Transport chair demands improvements on rail service reliability & capacity

3 December 2018

Combined Authority Transport Chair Cllr Kim Groves has reiterated the organisation's call on rail operators to deliver the required reliability and capacity for people across West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region.

Cllr Groves has also said that in the short-term, she wants to see improvements in train planning on key routes as well as the delivery of overdue and pending enhancements set out in the local rail franchise.

In a letter to all West Yorkshire councillors, Cllr Groves writes that she wants to see service reliability, which she describes as unacceptable in 2018, at over 95% or at least to the levels delivered by Northern in 2017. She calls for a particular focus on reliability on the Calder Valley route, linking Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Bradford and Leeds, which has seen the poorest performance recently.

With an estimated 100-200 passengers left behind at local stations each weekday due to a lack of capacity, Cllr Groves is also calling on Northern to ensure it is using all available rolling stock to provide the required capacity at peak-times. She identifies trains on the Calder Valley and Huddersfield- Calder Valley line, as priorities for additional capacity as well as trains serving Pontefract, Wakefield, Selby and York.

The Calder Valley route including trains via Dewsbury, trains between Wakefield and Leeds and the Woodlesford-Castleford-Pontefract route, are also the key corridors on which the Combined Authority wants to see improvements that address cancellations, capacity and gaps in service.

Writing about the franchise, Cllr Groves says she wants to see enhancements, such as the four trains per hour between Leeds and Harrogate and improved early-morning and late-night services, delivered. She has also expressed concern about the disappearance of through trains between stations in east Leeds and destinations such as Bradford and Halifax as a result of timetable changes being introduced by Northern this weekend. These services could be restored through additional calls by trains between Preston and York and improved performance on the York - Leeds corridor, she writes.

Enhancements due on December 2019 in the next phase of the franchise may be delayed by infrastructure capacity constraints, states Cllr Groves but she calls on Northern to use its best efforts and influence to deliver them as soon as possible.

Cllr Groves said: "West Yorkshire rail passengers are receiving a raw deal and from January will be expected to pay more for a failing service, which is simply not acceptable."

"In November I met with Northern Rail, and I will also be meeting with TransPennine Express, to make clear our priorities for rail services in West Yorkshire the Leeds City Region and the North for the coming year and I am urging the company to work with us to achieve them."

"By setting these out these priorities and urging the operators to this partnership approach, I want to see a way forward where service changes are worked out with us rather than done to us, and where our significant local knowledge of the rail network and local passengers, requirements can be used to make the right joint decisions."

Cllr Groves is working closely with Cllr Judith Blake, who is on the board of Transport for the North and West Yorkshire Combined Authority leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe on rail issues.

She added: "We have identified the Calder Valley line, services between Wakefield and Leeds and Castleford and Pontefract services as priority routes for improvement but with train services underpinning our local economy, it's vital that Northern and TransPennine Express make overall improvements in reliability and capacity for local people an urgent priority.

"And in the longer term we want to see the enhancements that were promised when the franchise was awarded, some of which are already overdue, delivered."