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This month should see a start on the plan to restore a direct rail link between Halifax and Huddersfield. One of the first jobs will be to replace stolen rails on Bradley curve. Other work needed is to provide new signalling and two new stations.
The travelling time from Elland and Brighouse into Halifax by train will be only a third of the time taken by bus. One of the aims of the rail scheme is to ease local road congestion.
Bradford would also benefit by having a direct link to Huddersfield where it will be possible to change for a train to Manchester Airport.
Councillor Marion Kershaw told the RDS Rail Reopenings Conference in June that the scheme had been granted a £4,500,000 Capital Challenge award. Calderdale Council would be discussing technical aspects of the scheme with Railtrack and hoped that all agreements would be in position for work to start in October. That was why delegates from all over Britain travelled to Halifax for the sixth National Conference on Rail Reopenings in the Victorian splendour of the White Swan Hotel.
RDS Yorkshire speaker Stephen Waring outlined the new service possibilities once the scheme was finished in summer 1999. Yorkshire branch chairman James Towler said few counties had such a good record as West Yorkshire on reopenings and new stations.
Sixteen stations had been added to the network thanks to West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and he also paid tribute to the work of local authorities and local rail users' groups.
Among further potential schemes in the county, Mr Towler cited Low Moor, between Bradford and Halifax, where the line ran alongside a new museum, Transperience, extolling public transport. He described it as "ludicrous" that such a museum had no railway station.
Bob Hill, director of Railtrack Property, displayed a model to show the company's thinking on modular stations that could be adapted according to local circumstances. He acknowledged that, in the recent past, the pace of reopening and new works had slowed, partly owing to the upheavals associated with privatisation.
Nevertheless, 31 new stations had been opened by Railtrack since April 1994 (some of the schemes inherited from British Rail) and they were looking at proposals for 25 more. "Any party can take the initiative in promoting a reopening scheme," he said, "such as a local authority or a pressure group."
It was important to establish which operator would use the station, and then to put an outline proposal to Railtrack's relevant zonal director. Railtrack would need to supervise the works and would then have ongoing maintenance responsibilities.
Mr Hill also dealt with the issue of costings by saying that British Rail had often underestimated these, and that Railtrack had to take into account both construction and maintenance costs.
Asked about the protection of abandoned routes, he said it was up to operators, local authorities and pressure groups to alert Railtrack to the possibilities of rebuilding. He added: "Railtrack will get more money from operators running more trains than from selling off land."
A different angle to the theme was taken by our third speaker, Ruth Annison of the Wensleydale Railway Association. She outlined the association's work since 1990 in campaigning for the reopening of the Northallerton-Hawes line in North Yorkshire.
The eastern part of the line is used occasionally by the Ministry of Defence, who are prepared to share it with a public passenger service. WRA members are working to re-lay track to Bolton Castle and envisage a tourist service from Leaming Bar westwards as a step towards ultimate restoration of the entire line and a passenger service for both local people and visitors.
The association has grown to 2,300 members and is about to issue an appeal with bonds. It was working closely with the Yorkshire Dales National Park in view of the potential for bringing tourists into the Dales.
Ms Annison also gave examples of ideas on running and promoting rural railways which she had gained while on a Churchill Travelling Fellowship in northern Europe. Not only could we learn from these, but some people from other European countries could also learn from our experience.
A full report of the conference is available from David Soames, 158 Atherstone Avenue, Peterborough, PE3 9UN at £1 (payable to Railway Development Society).
Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.
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