Friday, September 25, 2009


Sep 09: Another year, another plan for a direct rail link from Huddersfield to London.

Alliance Rail have applied to run services via the Penistone Line and Sheffield (3hrs) and onto the West Coast Line (presumably via the Guide Bridge link, near Stalybridge). This would take 2hrs 40 mins.

The man behind the scheme is York-based Ian Yeowart, who helped create the London to Sunderland service when he was managing director of Grand Central. This company had planned to introduce a direct London service for Hudds but instead intends to start a Halifax/Bradford service to the capital next year.

The rail regulator will decides whether to approve Alliance Rail's scheme. If it does, trains could start running in December 2013.

It is amazing that Huddersfield, the second biggest West Yorkshire station, has not had its direct link to the capital restored when it takes on so many other services.

Some info: Huddersfield Examiner

Apr 09: Stagecoach are offering a £1 travel deal from Hudds to the capital. Only three stops, but it means catching a bus from the town, via Halifax and Bradford, to somewhere called East Midlands Parkway, then a train onto St Pancras. It takes nearly five hours and there are just two services a day, from 6.30am and 12.30pm.

Mmm, no matter how cheap bus travel gets, there's nothing more depressing than a long coach ride - cramped seats, tedious motorways, detours to bleak bus stations and the inevitable screechers with terrible music taste nearby/people sleeping on your shoulder. It's bad enough when they have coach replacement services from Leeds to Hudds.

April 08: You can keep your fancy Orient Express - I got a South Pennines Day Ranger ticket with the opportunity to visit Manchester, Oldham Mumps, Rochdale, Halifax, Bradford, Huddersfield, Barnsley, Sheffield, Wakefield, Stalyvegas and most stations in between for £13.

I tried it out this month, intending to travel on the Penistone Line from Huddersfield to Barnsley, cutting across to Wakefield.

Then I was going to hop off at Mirfield to catch a relatively new Leeds to Hebden Bridge service, which, frustratingly doesn't stop at Hudds, and then catch a Rochdale train at Heb Bridge and maybe change for Oldham or head back via Manchester Victoria or Halifax.

Well it didn't quite turn out like that because, of course, I didn't want to be just hopping on and off trains, I wanted to visit a few boozers.

It took 40 minutes to get from Huddersfield to Barnsley on the lovely Penistone Line, which is like travelling through farmers' fields for most of the way. It was my first visit to Barnsley and the town has the usual frustrating mix of lovely old honey coloured buildings and a crappy modern pedestrianised shopping centre.

Most of the old buildings live on as pubs - the court house, the Drapers Market and a nice art deco building called Blah, Blah, a name which reeks of WKD and gelled-up lads with short-sleeved shirts.

My first port of call was The Gatehouse, near the station, horrible grey and red on the outside, lovely wooden floors and sofas on the inside and a good choice of beers - two Barnsleys, an Anglo Dutch from Dewsbury and a Wentworth.

I'd only chosen Good Beer Guide pubs relatively near the station but as my printer's on the blink I relied on hand-drawings from Google maps which were more like stickmen with scrawls next to them - Mr Ordinance and Mr Survey would have been turning in their graves.

Consequently I had no idea exactly how far the next pub (The George and Dragon) was and after walking about a mile out of town without seeing the turning I needed, I headed back to the station and 15 minutes later was in Wakefield Kirkgate.

I hate visiting this station, even in the day. It's a vast, impressive buildings but it's unoccupied and most of its windows either smashed or boarded up. The platforms are graffited and some have no roofs and next to the station entrance is a smashed-up pub.

The station is no doubt suffering as it's smaller neighbour, Westgate, is linked to London and the East Coast Line, but I wonder if anyone could perhaps convert part of this building into a pub.

Anyway the reason I stopped here was to see the revamped Fernandes Tap. But I was thwarted by opening times - it didn't open until 4. In search of food I found a proper old greasy spoon Othello. O! thereby hangs a tale!

