Investment call to Bradford, Keighley, Ilkley and Skipton trains as Northern Rail licence extended (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Investment call to Bradford, Keighley, Ilkley and Skipton trains as Northern Rail licence extended
Rail user groups have made fresh calls for more investment to tackle overcrowding on the Airedale line after Northern Rail was granted an extension of its franchise.
Tim Calow, chairman of Aire Valley Rail Users Group, welcomed the announcement that the Department for Transport had renewed the rail operator’s licence to run services until April 2014, but said he hoped extra cash would be made available for new carriages to improve journeys for commuters.
Mr Calow said: “In Airedale we need longer platforms to run longer trains, with more seating capacity.
“Across the franchise the train fleet is ageing and it will be a real challenge to maintain reliability in the medium term.”
Northern Rail was first granted its franchise in 2004 on a “no growth, no investment” basis, which meant it has had to rely on money from shareholders for additional carriages, new stations and improvements to stations.
It also runs a much older fleet of diesel trains on the Caldervale route, which runs between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford Interchange.
Mr Calow said: “We do not criticise the current management, which was asked to run the franchise on a ‘no growth’ basis, however urgent decisions are likely to be delayed until the new franchise is let. The extension could delay those decisions – though the current state of public finances is likely to delay much-needed investment too.”
Northern Rail said it had spent £130 million on improvements and had increased the number of trains arriving on time from 83.7 to 91.9 per cent.
Drew Haley, a spokesman for Northern Rail, said: “Thanks to the Department for Transport’s rolling stock programme, in December last year Northern introduced four additional peak-time services between Skipton/Ilkley and Leeds, offering much needed capacity on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines. We are aware that this hasn’t eradicated the problem of overcrowding, but it has helped reduce it. We will continue to work with industry partners to identify ways to increase capacity.”