Calderdale Council shares Walsden rail users’ concerns that proposed rail service changes will affect them adversely if they are approved.
Residents fear changes which would reduce services connecting the station to Halifax and Bradford, instead linking most journeys to Leeds via Brighouse, would be a major blow to commuters and might cast a cloud over the station’s future.
They were alarmed to discover the nature of proposed service changes which Northern Rail says are driven by the new TransPennine Express five-trains-per-hour service across the Pennines, requiring a major recast of Northern services from Manchester Victoria and through the Huddersfield area. They are concerned they only discovered the changes within two weeks of a deadline for comments which passenger transport provider Metro had told them was July 14.
The council’s cabinet member for economy and environment, Coun Barry Collins, said he had understood the depth of feeling about the matter after meeting Walsden Rail Action Group members at the recent Ward Forum held in the village.
In recent years the council had put in huge amounts of work with the rail industry to improve rail services through the Pennines and hoped that as part of the Northern Hub project this would progress further, not just in journey times but also access.
“It was really disappointing to open up the new proposals and see that rather than a further stage of these improvements, at first glance it seems to be a backward step. We will be working hard behind the scenes with the rail industry through the consultation to get some changes,” he said.
The Walsden rail group says passenger numbers have been reduced since work to repair a culvert was followed by timetable cuts in 2008 which left it the worst service on the line. Despite a single train an hour off-peak service Walsden had been experiencing steadily growing passenger numbers with more than 132,000 passengers in 2006/07. Since the 2008 cuts footfall has reduced to under 93,000 by 2011/12, comparing unfavourably with a similar station, Mytholmroyd, as a result.
“Further reductions in service are bound to dissuade potential rail users even more as those who can take to their cars to get to work. This is a poor use of nearly £3/4 million of public investment in the station and is adding to traffic and parking congestion in the Calder Valley.
“No other station on the Calder Valley line is having such massive reductions in service proposed for it, so WRAG has to ask, ‘Why us, yet again? Do Northern and Metro want to close our station?’,” said a spokesman.
WRAG secretary, Vanessa Lightfoot, said: “This new rail service would mean that we will no longer have a direct rail service to Halifax, the major town and biggest employment centre in Calderdale for Walsden residents.”
Northern Rail acknowledges concerns have been raised and were looking to work on the feedback as timetables were developed and reduce compromises for passengers.
Anyone concerned can contact Walsden Rail Action Group (WRAG) via firstname.lastname@example.org and it is hoped a website - www.walsdenrailaction.org.uk - will be up and running by the weekend.