Transport Group urges significant improvement to local rail network

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The local Sustainable Transport Group (STG) seeks to promote improved and sustainable transport in, to and from the Upper Calder Valley and has just issued a response to Yorkshire and Humber Route Utilisation Strategy. The response has been prepared by Nina Smith, Secretary, and Dr. Lesley Mackay, Chair, Sustainable Transport Group.

The group wants rail authorities to plan for a doubling of passengar use over the next ten years, pointing out that rail use has increased 74% over the past ten years. They want new services. This would seem an essential move to combat climate change, especially if we are to meet the target of cutting greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.

Suggestions include

  • Takes steps to reduce overcrowding on trains - eg, Blackpool North trains especially in the summer.
  • Reverse the timetable revisions which have reduced the number of trains from Walsden, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge to Halifax and Bradford to one an hour for most of the day.
  • Increase car park capacity at Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. Both car parks fill up early in term time: Mytholmroyd has no car park.  There is space for considerable enlargement at Hebden Bridge, as part of the railway land is occupied by a coal merchant who no longer needs a site next to the railway. 
  • Move more freight from road to rail.
  • Increase the current hourly Lancashire to Yorkshire service via Copy Pit to half hourly, but run the second train to Sheffield via Halifax (reverse) and Wakefield Kirkgate (reverse) and Barnsley (or, to speed the journey to South Yorkshire, omitting Wakefield by reopening the chord from (approx) Healey Mills to Woolley).  This may also require doubling between Mirfield east junction and Bradley Wood junction.  The second service could start at Southport once the Burscough chord has been reopened, offering people in West Yorkshire (and east and central Lancashire) direct rail access to Southport – especially important for leisure purposes
  • Reopen the Todmorden (Stansfield) curve.  This would enable a Manchester –Rochdale- Todmorden-Burnley service to run.
  • Reopen of the line between Colne and Skipton, with onward connections to Carlisle and Morecambe as well as providing an alternative cross-Pennine route from Lancashire to Bradford and Leeds.
  • Enhance the capacity of Bradley Wood and Bradley junctions and the line connecting them.  This would be achieved by doubling, thus allowing a through service from the upper valley and Rochdale to Huddersfield (and in doing so, doubling the frequency of Brighouse-Huddersfield). There is significant commuting from the upper valley to Huddersfield, the vast majority by car because of the current poor rail option. Again, the car commuters have a significant annual carbon footprint and add to the congestion on the Halifax-Huddersfield road.
  • Reduce certain fares. It doesn't make sense for car journeys to be cheaper than rail. Eg, any anytime return for the 12 mile journey from Hebden Bridge to Burnley costs an astonishing  £6.40 daily, or £26.70 for a weekly season. Unsurprisingly, most commuters to Burnley from Hebden Bridge travel by car at a fuel cost of say £2.50-£3.00, with a significant carbon footprint and at a much higher risk of serious or fatal injury due to the excessive speed of some drivers on the minor hilltop road used by commuters. A second example is the cost of weekly ticket from upper valley stations to Manchester.  This is because of the existence of two different PTE travelcard schemes and the linking section between Walsden and Littleborough which is not covered by either WY or GMPTE tickets (despite the fact that there is no such gap in the boundary between WY and South Yorkshire PTE fares).  The result is that a number of upper valley commuters drive to Littleborough to take advantage of GM fares.  In doing so, they drive unnecessary extra miles each day, adding to the pollution and congestion on the connecting road.  The RUS should tackle these issues and advocate fare reductions where current fare levels deter train usage.

See the full response prepared by Nina Smith, Secretary, and Dr. Lesley Mackay, Chair, Sustainable Transport Group

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