Pontefract rail improvements moving slowly

It’s almost 12 months since Pontefract Civic Society held a public meeting in the town hall to engage with the public, especially rail users, and we’re sure readers will be interested in the latest state of affairs with the Civic Society’s campaigning for the improvement of local rail services.

The Northern Franchise was awarded to Arriva in April 2016, with a view to the start of services in 2017.  Because of delays elsewhere on the rail system, the new services will start mainly in May 2018, but some will get underway in December this year.

One of the improvements we shall see in Pontefract and Knottingley is the extension of the current Knottingley-Wakefield service on to Westgate and Leeds, giving a half-hourly service to Leeds all day, alternately via Castleford and Wakefield.  The improvement will extend also to Sunday services and there will be an hourly service all day on Sundays to the same pattern of alternating routes, which may be implemented in December this year.  This means that Featherstone will receive a Sunday service for the first time in many years.

There is also a proposal to make better use of a currently unsatisfactory service that links Huddersfield with Wakefield, this service will be extended to Castleford under present plans.  Peter Cookson, Rail Sub Group Chair said, “this is nonsense when, without the need for extra resources, it could go on to serve Glasshoughton and Pontefract, for only marginal extra cost.  It is crazy to terminate a service just 3 miles short of another principal town and Xscape, a major national visitor destination, which draws larger patronage than Leeds Bradford airport does passengers and where the M62 junction 32 is under immense strain, particularly at weekends”.  The civic society has been campaigning hard, along with the Council, to have this service extended as far as Pontefract, and there’s a very strong case but it remains to be seen if this will be heeded.

The situation at Baghill station is that no improvements were proposed for the current virtually unusable service and it would remain a mere token.  The civic society argued for the proposed extra Scarborough-York service to be continued to Sheffield via Pontefract, thus making a Scarborough-Sheffield service but, although it was generally agreed that this would have made good sense, it was rejected. Even so, a very modest improvement will be made in the provision of an extra train to York at 09:10 and a later return at 17:22, allowing for a full day in York.

David Hogg, Rail Sub Group Secretary, said, “we are not complacent, and we’ve suggested that there should also be an evening train from Sheffield with a corresponding late return from York, thus allowing a meaningful return journeys in both directions”.  It remains to be seen if this request will be successful, but we are working for at least a usable service on which to build up greater patronage.

Finally, if the Northern Franchise fails to produce any meaningful improvement to this service, it is possible that the renewal of the East Midlands Franchise, currently under consultation, may bring improvements, as some of the bidding companies are known to have an interest in linking the East Midlands to York, using the Pontefract line through Baghill.  The Society is in the process of submitting a response to encourage that particular outcome.  The next few months should give an indication of whether any progress is to be made in this direction.

For further information on rail or if you wish to get involved, go to the website www.pontefractcivicsociety.org.uk, or email on rail@pontefractcivicsociety.org.uk