Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The Caldervale Line

This is an entry about the Caldervale Line, which takes trains from my home town of York, through to Bradford where I currently reside, and onto Manchester and Blackpool, where Christine lives. As you can imagine, I use this railway line a lot.

Technically speaking it’s a ‘route’ rather than a ‘line’, as the sections of track were built at different times by different companies and it shares tracks with other services for a number of sections, but it’s known as the Caldervale Line. This is because it passes through the upper Calder Valley.
Bradford and Blackpool are on roughly the same latitude, so in an ideal world there would be almost a straight line between them. Alas the Pennine Hills are in the way, and so the railways tend to follow the valleys and serve the communities in them. Indeed, on leaving Bradford the trains head almost due south, before then curving around to face south-west to reach Halifax.

The line certainly isn’t the most modern in the country. It saw quite a bit of attention in the 1980s, when a number of stations closed in the 1960s were re-opened, and new trains were introduced for some services in the early 1990s. But apart from a new junction outside Bradford there hasn’t been much significant investment in the line of late. Some sections, such as the 9 miles between Burnley and Todmorden, have very slow line speeds of around 45 mph, compared with the usual minimum of 60 mph elsewhere. Consequently, the train from Bradford to Blackpool takes 1 hour and 50 minutes, which is slower than it would be to drive (around 1 hour 35 minutes) despite the driving route taking you via Manchester and being much further in distance.

But some changes are afoot. South of Bradford, a new railway station at Low Moor should be open by the end of 2012, again to replace one closed in the 1960s. Blackpool trains, which skip many intermediate stops elsewhere, won’t stop there but it will be served by a number of local services, and its location close to the M606 on the site previously occupied by Transperience means it will be suited for park-and-ride facilities. Manchester Victoria station is due for a major refurbishment and by 2017 there should be more frequent services to Bradford, as well as new direct services to Manchester Airport and Liverpool from Bradford. A new section of track will allow trains from Burnley to reach Manchester via Todmorden, although this plan is presently unfunded, And the line connecting Blackpool to Preston is due to be electrified later this decade, although that will largely benefit local services and not trains from Yorkshire.

A faster service to Blackpool from Bradford would be most welcome – obviously it would be nice for me but if it becomes faster than travelling by car then it will be more likely to pull in extra passengers. New or refurbished trains would be nice; while the Express Sprinter trains that usually run on the line aren’t too bad, they’re in need of a refit as many carry most of their original fixtures and fittings which have become well-worn over the past 20 years.

The Caldervale Line is a useful route, covering a long distance and linking many northern towns together, but it could really do with some more TLC. Hopefully in 10 years time I won’t have to use it so much, but I can hope that if I do it’ll be a quicker and more comfortable experience.

One Comment

  1. Ah, fond memories of that line. When I took my MSc in UMIST years ago and had no beans (stupidly I didn’t realise at the time if you went on the dole the tuition fees were paid, never mind) I used to enjoy days out walking the Calderdale Way.
    It is amazing the timescales we talk about things in the UK. By the time 2012 comes along, who knows how much the demographic would have changed? When public transport infrastructure is needed, things need to move faster than this. It won’t happen, of course, and it is likely not happen faster from May.