Better Train Services - but not yet
Latest information from the Upper Valley Transport Group
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Two recent announcements herald better future of train services in the Calder Valley and throughout the north of England, but a local campaign group says that more is needed.
At the end of February, the Department for Transport and Rail North published the invitation to Tender (ITT) for the next Northern rail franchise. This will run for nine years from 1 April 2016.
Railway development in the north since 2004 has been held back because of the "steady state" franchise issued in 2004. The next franchise will be a growth franchise with an emphasis on quality. The base ITT specifies the replacement of the much disliked Pacer trains by 2020, with their being replaced by newer diesel units cascaded from electrified routes, and by 120 brand new carriages. It also specifies that over longer distance Northern routes are to be given premium branding, which will be centred around higher quality rolling stock. The York to Blackpool trains should benefit from this.
There will be enhanced services on the Calder Valley line. From 2019, one of the trains to Manchester Victoria will be extended to Manchester Airport, and there will be an additional semi fast service between Manchester Victoria and Bradford on weekdays including Saturdays.
From 2017 one of the other Leeds – Manchester Victoria services will be extended to Chester via Warrington, giving easier access to the West Coast main line; this service is also expected to be premium branded.
Finally, the new direct service from Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley to Manchester via the Todmorden curve, which starts in May, will be a specified service in the new franchise; until now, it had only been agreed on a three year trial basis.
Bidders for the franchise are able to propose service improvements over and above those specified in the ITT.
Nina Smith, Secretary of the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group said that, although overall the franchise ITT was better than had been anticipated, a number of important and urgent service enhancements the group had asked for had been overlooked. It was therefore vital that the successful bidder proposes service improvements to fill gaps not specified in the ITT. These are later services every evening from Leeds, Manchester and Preston, earlier Sunday services, and a Sunday service to Leeds via Brighouse. She said that the group also wanted the franchise winner to aim towards a direct upper valley to Huddersfield service by 2020. She said that the group had submitted research evidence to the Department for Transport showing high potential demand for the late evening services, and significant demand for the others.
The second announcement was the publication of the recommendations of the Task Force set up to recommend priorities for the post 2019 electrification programme in the north of England. The Calder Valley lines, both via Bradford and Brighouse, and onwards to Manchester and Preston, are proposed as the highest priority for electrification. Nina Smith said the Sustainable Transport Group wholeheartedly supported this recommendation, and called upon all political parties to commit to funding this in the early part of Network Rail's 2019-2024 Control Period.