NORTHERN say they are reducing several Bradford rail services because of a lack of demand.
Both West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe were angered when they discovered the train company’s plans to make changes on May 15.
Bradford will see services from Bradford Forster Square to Shipley, Ilkley and Skipton reduced from half-hourly to hourly services.
Trains between Halifax-Bradford-Hull and Huddersfield-Bradford will each be cut to once every two hours. Before the pandemic these services were hourly.
Sundays appear unaffected by this latest round of cutbacks, meaning some Sunday services will be more frequent than on weekdays.
The Council and Combined Authority are seeking urgent assurances that this new reduced timetable must not become the norm and that prepandemic services must be restored at the earliest opportunity.
As of December 2021, Northern had already reduced its timetable due to the pandemic.
It then implemented further cuts in January 2022 in what was said to be a short-term measure due to the Omicron variant.
In a triple whammy of cuts, Northern has now announced that it will not only retain the doubly reduced January timetable for longer until December 2022, but it will also make even more cuts to services in May this year.
Cllr Hinchcliffe called it “outrageous” and said train passengers will be furious to face yet more cuts to services as their daily experiences are in stark contrast to the government’s claims to be leveling up the North.
She said: “Train passengers are rightly furious to be paying more for less and yet again they face another round of cuts to services at a time when the government talks about leveling up.
“We need a commitment from Northern and from Government that the pre-pandemic train services will not only be reinstated but will be improved upon because anything less is not leveling up.
“This new timetable cannot become the new ‘norm’.
“At a time of rising fuel prices, the only public transport directly powered by clean electricity is being cut, and this is at a time when we must invest in a strong and sustainable recovery for our towns and cities.
“We are working with the West Yorkshire Mayor to make strong representations to Government and Northern. They need to urgently reconsider these cuts to services.”
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, added: “I’m angry and disappointed to see yet another round of cuts to train services across West Yorkshire, with some of our least connected communities being hit hardest.
“I have written to Northern seeking an urgent meeting to explain why these cuts are taking place, and what steps they will be taking to return to a full timetable.
“I am deeply concerned that the impact of the pandemic is being used as a smokescreen for cuts to local rail services and have written to the Transport Secretary to confirm that his government is committed to supporting operators to re-instate services as soon as possible.
“Rail demand has been recovering more quickly in the North than in other parts of the country.
“At a time when people are returning to offices to work or visiting friends and family, to then cut back services is unfathomable.
“Our night-time economy will also suffer from so many gaps in services in the evenings.”
A spokesperson for Northern said: “We fully understand the concerns of those using our trains in West Yorkshire and we are doing all we can to provide the best possible service for our customers who are very much at the heart of everything we do.
“We’re seeing fewer commuters traveling each day, and people traveling at different times of the week and for different reasons.
“We’ve made decisions about our timetables based on the levels of resource we have available and prioritizing the routes with the highest customer demand, and which support the region’s economic growth.
“The timetables currently in place will broadly continue with some amendments from May 2022 and into the Summer.”