Aire Valley priest calls for better rail links with Leeds

Revd Tim Calow, Assoc Priest at Embsay with Eastby, is constantly campaigning for better services - for rail travellers heading up and down the Aire Valley.

And this week he told local paper, the Keighley News, that much-needed longer trains are at last being introduced on the Airedale line – but most platforms are too short to take them.

Frustrated campaigners have long pressed for action to ease chronic overcrowding on the busy rail route, which carries around nine million passengers a year.

But it is feared that without extended platforms, passenger safety will be put at risk and there will be a deterioration in services.

Operator Northern has confirmed that six-carriage trains are planned on the line.

However, whilst the platforms at Keighley and Skipton stations will be able to accommodate them, those at other stops along the route won't.

"It's a recipe for disaster," said Revd Tim Calow, in his role as chairman of the Aire Valley Rail Users Group.

"Different coaches will be on the platform at different stations and passengers will be totally confused as to where on the train they should be.

"The Airedale line is one of the most overcrowded in the UK. Many trains will be too full for passengers to be able to make their way along them to access the correct coach to alight.

"Passengers will be in the wrong part of the train and unable to leave at their station, resulting in them being carried over. They will then have to return to the required station, delaying their journeys and causing anger.

"Inevitably, some passengers will operate the emergency door release at stations in order to get off. This will put at risk their personal safety, as the drop from the train to trackside is large. And there will be major delays to services whilst staff attempt to reset the emergency systems and deal with 'offenders'."

Operator Northern told the Keighley News that the introduction of longer trains is part of a major modernisation plan, and that it is working with Network Rail to identify what work may be required.

A spokesman added: "At stations where the train is longer than the platform, we are aiming to operate selective door opening, a safe operation that is commonplace across the UK."

Network Rail confirmed it was working with train operating companies to prioritise required work in support of new rolling stock and timetable changes.

Rev Tim also claimed there was clear evidence of a north-south divide in transport investment.

"Platform extensions are essential for longer trains in the south-east yet they are too expensive for Yorkshire," he added.

"We are currently seeing disruption to train services across the north of England and this failure to extend platforms in Airedale – and Wharfedale – will result in yet more problems next year.

"I have not seen selective door opening on trains anywhere in Europe and in the UK it's only used in restricted instances where trains are virtually empty."

Keighley MP John Grogan said he had raised the issue, together with a number of other matters, during a meeting this week with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

"The Northern rail network is currently in crisis following the imposition of a new timetable and many cancellations," said Mr Grogan.

"I have had a significant number of complaints from Keighley commuters, particularly about a new timetable on the Airedale line into Bradford which gives them far fewer options to get to work during the peak hours.

"Mr Grayling's officials promised to consider these issues.

"I also advised the minister that the news hard-pressed commuters want above all else is a settlement to the long-running strike action. I drew his attention to the deal which had been reached in Scotland where the driver opens the doors but the guard closes them and retains a safety role."

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