Huddersfield to Castleford rail service to be axed and replaced with bus service for seven months

The rail service between Huddersfield and Castleford is to be axed for seven months and replaced with a bus service, doubling journey times.
Wakefield Kirkgate railway station. Picture Scott MerryleesWakefield Kirkgate railway station. Picture Scott Merrylees
Wakefield Kirkgate railway station. Picture Scott Merrylees

A councillor today (March 10) blamed the disruption on a ‘failure of co-operation’ by rail authorities and operators.

The Northern service, which runs between Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield, Wakefield Kirkgate, Normanton and Castleford stations, will not be in operation between May and December this year.

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A report to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport committee described the service as being “sporadic for some years”.

At present the service runs only three times a day each way, with no trains on Sundays.

Plans had been place for TransPennine Express (TPE) to extend its existing hourly Manchester to Huddersfield service, to run on via Wakefield Kirkgate and Castleford through to York from May 2023.

The report states: “This would replace and fulfil the role of the Northern service between Huddersfield and Castleford.

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“This is a proposal that the Combined Authority strongly supports, since it improves connectivity, including new links to employment sites at Sherburn-in-Elmet.

“However, ongoing issues with TPE mean that, at late notice, the decision was made to defer this change to the December 2023 timetable change.”

“Northern was not expecting to run the service beyond May, so had not ‘bid’ the services through industry processes.”

Northern has been instructed to run replacement buses, with journey times around double those of the trains, from May to December.

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The report adds: “This is considered unacceptable, and we are pushing to find an alternative solution to maintain or re-establish a rail service as soon as possible.”

Committee member, Coun Kevin Swift told a meeting today: “We are talking about the failure of the machinery to coordinate.

“Somewhere between the stools of the various operators and other people, they have managed to lose the service.

“It’s not been cut back through any particular intention or any misguided prioritisation of the service.

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“It’s simply been a failure of the actual machinery of coordination.”

Coun Swift said the service “took the hit” around three years ago when Northern “de-prioritised” it due to a shortage of trains.

He added: “We were very much looking forward to the prospect of restoration of a full service but also that service being extended to York.

“TransPennine first of all said they could do it and then later said they couldn’t.

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“Then Northern said ‘we are sorry, but we are no longer in a position to do it. We thought it was going to get done by TransPennine.’

“One can understand, to some degree, and sympathise with the position of both operators.

“But who the hell is doing the coordination on this?”

“I question Network Rail, I question the role of the department for transport, and certainly Northern.

“The government has said they want the Great British railways brought back. Still, nothing is happening.

“The lack of coordination has shown up in this instance.

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“We have simply had a service between two quite significant towns that has just fallen between the cracks.

“What has happened should not have happened.”

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