Actually, nothing particularly interesting happened here. I just looked for appropriate Othello quotes on t'inters. I had a very pleasant egg, chips and teacake in the company of some old folk who appeared to use the place a base to chat the day away.

There's an Othello quote about chronicling small beer which is perhaps more appropriate as I 'd only had one pint in four hours by this time so I was eager to get into Fernandes.

The pub has been taken over by Ossett although Fernandes beers are still being made. The upstairs bar is exactly the same but they've added another bar (which was locked when I was there) and painted the outside so it doesn't look as pokey as it was before.

I'm due a longer visit but the late opening of the bar had buggered up my schedule. I'd decided early on to end at Hebden Bridge but I was thinking I probably didn't have time to go there either.

Mirfield was my next stop and the Navigation pub - a Theakstons pub with a rare chance to try Black Bull and draft Old Peculiar. The Diana inquest verdict had just happened so the TV was a bit too loud but it was a pleasant enough pub in a town which appears to be expanding rapidly, with mills becoming mews cottages, and the bulk of the housing moving away from the shops on the main road.

I decided to call it a day then and head back to Hudds. I was a little disappointed I didn't get further, at least away from the site of Emley mast - I could see when I left my home, I saw it near Denby Dale on the Pensitone Line and it was there at the end poking over a hill in Mirfield. It followed me around like Mona Lisa's eyes.

The journey would have cost me £12.55 if I hadn't bought my £13 ticket but it was still an enjoyable day and I'll probably get another ticket and try the Manchester end and get my money's worth.

Mar 08: Britain's first ever 'tram trains' are to run on the Penistone Line in a £24m trial.

Five of the new machines, which can run on railway and tram lines and are widely used in Europe, will replace conventional trains from 2010 for two years.

If they're a success on this line they could be used to link Leeds to Leeds-Bradford Airport.

Tram trains are lighter than regular trains, thus reducing wear and tear on tracks. They have faster acceleration and deceleration rates and are expected to reduce journey times.

This would be great on the Penistone Line. The 37-mile Huddersfield to Sheffield route takes 75 minutes.

It's almost as quck to change at Wakey and Leeds from Hudds and get the fast train. But Penistone does attract 1.2 million passengers a year, largely thanks to promotion by the volunteers of The Penistone Line Partnership and Northern Rail.

The trial will look at the environmental benefits, operating costs and suitability of the tram-trains and to see how popular the vehicles are with passengers.

The project is a partnership between the Department for Transport, train operator Northern Rail and Network Rail which will spend £15m in track improvements and alterations to the 17 stations. DfT will contribute £9m to fund the operation of the trial.

Some train forums are worried that this line is too long for this sort of thing, is a sop to people complaining about the Woodhead Tunnel fiasco nearby, and won't actually run on tram lines in Sheff. And what will happen to the line alterations if trial is abandoned?

Jan 08: Christmas is the one time I'm forced to hire a car and not rely on the excellent services from Huddersfield station and the speedy Transpennine trains. The lovely P is always claiming the train's more expensive and less convenient than a car, but when it cost me £55 in petrol for a five-day use of the car, including trips to Stafford and Southport from Hudds, I decided to check out the costs.

What first surprised me was a day return to Stafford and a standard return to Southport cost £22 and £24 respectively, less than the petrol. We also did mini-trips to Holmfirth, Netherton, a couple to Huddersfield town, and a three-mile drive in Lancs so I'll add £12 in bus fares to that and a couple of taxi fares (£10). A total of £68.

I hired a new Skoda Fabia which would cost me £8,000 if I bought it new, but what would the running costs be?

According to the AA, road tax would be £115 a year, insurance £396 (UK average for fully comp with 60% no claims), breakdown cover £42. The capital cost - the loss of income from the owner having money tied up in a vehicle which otherwise could be earning interest in a deposit account - is £328, while depreciation (if I was selling the car after four years) would be £1,132 a year.

