The Anonymous Widower

Will HS2 And Northern Powerhouse Rail Go For The Big Bore?

Different Versions Of This Post

The original post was published on the 25th August 2019.

It has been updated on the 21st November 2020 to reflect changes made to High Speed Two (HS2).

The Merging Of High Speed Two And Northern Powerhouse Rail

It looks to me that there will be increasing links and merging between High Speed Two (HS2) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

This report on the Transport for the North web site, is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Proposals and possibilities include.

  • NPR will have a Western terminal at a new station in Liverpool City Centre.
  • HS2 trains would access Liverpool and Manchester via a junction between HS2 and NPR at High Legh.
  • There will be six trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport.
  • The route between Manchester and Manchester Airport is planned to be in tunnel.
  • There will be six tph between Manchester and Leeds.

In addition, Boris has made positive noises about a high speed line between Manchester and Leeds being of a high priority.

So will the planners go for the logical solution of a High Speed tunnel between Manchester Airport and Leeds?

  • There could be a theoretical capacity of perhaps 18 tph, which is the design capacity of High Speed Two.
  • Speeds of up to 125 mph or more could be possible. The Gottard Base Tunnel has an operating speed for passenger trains of 125 mph.
  • Stations could be at Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly/Piccadilly Gardens/Victoria, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds.
  • West of Manchester Airport, the route appears easier and the tunnel would emerge close to the airport. Jigh Speed Two is planning that the tunnel emeges just to the North of the Airport and that the station is below ground level.
  • East of Leeds the tunnel would join up with existing routes to Doncaster, Hull, Newcastle and York.

I believe such a tunnel could be built without disrupting existing rail services and passengers. Remember building Crossrail’s tunnels was an almost invisible process.

It would result in two rail systems across Northern England.

  • Upgraded Classic Rail Routes
  • The Big Bore

My thoughts on the two systems follow.

Upgraded Classic Rail Routes

This could include improvements such as these,

  • Extra passing loops.
  • Selective electrification
  • Improved stations
  • Comprehensive in-cab digital signalling
  • More paths for passenger and freight trains.

Which could be applied to routes, such as these.

In addition, there could be the reopening of some closed or freight routes to passenger trains.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route.

It is a comprehensive upgrade that includes.

  • Improvement between Huddersfield and Westtown
  • Grade separation or a tunnel at Ravensthorpe
  • Rebuilding and electrification of eight miles of track.
  • Possible doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
  • Improved stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.

This project would be a major improvement to the Huddersfield Line.

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Hope Valley Line Improvements, I talked about planned improvements to the Hope Valley Line, which should begin in the next couple of years.

These improvements are given in detail under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line.

The Hope Valley Improvements will cost in the region of tens of millions of pounds and Wikipedia sums up the benefits like this.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

It seems like good value to me!

So could we see other Multi-million and billion pound projects created to improve the classic routes across the Pennines?

Projects would be fully planned and the costs and benefits would then be assessed and calculated.

Then it would be up to the Project Managers to devise the optimal structure and order in which to carry out all the projects.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the following techniques used.

  • Discontinuous electrification to avoid bridge reconstruction.
  • Intelligent, hybrid diesel/electric/battery trains from Bombardier, Hitachi or Stadler, capable of 125 mph running and changing mode at speed.
  • Modular digital signalling
  • Factory built stations and step-free bridges.
  • Removal of all level crossings.
  • All stations updated for step-free access between train and platform.

The objectives would be as follows.

  • More paths, where needed.
  • Faster line speed.
  • Less running on diesel.
  • Fast station stops.

Hopefully, the upgrading could be done without too much disruption.

Remember though, that disruption to existing users during a project, is most likely down to bad project management.

The Big Bore

The Central Core tunnel of Crossrail between Royal Oak and East London, was virtually a separate project before Crossrail’s stations and much of other infrastructure was built.

