Public Meeting about Train time changes 30th June 2008
Over 100 people attended the meeting at The Good Shepherd Church last night when residents were given the opportunity to 'Speak up over train changes'. Some people had travelled from Walsden to make their voices heard.
The meeting had been arranged by the Sustainable Transport Group, Upper Calder Valley Renaissance. The group had completed a questionnaire survey of train users in Mytholmroyd and found that 78% of these commuters would be affected by the proposed changes. In the questionnaire particular concerns were expressed about the personal difficulties passengers would face and the environmental costs when passengers took to their cars rather than the train. The impact on the local economy and the ongoing work to regenerate Mytholmroyd were also flagged up in this survey.
Following a major study of timetables on the Caldervale Line, changes have been planned by Northern Rail and Metro, including faster trains with more carriages which will improve capacity and cut journey times between Halifax and Manchester to around 50 minutes, but Walsden, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge will lose one train per hour to and from Halifax and Bradford. The case put by Northern Rail and Metro seemed to be based entirely on the belief that speeding up Bradford to Manchester services would attract more new passengers than those lost by lowering the service at the smaller stations. Their arguments were financial and commercial, and they made no reference to rail's positive role in reducing greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollution by providing an attractive alternative to the motor car. They admitted that no Environmental Impact Assessment of their plans had been carried out.
Residents spoke articulately of the environmental issues which would impact on cutting trains from Mytholmroyd and Walsden forcing people to take to their cars and drive to Hebden Bridge and/or Todmorden where parking was already a huge problem, or, even worse, drive all the way to work. A representative of Sweet and Maxwell one of the largest employers in Mytholmroyd said this had huge implications for the company, who employed over 200 people at their Mytholmroyd location. She said that the company had to make a decision soon about renewing its lease, and if Mytholmroyd's train service is reduced, this will influence their decision and may result in them choosing to move to a site somewhere with better transport links.
There was a suggestion that , if Northern Rail insisted on reducing the service to Mytholmroyd, then a free shuttle bus be provided to take Mytholmroyd and Walsden passengers to Hebden Bridge and Todmorden station. Northern Rail said that this would not be cost effective for them. They also said that increased investment in parking at Hebden Bridge depended on future growth justifying the investment - despite the fact that the car park is usually full by 07.30 and about 20 cars are now parking on the main road.
A Hebden Bridge resident supported the protest, saying that quality of service to Mytholmroyd people was more important than her being able to get to Bradford four minutes quicker.
One resident pointed out to Northern Rail that there was a huge response from local people in this small community, as evidenced by the turn out for the meeting. He asked if they were serious about consulting with local people or was the whole thing a waste of time.
Northern Rail said there would be further opportunities for consultation, however the overwhelming message people came away with was "Mytholmroyd is not part of the bigger picture", that nothing that had been said at the meeting would make any difference to the changes that Northern Rail were contemplating. The "bigger picture" being more revenue from faster trains - not trains that "stopped at every lamp post. "
Left: Some of the representatives from Northern Rail who attended the meeting - Steve Butcher, Rob Warnes, and Matthew Gibson.
Many people had their questions unanswered because the meeting closed at 9.00 and they were invited to address further enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Rail agreed to feed back to Mytholmroyd residents the results of their consultation, but no date was given.
The Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group will call a further meeeting if Northern Rail and Metro do not respond positively to the justifiable concerns of the people of Mytholmroyd, and may decide to become the formal rail users group for the Upper Valley given that HADRAG has given support to the proposed timetable.