GETTING YORKSHIRE BACK ON TRACK:
TheYorkshire Party’s rail manifesto for the region - Summary
An inadequate transport network
Yorkshire, and the North as a whole, suffers from under-investment in transport. Infrastructure spending on transport in London and the South-East is £5426, while in Yorkshire it’s just £581 (IPPR North report 2014).
You get what you pay for. Growth follows investment as London clearly shows. A long term plan, connecting both within and outside our region, could be the catalyst for a stronger Yorkshire as part of a UK that works for all.
Why invest in rail?
Our key transport objectives are:
· Promote sustainable economic growth across Yorkshire
· Reduce global warming by transferring people and goods from road to rail
· Improve community cohesion by better access to jobs, education and services
Is High-Speed Rail the answer?
Partially - the original proposal for HS2, with a new high-speed terminus at Leeds at right-angles to the main station and a long walk away, was particularly ill-considered. We recognise that capacity on existing north-south routes is a problem, but we must link properly to existing networks.
‘HS3’, linking Merseyside with Manchester, Leeds and the east coast is more important than a London-centric HS2, and offers greater economic and environmental benefits to Yorkshire.
We want a new east-west route, using the former Woodhead Tunnel under the Pennines – offering speed and capacity and forming part of a high-speed route via Sheffield to the south. Put simply – high-speed trains from Manchester to Leeds would use the re-opened tunnel and then head north to Leeds, with another route branching southwards via Sheffield to Birmingham and London. This ‘triangular’ junction would allow high-speed trains from the south via Sheffield to reach Leeds and continue northwards to Teesside, Newcastle and Scotland.
The Trans-Pennine corridor was to be electrified by 2018; industry insiders now predict it will be 2021. Yorkshire Party says that TransPennine electrification is urgently needed, sooner not later
Other routes which need electrification include all of the West Yorkshire local rail network, such as the Harrogate Line (see below) and the Calder Valley route (linking Leeds, Bradford and Halifax with Rochdale and Manchester). Whilst recent announcements suggest these are going to happen, there is no clear funding commitment from Government in London.
Beeching Cuts devastated Yorkshire's railways. The devolved Scottish Government has reopened several routes, Yorkshire has re-opened none. Our priorities for re-opening include:
· A new link to Otley and Pool via Menston continuing to Arthington (with a new Arthington Station) and back to Leeds: ‘The Otley Loop’, albeit re-routed. Tram-trains are one possibility (see below).
· Skipton to Colne (allowing better links from West and North Yorkshire to the North-West)
· Manchester to Sheffield via Woodhead
· Malton to Pickering (creating a direct route from York to Whitby)
· York to Beverley and Hull via Pocklington and Market Weighton
· Bradford Cross-Rail (see below re use of ‘tram-trains’)
· Harrogate to Northallerton (creating a direct route from Leeds and Harrogate via Ripon to the North-East
A crucial ‘missing link’ is a rail connection to Leeds/Bradford Airport. The best solution may be tram-trains (see below), to serve Yeadon and Rawdon as well, but all options should be considered.
As well as Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge which are already approved, we want to see Elland given priority, together with Haxby and Strensall (York), Arthington, new stations in Guiseley and Horsforth, Lightcliffe/Hipperholme and Golcar/Milnsbridge.
Light rail and tram-trains
Proven technology exists for 'tram-trains' to run on conventional railways. They could run on the Harrogate Line into Leeds (once electrified) and then run ‘on street’ to serve Headingley and the city centre. Since tram-trains 'add-on' to existing networks, they should not require any demolition work, unlike the unpopular Leeds trolley-bus plan.
It could also be a way of solving Bradford’s disconnected rail network, linking Forster Square with Bradford Interchange and allowing tram-trains to operate from Leeds via Shipley and Bradford to Halifax.
New trains, made in The North.
An expanding rail network needs new rolling stock. The ageing, inadequate ‘Pacer’ trains have no future in a modern rail network and should be replaced urgently, not in five years’ time as the Government hopes. New trains must meet demanding comfort and accessibility standards, with extra space for bikes and luggage. Furthermore, we want to see new trains built in the North of England, to create jobs and boost the economy. There is expertise in Doncaster that could be part of a new Northern railway manufacturing industry.
The Yorkshire Party wants good connectivity between bus and train at stations, sufficient parking, interchangeable tickets, avoidance of duplication and safe, well-signed, well-lit cycle routes and paths to stations.
Sensible planning and development
Major new housing and industrial developments not served by rail should pay for new facilities to be put in, based on developer contributions; no new homes without transport improvements first.
Managing the network
Local rail services are overseen by civil servants in London. The ‘Rail North’ body needs real power, including control of the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express franchises. It should be overseen by elected regional assemblies for Yorkshire, the North-east and North-West.
Complete privatisation offers neither value for money nor quality for passengers - but neither did BR. We support a ‘mixed economy’, with the private sector delivering longer distance open access services and a publicly-owned InterCity UK providing a balanced network of services across the country. Local rail services should be run by a not-for-dividend operator accountable to users and employees in Yorkshire and the North of England, with profits recycled into rail improvements.
Conclusion: time for the train!
Yorkshire was an early pioneer of rail transport and Leeds and Doncaster were great centres of railway engineering. It’s time for rail to play a much bigger part in our region’s economy. The Yorkshire Party is determined to fight for a new railway age: time for the train!