I believe that digging the tunnel first gave a big advantage, in that it could be constructed as an independent project, provided that the logistics of delivering the components and removing the junk was done efficiently.

But it did mean that travellers wouldn’t see any benefits until the project was almost complete.

HS2 and NPR are different in that they also envisage upgrading these routes.

  • The Huddersfield Line
  • The Chat Moss Line
  • The Calder Valley Line
  • The Hope Valley Line
  • The Dearne Valley Line
  • The Selby Line
  • The Midland Main Line North Of Clay Cross

Only the Huddersfield Line is directly affected by the Big Bore.

Effectively, the Big Bore will provide a by-pass route for passenger trains between Leeds and West of Manchester Airport, to take the fast trains of HS2 and NPR underneath the congested classic lines.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North I said this about a tunnel between Leeds and Manchester.

To get a twenty-five minute time between Leeds and Manchester with a ten minute frequency, which I believe is the minimum service the two cities deserve, would be like passing a whole herd of camels through the eye of a single needle.

The Swiss, who lets face it have higher hills, than we have in Northern England would create a new route mainly in tunnel between the two cities, with perhaps an underground station beneath the current Grade I Listed; Huddersfield station.

The transport for the North report suggests Bradford Low Moor station, as an intermediate station, so why not Bradford Low Moor and Huddersfield stations?

Note that the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which opened a couple of years ago, deep under the Alps, is about the same length as a Leeds and Manchester tunnel, and cost around eight billion pounds.

It would be expensive, but like Crossrail in London, the tunnel would have big advantages.

  • It could be built without disrupting current rail and road networks.
  • It would have a capacity of up to thirty tph in both directions.
  • Unlike Crossrail, it could handle freight trains.
  • It would unlock and join the railway systems to the East and West.

I believe, it would be a massive leap forward for transport in the North of England.

It would be a very big project and probably one of the longest rail tunnels in the world.

Comparison With The Gotthard Base Tunnel

But surely, if a small and rich nation like Switzerland can build the Gotthard Base Tunnel, then we have the resources to build the Big Bore between Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Consider these facts about the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

  • It is two single track bores.
  • Each bore has a track length of around 57 kilometres or 35 miles.
  • The tunnel may be deep, but it is direct and level.
  • The maximum speed is 250 kph or 160 mph.
  • The operational speed for passenger trains is 200 kph or 125 mph.
  • The operational speed for freight is 100 kph or 62 mph.
  • It can take the largest freight trains.

To make numbers even more impressive it is joined to the shorter Ceneri Base Tunnel, to provide an even longer route.

Manchester Airport And Leeds Direct

Now consider Manchester Airport and Leeds.

  • The current rail distance is 56 miles.
  • There are stops at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield stations.
  • Journey time is eighty minutes.

But the direct distance is only 68 kilometres or forty-three miles.

Surely if the Swiss can blast and dig two 57 km. single-track rail tunnels through solid rock, we can go eleven kilometres further with all the recent experience of tunnelling around the world.

The lengths of the various legs would be as follows.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 14 km.
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 35 km.
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 17 km.
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km

Trains running on the various legs at 200 kph, which is the cruising speed of a 1970s-built InterCity 125, could take the following times for the various legs.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 4.2 minutes
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 10.5 minutes
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 5.1 minutes
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km – 3.9 minutes

Leeds and Manchester Airport would be under thirty minutes apart, even allowing two minutes each for the three stops.

Looking at NPR between Liverpool and Hull, times could be as follows.

  • Liverpool and Manchester – 26 minutes
  • Manchester and Leeds – 20 minutes
  • Leeds and Hull – 38 minutes

Or a Coast-to-Coast time of under ninety minutes.

Train Frequencies

HS2 is being designed to handle eighteen tph, although slower intensive railways in the UK can handle up to twenty-four tph.

At the current time or certainly in a few years time, the theoretical maximum frequency through the Big Bore should be between these two figures. I will assume at least eighteen tph in this post.

