Opinon: The Calder Valley needs a modern transport system to maximise economic potential

The declaration that Hebden Bridge is the UKs ‘second city’ – lying at the heart of the suburbs of Bradford, Leeds & Manchester – has come as something of a shock to most people living there, including myself. However, underneath the hyperbole lies a serious point; that the Calder Valley lies in a sweet spot for ease of commute to the major employment centres.
But what the Calder Valley lacks – and what holds back prosperity and employment opportunities within it – is a modern, efficient transport system.
We are cursed on the Caldervale line which runs along the Calder Valley with the oldest, least efficient, slowest, and most dangerous trains in the UK; and with a Tory MP in Calder Valley who has not done anything to secure better transport links for his constituents.
Nor has the Labour Party – despite running the council and having an MP in Halifax – effectively lobbied for improvements to our rail link.
Without faster, more frequent services for every station along the valley – and the rebuilding of the station at Elland – Calderdale will be unable to live up to its promise at the core of the powerhouse industrial cities of the north.
Calderdale needs a radical, forward looking rail strategy that only the Liberal Democrats will provide, in order to achieve stronger economic links and job opportunities that will enable everyone here to get on in life.

* Alisdair Calder McGregor is a member of the party's Federal International Relations Committee.

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14 Comments

  • Couple of things – firstly, the article wasn’t a declaration of Hebden Bridge being the second city, but an exploration of just how much London dominates England in terms of size, and how that could be rectified through reconsideration of northern conurbations.

    Secondly, the Northern Hub project ( http://www.networkrail.co.uk/6486_TheNorthernHub_TransformingrailintheNorth.pdf ) is already resulting in work on the Todmorden curve, whilst Holme Tunnel’s 20 mph speed restriction is being lifted, Rochdale is getting a third platform to allow trains to terminate there without blocking the main line, thanks to the Ordsall Chord, services are planned to run directly between Bradford and Manchester Airport, there’s a proposal for an increase in the services along the line and the journey time is undergoing improvement.

    So that’s not bad, really, is it?

  • This is Britain. Its government acts on the unshakeable belief that only London needs public transport.

  • Paul Pettinger 12th Mar '14 - 12:11pm

    Hebden Bridge highlights the (arguably much more pressing) need to reinstate the Colne-Skipton section of the East Lancashire Line.

  • Transport links from the North West to Yorkshire desperately need improving, not just rail but road as well. The Glossop/Longendale route from Manchester to Sheffield is atrocious – a windy country road with dry stone walls connecting two of the biggest cities in the UK less than 40 miles apart.

    It creates two separate employment markets on either side of the Peak District that’s killing business. I work in Sheffield and our number 1 problem is hiring skilled staff. A decent road between these cities would create massive opportunities for both areas and expand the catchment area companies can hire from.

  • Alisdair McGregor 12th Mar '14 - 1:51pm

    @ Sam Chew: Northern Hub is a very important piece of work, but most of the immediate benefits bypass Calder Valley. The electrification of the parallel route through Standedge to Huddersfield for example.

    What the Standedge/Huddersfield route does give us is a strong business case to electrify the Caldervale line in order to provide a bypass route that the same rolling stock can run along in case of faults or accidents on that line.

    Todmorden Curve does have some benefits for the Calder Valley (an additional train per hour from Todmorden and Walsden to Man Vic, and direct access to Burnley without requiring a change at Hebden Bridge), but none at all for the remaining 8/9ths of the valley.

    Electrification of the line is a must have – it would open up block routing to allow more trains, be more efficient and result in the replacement of the life-expired DMU rolling stock.

    The proposed Bradford to Manchester Airport service will not benefit Calder Valley, as it will have to be either a fast service (which skip most of the valley stations, resulting in less service without electrification), or take the TPE route through Standedge.

    @Paul Pettinger: I think there is definitely a case for Colne-Skipton, and I note the recent SELRAP report on its viability ( http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/NEWS/11054729.New_report___s_boost__for_Colne_to_Skipton_rail_reopening/?ref=rss )

    @Joe Otten: Woodhead & Ordsall would link the Sheffield Economic Area into the Manchester/West Yorkshire one and result in a great prosperity boost across the north. I fully support the initiatives to re-open these, as the economic benefits would pay for themselves easily within a decade.

    @Gareth Wilson: Across that terrain a rail link is more viable than a road one. Sadly we’ve had road-addicted governments for 30+ years.

  • @ Alisdair McGregor

    I’m all for improving rail links but reopening the Woodhead Tunnel is not possible, unfortunately and against much local opposition at the time in 2007 the tunnel is now stuffed full of utility cabling so can’t be re-opened. A terribly short sighted decision by the previous government.

    We have to be pragmatic though, rail can’t solve everything and we need new roads in the north as well. At the very least the people of Glossop, Mottram, Tintwistle and Hollingworth desperately need a bypass and have suffered terribly traffic for over 20 years. As part of the local action group I met Andrew Bingham the MP for the area recently and there’s hope that a feasibility study in process now will recommend a bypass, which could be announced in the Autumn Statement this year. But after 20 years of being ignored by Westminster people are not getting their hopes up..

  • I would absolutely. Joe I imagine you’re more tuned in to what’s going on in the party in Yorkshire so if you could lead that’d be brill. I can drum up support west of the Peaks, I also have the ‘advantage’ of being in George Osborne’s constituency so can arrange a local surgery visit to lobby him face to face.

    The local action group ‘The Longendale Siege Committee’ are on Facebook if you’re interested joining – https://www.facebook.com/groups/11365712802/

  • Here, in England’s 10th largest city, we’re still waiting with bated breath for the DfT to decide if rail electrification will be allowed to proceed beyond Selby (Selby? No, I can’t fathom that Wizard Wheeze either). Where is ‘here’? In the wrong part of the UK: north of Peterborough, in the City of Culture 2017. No, I won’t force you to Google it: it’s The City and County of Kingston-Upon-Hull – and don’t you dare forget it!

  • Its v pleasant to see lib dems discussing issues affecting the north of England. Like others, I hope there can be a wholesale decentralisation of rail franchising to the north. I believe that would be the catalyst for local authorities to work together to address the transport needs of local communities.

  • Steve Coltman 14th Mar '14 - 4:32pm

    Who wants to join a policy/campaign group on this? said Joe Otten – the Assoc of Lib Dem Engineers & Scientists is in the process of assembling such a group right now. It is about rail policy in general not about one issue in particular. There is no great reason why party members not in ALDES shouldn’t join in as well. Please get in touch. Contact details on the web-site http://www.aldes.org.uk.

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