U-turn over Walsden rail timetable

Walsden train station.
Walsden train station.
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Northern Rail has announced plans to improve the timetable for passengers at Walsden rail station - but campaigners say more needs to be done.

The operator’s original proposals raised concerns that Walsden would lose almost all direct services to Halifax and Bradford from May 2014, meaning that passengers would need to change at Todmorden or Hebden Bridge.

Calderdale Council and Walsden Rail Action Group (WRAG) called for urgent negotiations with Northern Rail and Metro to review the proposals and accommodate stops at Walsden during peak times.

Following a meeting involving all the groups, Northern Rail has adjusted its draft timetable and has applied to run additional calls at Walsden on a number of weekday services.

Richard Allan, area director for Northern Rail, said: “We are pleased we have been able to address concerns raised to us and this active consultation allows us to develop timetables in partnership with our stakeholders as we look to build services and increase peak journey opportunities along the Calder Valley line.”

Under the new proposals, the 6.12am and 7.12am Manchester Victoria to Leeds via Bradford services would stop at Walsden, as would the 4.52pm and 5.52pm services in the opposite direction.

WRAG chairman Phil Pritchard said: “Despite the level of service promised we are still going to see a reduction in services in real terms combined with the added inconvenience of having to change trains at Todmorden or Hebden Bridge on many trains to Bradford and Halifax.

“We feel this is bound to have an effect on passenger numbers.”

Anne Corden, also of WRAG, said: “Once again, Walsden passengers are being made to suffer in the interests of the network as a whole.”

She said a reduction in services at Walsden would particularly affect disabled passengers as other stations are not as easily accessible for wheelchair users.

Coun Barry Collins, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for economy and environment, said: “Walsden has seen a decline in passenger growth at a time when all other rail services are experiencing growth.

“We believe this is due to a series of cuts in services to the station, not to lack of demand.

“This is why we called for an urgent review of the proposed timetable.

“Calderdale Council is committed to supporting the delivery of a two tier rail service on the Calder Valley rail line which would include two fast trains per hour between Manchester and Bradford and two commuter trains per hour, as part of the long term strategy agreed with the rail industry.”

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, who has supported WRAG’s campaign, had mixed views on the amended draft timetable.

“It’s good to see that Northern Rail have listened to the concerns raised by their customers who use Walsden station, seeing that the two peak time services have been addressed,” he said.

“But I do have some concerns going forward about the other services that have not been addressed.”

Mr Whittaker said if other services are not re-assessed, passenger numbers would decrease at Walsden and he fears that could lead to a decision being taken to close the station.

Northern Rail will receive confirmation in November about whether the new draft timetable can be delivered.