Updating our recent post, we record with thanks the decision of Calderdale Council to sign up in support of the Electric Railway Charter. Following an earlier report agreed at council cabinet, Calderdale will now campaign to make electrification of our line top priority – as it was in the “Northern Sparks” all-party task force report of three years ago. The full resolution passed at full council on 19 September copied below.
Meanwhile news has come out (a deliberate leak?) on the TransPennine (Huddersfield line) Route Upgrade, which looks to be proposing (as expected) “some” electrification. You might think this would include the section through the hills between Huddersfield and Stalybridge where the superior performance of electric traction would help to cut journey times. You might also expect the easy section from Leeds to York to be included, filling a short gap in existing wiring between Leeds Neville Hill depot and the East Coast Main Line at Colton Junction. But no, all that seemed to be mentioned in the news that came out was Leeds-Huddersfield, and Stalybridge-Manchester (which latter should actually have been finished by now as part if the North West scheme).
It sounds like there will be extra capacity, involving reinstatement of four tracks along the Huddersfield-Mirfield corridor. Campaigning rail user groups in the Calder Valley hope this will enable more services through Elland and Brighouse.
Sadly the news seemed to emphasise the disruption that would be caused whilst the work is carried out with long blockades of sections of the Manchester-Huddersfield-Leeds route. We hope this is not part of a softening-up process to prepare us for a more negative announcement. Smart ways of working should be adopted with work being done at night and at less busy times. Remember that in the 1980s British Rail electrified the East Coast Main Line from Hitchin to Edinburgh, 360 miles, with considerably less fuss than is currently being made about a fraction of that distance in the Pennines.
The Electric Railway Charter calls for a rolling programme of electrification across the north, starting with the Calder Valley as a natural follow-on to the Huddersfield Line. We believe a smarter approach can minimise the cost, time taken and disruption during construction. The message should be that we need a well-planned programme to develop a modern, environmentally sustainably railway that offers high capacity and high performance with traction that aims for zero-carbon, zero-emissions.
Text of Calderdale Council resolution follows:
This Council notes that:
· Thousands of people commute in and out of Calderdale each week making good transport links vital to our local economy and those of the towns and cities along the route of the Calder Valley Line;
· in 2015 the government-appointed Northern Rail Electrification Task Force identified the Calder Valley line as the highest priority for electrification, but that despite this it appears there are no current plans for the electrification of our rail line;
· the UK railways lag far behind other countries in terms of electrification with only 40% of our lines electrified compared to 56% in Germany and 73% in the Netherlands;
· the failure of Northern Rail to implement the 2018 time table changes cost the economy in the north £38 million;
· in the four weeks commencing 30 July 2018 113 services on the Calder Valley line were cancelled and 767 services were over three or more minutes late;
· for every £10 spent on rail in the south of England there is only £1 spent in the north;
· Cabinet has resolved that Calderdale shall be a signatory of the the “Electric Railway Charter” – a campaign of rail users on the Calder Valley line calling for the line to be electrified.
This Council believes that:
Electrification would make the line more efficient, allowing faster acceleration and deceleration and decreasing the required space between trains, enabling additional services to run on the line and meet the growing demand for high quality transport between Manchester, Calderdale, Bradford and Leeds;
whilst current planned investments are welcome and overdue, electrification remains the best long-term option for securing a reliable service, with the Manchester to Bradford journey time being reduced to under an hour for the first time;
with new technology such as longer life lithium batteries trains can now operate on lines like the Calder Valley line which would have previously been challenging owing to the number of tunnels on the line;
better train services on the Calder Valley line would vastly improve the lives of the 2.7 million who commute between Leeds, Manchester and Bradford. A more reliable rail system would support local economies and take pressure off the road network. Electric trains emit up to 35% less CO2 in stations and are across their routes, less polluting that older diesel units.
This Council therefore:
i. Recognises the longstanding commitment of Halifax and District Rail Action Group and other northern transport organisations to the campaign for electrification of the Calder Valley Line;
ii. Welcomes and endorses the decision of Cabinet on 3rd September 2018 to endorse the ‘Electric Railway Charter 2018”;
iii. Requests that the Leader calls on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Transport for the North to continue to give a high priority to supporting the case for electrification of the Calder Valley line; and
iv. Requested that the Leader urges the MPs for Halifax and the Calder Valley to take all possible steps to support this campaign, including lobbying the Secretary of State for Transport for a clear commitment to an ambitious timetable for delivering the electrification of this vital route.