The Electric Railway Charter is to be launched in Halifax at the iconic venue of Calderdale Industrial Museum, Thursday teatime, 24 May. Guest speakers at the launch are expected to include Holly Lynch MP for Halifax, Nina Smith chair of Railfuture Yorkshire branch, Anthony Rae of Calderdale Sustainability Forum, and Stephen Chambers who is transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport.
The organisers want a wide range of environmental, business and political groups to come to the launch and (in due course) add their support to the Charter which is a call to a rolling programme of rail electrification across the No
rth of England.
If you or your group would like an invite to the launch please contact us. (Spaces may be limited!)
It is three years since the Northern Electrification Task Force published its report “Northern Sparks”. The NETF recommended a dozen schemes for completion in the first five years, with the Calder Valley Line given top ranking on operational and economic criteria. Now, four campaigning rail user groups along the Calder Valley Line, supported by Railfuture branches in Yorkshire and the North West, have joined together to produce the Electric Railway Charter calling for a revival of the idea of a rolling programme of electrification. And where better to start than with the Northern Sparks top scheme, our own line from Leeds to both Manchester and Preston via both Bradford and Brighouse?
The Charter is based on the idea that electric railways are better for passengers, better for the rail businesses because they are more efficient and cheaper to operate than diesels, and better for the environment. Indeed, the railway must electrify if it is to play its part in combatting climate change at a global level, and improving air quality locally. The Charter does not say that every single kilometre of railway must have wires put up. Its founders are open to the idea of gapped or discontinuous electrification where, for example tunnels and bridges are a major problem. But the Charter says the gaps must be bridged by using sustainable alternatives, trains with on board energy storage. Battery technology is of course moving rapidly forward driven by renewables development and, ironically perhaps, by the development of electric road vehicles. If road transport is to be decarbonised and made pollution free over the next 20 years, so too must rail.
The alternative of diesel-powered bimode trains seems to saddle the railway for another generation with fossil-fuel based traction that can never be truly clean.
The four founding groups of the Electric Charter are STORM (Support the Oldham-Rochdale-Manchester rail line), Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group, HADRAG (The Halifax & District Rail Action Group) and Bradford Rail Users Group. Support from Yorkshire and North West branches of Railfuture, the independent campaign for a better passenger and freight rail network.