddersfield via Brighouse.

Deputy leader of the Council, Coun Barry Collins highlighted that the plans are already in place to show how electrification of the railway line could be achieved and the benefits it will bring:

“There doesn’t need to be a massive amount more work to be done. The case simply needs representing as a priority inside the TfN options that go to the Government.

“We want to make sure that the case for electrification of the Calder Valley line, that was set out over recent years and became the number one priority for the taskforce, is remade in the current context of potential investment in the Trans Pennine route.

“The electrification task force said the Calder Valley Line was the number one priority. That was three years ago and nothing has happened since. Every indication is that, for some reason which we cannot not understand, our priority seems to have slipped

“Frankly our view is there have been far too many promises and far too little delivery around this issue for us.

“This is our time to push our case forward again and also to do that through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. We need all the support of the authorities rather than just lobbying on our own we are hoping to get support from everyone.”

Concerns have also been raised that Calderdale will be left behind in terms of other rail improvements that are already happening across West Yorkshire.

Mary Farrar, the corporate lead for transport at Calderdale Council said: “A lot of money was spent on consultants to put forward the electrification bid. We had a lot of meetings to demonstrate through robust evidence that we had a good case for electrification. We will be the hole in the donut across the north if we don’t get electrified.”