MP backs rail group ahead of key summit

Walsden railway station
Walsden railway station

The Calder Valley MP has given his backing to rail campaigners, saying cuts to services at Walsden station “fly in the face of common sense”.

Craig Whittaker has written to Northern Rail to voice his opposition to proposals to reduce peak time services from Walsden towards Halifax and Manchester.

In his letter, Mr Whittaker said: “Walsden is one of the few growth areas in the upper Calder Valley for housing development as deemed in Calderdale Council’s local development framework.

“At a time when we are hoping to entice commuters to get out of their cars and use the train instead, these proposals seem to fly in the face of common sense, unless of course the long term aim of these and previous changes have been to show a station with poor and declining customer numbers so that you can close it.”

Mr Whittaker said the number of people using Walsden station since a reduction of services in 2009 has gradually declined.

He believes making the service even less frequent will “without question reduce passenger numbers at Walsden even further”.

His other concerns include commuters travelling to Halifax or Bradford having to change in either Todmorden or Hebden Bridge, adding more time to journeys.

Phil Pritchard, chairman of Walsden Rail Action Group, said the changes do not provide the flexibility needed at rush hour.

“The proposed timetable would make life untenable for many Manchester rail users unless they opt to get into their cars and drive elsewhere,” he said.

“Similarly a disjointed service to Halifax requiring a change of trains at Hebden Bridge or Todmorden, and an extra ten minutes of travelling time, plus the early morning service prior to 7am deleted will make the rail service unusable for a number of passengers.

“We already have the worst service on the Calder Valley line, so why are we being made to suffer yet again?”

Anne Corden, of WRAG, said: “We are very grateful for Mr Whittaker’s support, and we hope that his powerful and reasonable objections will help bring Northern Rail to its senses.

“However, it is important that Northern Rail hear the voices of the users of Walsden station as well.

“We would encourage everyone who may be affected by the reduction in services to tell Northern Rail what they think of its plans.”

WRAG members are scheduled to meet with representatives from Northern Rail, Metro and Calderdale Council on Friday to discuss the proposals.

WRAG is asking rail users to email their comments to info@walsdenrailaction.org.uk for inclusion in the discussion.