That's a total of £2,013 a year and excludes any parking charges, MOT or repairs. During the hire, I spent £7 on parking. I'll add £42 a year for my MOT.

So I've got my new Skoda (£8,000)and assuming I'll sell the car after four years that's £2,000 a year. With running costs of £2,013 - that's £4,000 a year, £11 a day and five days that's £55.

Add £55 for my petrol and that's £110. Add my £7 parking and that makes £117. My MOT is, say, £1 a week if I include some repairs.

So the result is:
Train £68 Car £118. I win lovely P, a-ha-ha-ha!

Jan 08: Chances of restoring an alternative Manchester to Sheffield rail route are under threat.

The Hadfield to Penistone section of the route closed in 1981 but most of the trackbed is in place. However the National Grid wants to put new cables in the Woodhead Tunnel section and there would be no room for a restored line in the tunnel if they did that.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly does not want to get involved and National Grid don't need any planning permission but as Greater Manchester's transport chief Roger Jones noted, the route would provide a valuable rail alternative on increasingly congested road and rail routes.

Mr Beeching wanted to close the other Manc-Sheff route via Hope, Edale etc but widespread protests, the reduction in coal trains and the unique way in which the route was electrified left the Woodhead line vulnerable to closure.

Campaigners say it would cost £139m to reopen the 20-mile route and take 35 mins from Manc to Sheff.

  • Save Woodhead Tunnel Blog

    Jan 08: Campaigners hoping to restore a 11 mile rail link between the two towns have been encouraged by an independent report supporting them.

    The trackbed is intact and it would help to provide a link between Preston and Yorkshire and east and west coasts.

    The report, by a consulting firm using Department of Transport guidelines, said it would be financially viable to reopen the line which closed in 1970.

    Dec 07: Northern have announced a new Leeds to Hebden Bridge service, via Dewsbury but not via Huddersfield unfortunately and it's a daytime only service. Trains will veer off from Mirfield to Brighouse on the 50 minute journey.

    More trains could be sent to Victoria instead of Piccadilly if a proposed major shake-up of the Manchester region's rail services goes ahead.

    Salford Crescent could also be built a quarter of a mile further north to allow longer trains, while little-used stations at Ardwick, Denton, and Reddish South could be closed.

    The ideas come from Network Rail and are going out for consultation before firm plans are drawn up.

    Between them, Manchester's stations take almost 23 million passengers a year, about 19 million of them at Piccadilly.

    Paul Banks, from Network Rail, said: "The centre of Manchester is moving towards Victoria. There are lots of options where we can better distribute people around the city.

    "Clearly, it is not as striking as Piccadilly is today. And if we want it to be the peer of Piccadilly it needs to be revitalised."

    Guide Bridge station at Audenshaw, which is close to the M60, could become a park and ride station and passengers could go from there into the city.

    Little-used Eccles station could be linked with the Metrolink stop to give train
    passengers a way to travel to Salford Quays.

    Dec 07: Update - £300m to be spent on improving Victoria with boomerang roof (eh?), shops etc - but exterior will be preserved. Work could start in 2009.

    Info: Manchester Evening News

    A new rail company has announced plans to run trains direct from Huddersfield to London.

    York-based Grand Central Railway hopes to open the route by 2010 if it gets permission and it's economically viable.

    Huddersfield passengers currently have to go to Leeds or Wakey to catch a London train and it takes about three hours.

    The new route would take two hours and 20 minutes from Hudds, stopping at Guide Bridge, (between Manchester and Staleyvegas) to attract M60 commuters. Grand Central are then hoping to travel on a track which is used only once a week to Stockport and onto the West Coast line. There would be six trains a day, some of which would call Bradford, Brighouse and Halifax before getting to Hudds.

    Grand Central is the company which is starting a Sunderland to London service in December and also wants separate Bradford to London, Bradford to Doncaster services.

    There was a Hudds to London service in the 50s and 60s which went via Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham.

  • Grand Central Rail