£1bn rail upgrade in Kirklees will be 'painful', says council chief

Massive rail upgrades in Kirklees will be “painful” for commuters and residents, a senior councillor has warned.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Saturday, 20th November 2021, 7:00 am
An artist’s impression of part of the proposed revamp of Huddersfield Rail Station
An artist’s impression of part of the proposed revamp of Huddersfield Rail Station

Network Rail’s £1.56bn Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) between Manchester and York includes remodelling Huddersfield Station and knocking down, replacing or improving eight bridges between Huddersfield and Westtown in Dewsbury, as well as widening and electrifying the line.

The mammoth scheme will replace part of the eastern leg of HS2, with a promised high-speed line stopping in the Midlands and no longer running to Leeds, meaning a new through-station at Bradford will not happen.

Earlier this year Kirklees Council lodged a “technical objection” about the TRU in order to address concerns about the impact of the scheme on roads, trees, recycling sites, and flagship housing projects such as the 4,000-home development at Dewsbury Riverside.

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Those concerns have been assuaged following high-level negotiations between senior council staff and Network Rail with Coun Peter McBride commenting: “We seem to have got our way.”

But he warned of “massive disruption” that could last more than nine months.

Speaking to a meeting of full council earlier this week, he said: “We are going to have to be massively patient.

“There are going to be 38 weeks of disruptions. They will try to do work at weekends and in blocks, so there will be relief. During that period it’s going to be very painful.

“The public may think: ‘Is it worth it?’ We know in the long-term that it is worth it for all concerned but the disturbance is going to be enormous.”

Almost every bridge along the Huddersfield-Dewsbury route is either too low or too narrow to accommodate the wider line and the overhead electrification lines that will be installed if the project is given the go-ahead.

The council’s regeneration boss, David Shepherd, said negotiations had been geared towards avoiding “substantial costs” to the authority and “unnecessary disruption” for residents and businesses.

That meant ensuring Dewsbury Riverside was not negatively impacted by rail infrastructure or forcing the council to have to find alternative sites for the 4,000 homes earmarked for the land.

He said: “It’s important that Network Rail understood that and located their infrastructure appropriately.”

He also said there was a need to “widen and effectively replace” the A62 Leeds Road Bridge at Deighton and that it was “very important that the council doesn’t get landed with the bill for construction as well as upkeep and maintenance.

“Network Rail have accepted that that is their responsibility now and moving into the future.”