Last summer, Kirkstall Forge became Yorkshire’s newest railway station, and I went to have a look on a free afternoon. But it’s now lost the crown to another new Yorkshire station: Low Moor. And today I popped over to have a look.
Low Moor is technically a re-opening of a station that was closed in the 1960s, following the Beeching report. It used to be a junction station, with a branch line heading down the Spen Valley through Cleckheaton and Heckmondwyke. That branch line was closed, and is now the Spen Valley Greenway, a segregated footpath that I’ve walked a few times (but curiously never blogged about). Low Moor station has an exit onto the Greenway, improving access to it.
For a couple of years in the 1990s, the land once occupied by the old Low Moor station was used for Transperience, a public transport museum. I wrote about it a few years ago despite having never been; it closed due to a lack of visitors, and therefore money.
The new Low Moor station has been quite a long time coming; plans have existed for some time. Its construction has also taken far longer than planned. The local area was a major coalfield, and, during work to build a lift shaft, an uncapped mining shaft was found that didn’t exist on any plans. The station should have therefore opened in 2016, but, hey, better late than never.
The start of construction was also held up due to the need to get a standards derogation for the curved platforms. Modern stations have dead straight platforms, to minimise the gap between trains and the platform edge. Low Moor station is on a curve, and so there are a number of ‘Mind the Gap’ warnings around.
The new Low Moor station
So what did I find when I visited? Well, it’s very similar to most new stations that have opened of late. As you’d expect, it is (almost) fully wheelchair accessible; the only exception being the steps down to the Greenway. A ramp for cycles has been provided (but was fenced off) – this seems like a curious omission. Lifts provide access to the two platforms, which surprised me slightly. The station is unstaffed, so if the lifts break down, there’s no assistance for wheelchair users. I’m guessing large ramps would have added to the cost; the station already cost over £10million to build.
As mentioned, Low Moor station is unstaffed, so there’s no ticket office. There is a machine by the car park, however, which has around 100 spaces. When I visited today, there were around 20 cars parked up. Which isn’t a lot, but the station has been open less than a fortnight, and there are almost no road signs to it. I expect that, in time, it’ll be signposted from the nearby M62 as a park-and-ride facility for those travelling into Leeds and Bradford.
Which brings me to the train services. There aren’t many of them.
After spending a lot of money on a new station, you might expect there to be a regular train service. But the majority of train services on the Calder Valley line whizz through Low Moor station without stopping. There’s a basic hourly service in each direction: one northbound to Bradford and thence onto Leeds, and one southbound to Halifax and Huddersfield. There’s no direct service to Manchester Victoria.
Grand Central, the open access operator which runs trains between Bradford and London King’s Cross, stop most of their trains at Low Moor, so there is a link to the capital. But these trains only run four times a day in each direction.
It’s a shame that Low Moor hasn’t got a great service, especially considering the money spent. Improvements should, however, come with time. The Calder Valley line is undergoing a multi-million pound upgrade this year, which should see more and faster trains. At present, only 4 trains per hour can use the line in each direction; the upgrade will add a fifth path and hopefully more. This should mean that more trains can stop at Low Moor without existing services having to slow down.
The poor service frequency was part of the reason why I made my visit to Low Moor by car, rather than by train. I’m hoping that getting there by train will be easier in the not too distant future.