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Local rail services to and from Bradford to be reduced from May

Thursday, 9 March 2023 22:24

By Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter

The number of trains running between Bradford and Ilkley and Skipton will be slashed from May in a bid to make the service more reliable.

Between 9.30am and 3pm on Mondays to Saturdays, the services on the Wharfedale Line between Bradford and Ilkley, which includes stops at Menston, Burley and Ben Rhydding, will be cut from one every half hour to one an hour.

On the Airedale line between Bradford and Skipton, which includes stops at Keighley, Steeton & Silsden and Cononley, there will be a similar cut between 9.30am and 3pm – services dropping from two an hour to one an hour.

Peak time and evening services will remain at their current levels.

Northern Rail has said the cut is needed to help reduce the high number of train cancellations caused by staff shortages.

But Bradford Council’s Leader has said the services “must be restored” as soon as possible.

Services between Leeds and Ilkley and Leeds and Skipton will be left unscathed in the new timetables, which will be introduced in May.

Details of the cuts will be discussed at a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee on Friday.

A report to members shows that when the new timetable is introduced, five Bradford-bound services from Skipton a day will be withdrawn, along with four services from Bradford to Skipton.

Four Bradford-bound services from Ilkley will be withdrawn, with six services to Ilkley from Bradford being dropped.

At the same meeting, members will hear that the most recent figures for rail performance show that just 71.6 per cent of Northern trains in Yorkshire arrived on time. And between 11th December and 7th January, 7.1 per cent of Northern trains in the region were cancelled.

The report to the Transport Committe says: “Northern’s reduced frequency between the peaks on the Bradford – Ilkley / Skipton services is intended to reduce cancellation levels whilst availability of train crews remains tight, by creating more spare driver capacity.

“This position is expected to recover as more staff are trained and long-term sickness levels improve. Existing half-hourly service levels in the morning and evening peaks are maintained, including those serving local school flows.

“Direct engagement by (Bradford Council Leader) Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe and the Mayor ensures that Northern understands the need to reinstate the daytime frequency to half-hourly when possible.

“However, full reinstatement will be subject to agreement by Rail North Partnership (DfT) as part of the Business Plan process.

“We will continue to work with and through Transport for the North to make the case via the Rail North arrangements, and Cllr Hinchcliffe has made specific representations on this matter at Rail North Committee.”

A similar cut in services between the Bradford and Ilkley/Skipton was introduced last May, with Northern saying at the time that the cuts were “short term.”

The original time tables were restored in December, but now, just a few months later, reduced services appear to be returning.

Tony Baxter, regional director at Northern, said: “Timetable change moments provide an opportunity to tackle operational issues affecting our services across West Yorkshire where, over the last six months, we have been forced to issue more short notice cancellations than we would have liked.

“As such, we plan to reduce a number of off-peak services in the middle of the day – whilst still providing a half-hourly service at peak times – to ensure more resilience for those trains we are able to run. We will, of course, review all service provision on our network as part of future timetable planning.”

Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “I have been very insistent with Northern that they protect this valuable service.

“I pressed hard to ensure full timetables were reinstated last December after the Covid-related reductions.

“As a result, and in contrast to last year, Northern have agreed to protect the peak and school services on these routes as they work to resolve the staffing issues that they are now experiencing.

“However I have made it very clear that the off-peak services must also be restored. Northern are committed to working with us in Bradford district to ensure that is the case and that the services are reinstated during 2024 and ahead of UK City of Culture 2025.

“This will require financial commitment from Government so I will continue to make the case for the important role local rail services play in creating opportunities and for driving local growth.

“The government now needs back up its own rhetoric with investment, because if Levelling Up is to mean anything it must include increasing, not cutting, rail services for Bradford district and the North.”

Changes taking effect from May 2023

Ilkley to Bradford trains at 9:51, 11:51, 13:51, and 14:51 are removed Mondays to Saturdays, resulting in an hourly service during the middle of the day.

Bradford to Ilkley trains at 9:16, 10:16, 11:16, 12:16, 13:16 and 14:16 are removed Mondays to Saturdays, resulting in an hourly service during the middle of the day.

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