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Caldervale Train Line Misses Out Again

From Kimmie D

Thursday, 1 October 2015

I note with dismay that, although yesterday's announcement that electrification and improvement of rail routes in the North will recommence, yet again the Caldervale line has been left out of plans.

Anyone local who uses this route to travel east to Leeds or west to Manchester will be woefully familiar with the lack of investment we have received under Northern Rail's tenure. Extra carriages announced in 2013? Forgotten when timetables were changed in 2014. Extra seats announced in 2015? Not on the busy commuter services before 8am. It is not all doom and gloom and (having used the trains in both directions for 24 years so I feel qualified to comment) I have seen improvement in reliability and punctuality.

We remain however the poor cousin and have done so for years, surviving on other rail company's cast offs, yet I am at a loss to understand why?

The route in both directions is incredibly popular, often overcrowded and well used by commuters in Sowerby Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden (in fact our stations are so close together I am surprised they all survived the Beaching cuts of the 60s). If the services are so well used, and widely recognised as deserving of improvement, why be left out of spending plans yet again?

I fear that the requests set out by the Upper Valley Rennaisance Sustainable Transport Group (see today's HebWeb News) go a little too far and are asking for too much at once, the risk being that we continue to get nothing. Keep it simple is my view, we want (no, we need) in the immediate term an end to Pacer units and Class 150 Sprinters (look them up if you haven't had the joy of using them on a packed commuter journey) on this line, investment in modern fit-for-purpose units and an increase in the number of seats, carriages and bike storage to cope with the increasing number of people using the Caldervale line (does anyone have any facts and figures about passenger increases?).

From Nina Smith

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hi Kimmie, Information about how much passenger use of the Calder Valley lines has increased is contained in the Sustainable Transport Group's response to last year's consultation on the next Northern Rail franchise. The group's response is accessible via the Friends of Hebden Bridge Station website

I have cut and pasted below a section from it showing ridership increase since 2002. Despite the fact that Northern Rail were only awarded a no-growth franchise in 2004, passenger growth on the Calder Valley (CV) lines has been dramatic. Ten year growth figures are as follows (source: ORR)

  • Footfall at CV stations 2012/13 compared to 2002/3
  • Hebden Bridge: 736k (303k); an increase of 433k or 143%
  • Todmorden: 542k (251k); +291k , = +116%
  • Brighouse: 349k (-) +349k (opened 2004)
  • Sowerby Bridge: 348k (112k); +236K, = +211%
  • Mytholmroyd: 158k (72k); +86k, = +119%
  • Walsden: 102k (? – we cannot locate 2002 data)
    Total: 2,235,000 (738,000 +Walsden); +1,497,000, = +203%

As the service has not improved in line with this 200% passenger increase, the result has been significant and at times unacceptable levels of overcrowding. Our research amongst passengers in July 2014 shows major concern about overcrowding, and a very high level of serious dissatisfaction regarding the 20 -30 year old units used on the line. Other concerns include inadequate cycle and luggage space, cramped seating, and poor disabled access.

Regarding who is to blame for the inadequate service, it is not Northern Rail who have done wonders with the "no growth" contract the government awarded them in 2004. This reflects the fact that since the Marples/Beeching cuts of the 1960s, successive governments have run down the railways rather than investing in them.

This began to change when Lord Adonis became Labour's last Transport Secretary in 2009, and was resumed when Patrick McLoughlin became Secretary of State in 2012. One aspect of this is that it is in the specification of the next Northern Rail franchise that the Pacers are to be replaced by new trains. This doesn't also apply to the class 150s, but they are perfectly capable of being rebuilt internally to give a much better passenger experience.

The Sustainable Transport Group's aspirations are ambitious.We want to see a major modal shift from the private car to rail. This is vital if we are to reduce the carbon emissions from cars. Environmental concerns are a key reason why our lines need to be electrified within the next decade.

The report in today's Yorkshire Post that the government is now reconsidering whether electrification is really necessary on the routes identified by the Electrification Task Force is depressing and short-sighted. We all need to keep up pressure on our MP to fight for electrification of our line.

Finally, Kimmie, we'd love to have you as a member of the Sustainable Transport Group. If you'd like to join us, please email me.

From David Mack

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Data on passenger numbers for every station in the UK for the period 1997/8 to 2013/4 is available here

From Kez Armitage

Thursday, 1 October 2015

As I understand it, this is simply a reprieve of the pre-election scheme to electrify the Leeds-Manchester line via Huddersfield, conveniently ditched once the election was over. I don't think there was ever a plan to include the Calder Valley line in the scheme, although some years ago there was an absolutely crackpot idea to electrify the line from Leeds to Halifax (ignoring the fact that most trains carry on from Halifax via the Calder Valley to Manchester or Blackpool).

Sadly, the Calder Valley route is always going to be the 'poor cousin' of the line via Huddersfield, which is shorter and faster and the obvious choice of people travelling between the two Northern Hub cities of Leeds and Manchester. I always feel a bit sorry for people at Leeds, who, not knowing the routes, opt for the Calder Valley line to Manchester (well over 90 minutes) rather than the Huddersfield route (well under an hour).

But the point is, as much as we'd like our line to be electrified, chances are, it won't. Well not soon anyhow; it's at least seven years until the Huddersfield line is electrified. In the meantime, we're going to have make do with what we've got. All we can really hope for is that, come the new franchise, we get a few refurbished units including, possibly, the former D78 40-year-old London Underground stock. Hopefully these units, whilst not exactly being 'cool and trendy' (the engines are going to be modified from Ford Transit vans), will increase seating capacity.

Come electrification of the Huddersfield line, we can only hope that the 185 diesel stock currently operating that route may be 'cascaded down' to the Calder Valley. But of course the train operating companies don't own the rolling stock, and so there's absolutely no guarantee that this will happen.

From Susi H

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

What about a petition? We might get MP to rally to cause if we get lots of support?

See also

HebWeb News: Electrification of a Trans Pennine route - but not the Calder Valley line.