Councillors have expressed their frustration after it emerged that introduction of services on the reinstated Todmorden Curve rail link will be delayed by at least six months – due to a lack of trains.
Work has begun on an £8.8m project to reinstate the curve, providing direct rail services between Burnley and Manchester and benefitting passengers in Todmorden who will no longer have to change trains at other stations.
Northern Rail has announced that its Manchester Victoria to Rochdale service will be extended to Todmorden from May 2014 using the curve.
But additional services between Manchester, Burnley and Blackburn will only be introduced when spare diesel trains become available – which may not happen until the end of 2014.
Coun Barry Collins, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for economy and environment, said it “beggars belief” that the new track will be in place but there are no trains available to run the services.
“This will be a huge disappointment, not just to people in Todmorden but to everyone using the Calder Valley rail line, especially when all the different local authorities have fought together for the reinstatement of the curve for years,” he said.
“It is an awful failure of planning.
“It’s time that everyone with a passion for the rail industry in the area starts to put pressure on the government and the rail industry to make sure the line gets the development it needs.
“This farce with the diesel engines just proves the case for electrification.”
Calder ward councillor Janet Battye said: “I’m furious about it. It makes us feel as though we are second class citizens.
“It’s a golden opportunity for new train services for the advantage of the people of Todmorden and Burnley and it looks like we are going to be denied it until there is some second hand rolling stock available.”
Both Couns Collins and Battye said they will be working with partners to ensure the delay is as short as possible.
Todmorden town councillor David Tattersall said: “It’s unacceptable to spend £8m on a public facility and leave it unused.
“It’s not joined up thinking.”
A Northern Rail spokesperson said: “Although there are no spare trains on the market at the moment, the introduction of electric trains onto newly electrified routes in the North West towards the end of 2014 and into 2015 will release some diesel trains.
“We are currently working with the Department for Transport on options for obtaining the trains required to operate Manchester–Burnley–Blackburn services via the Todmorden Curve.”
The Todmorden Curve is a 500-yard switchback which will enable trains to travel along the Caldervale line from Burnley to Manchester in under an hour.