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report talks about the following frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport – Six tph.
  • Manchester and Leeds – Six tph
  • Leeds and Hull – Two tph

This is all so lacking in ambition. It is like building a new high capacity road and only allowing those with status to use the road.

If Leeds and Manchester Airport can handle eighteen tph, why not use some of it to create an Express Metro under the Pennines?

To me, if the Big Bore is built, nothing short of twelve tph or a train every five minutes is acceptable, at Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds stations.

The extension to Hull could be reduced to perhaps six tph, but with the upgrading of the Hull and Leeds Line to perhaps 140 mph, I’d be bold and create a true TransPennine Express;

Hull and Liverpool every five minutes would be the ultimate Marketing Man’s dream.

The Underground Stations

Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all be through stations deep underground.

  • They would be connected to the surface by lifts and escalators.
  • Some entrances to the stations would connect to existing stations and others might emerge in City squares like Manchester’s P:iccadilly Gardens.
  • Most stations would be just two platforms, as all trains would pass through on either side of a large underground concourse.
  • Bay platforms could be added as required.
  • All stations would have platform edge doors.
  • Passengers would be able to reverse direction by just walking across the concourse.

Stations would build on the lessons learned from Crossrail. But then NPR is closer to Crossrail than a Classic High Speed Line.

Weston Williamson’s Vision For Manchester Piccadilly Station

I wrote about this in The Rival Plans For Piccadilly Station, That Architects Say Will ‘Save Millions’.

I believe that this is the way to create an underground station.

The Terminal Stations

The two main terminal stations for NPR and trains running through the Big Bore would be the proposed High Speed station at Liverpool and the existing Hull station.

But one other terminal station is being created; Edinburgh.

I have been going to Edinburgh station to and from England for perhaps thirty years and the capacity of the station has constantly increased.

Recent developments are extended Platforms 5 and 6, that can take the longest LNER trains.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that with the application of digital signalling, that there is capacity for at least eight tph between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

There would certainly be capacity for at least two tph between Liverpool and Edinburgh via Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

In the East the other possibilities for terminals are Doncaster, Newcastle and York.

  • I would discount Newcastle, as it lacks capacity and its location would make it difficult to add more.
  • Doncaster has good connectivity and space, but do Leeds and Hull offer similar connectivity?

So that leaves Hull, Edinburgh and York, as the only Eastern terminals.

In the West, there is probably a need to connect to the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Glasgow Central is probably the obvious terminal, but it would need an extra connection at the junction of HS2, NPR and WCML at High Legh.

If necessary Preston could be used, as it has space and lots of connectivity.

Tunnel Size

As Manchester will be served by High Speed Two’s Full-Size trains from Birmingham and London, both Manchester stations will need to be built to accept these trains.

I feel that the whole tunnel between Manchester Airport and Leeds, should be built to the High Speed Two size, so that it can accept the largest possible passenger and freight trains, in the future.

Integration Of HS2 and NPR

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report is proposing this and it looks that the following HS2 services could be possible between Euston and Manchester.

  • Two tph – Euston and Hull via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds
  • Two tph – Euston and Edinburgh via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.


  1. Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all have four tph to and from London, by the Western arm of HS2’s Y.
  2. If in addition there were two tph between Liverpool and Hull and Liverpool and Edinburgh, this would mean four tph from the Big Bore of NPR to both Hull and Edinburgh.
  3. None of these core services need to terminate in the Big Bore.

I very much feel that integrating HS2 and NPR is the way to go.

Could We See A High Speed Northern Metro?

If we assume that the Big Bore could handle the HS2 frequency of at least eighteen tph, then it would be possible to create a high speed service across the Pennines with the following Metro-like frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Hull – 4 tph
  • Liverpool and Edinburgh – 2 tph
  • Glasgow and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 2 tph

This would result in the following frequencies

  • Liverpool – 6 tph
  • Glasgow – 2 tph
  • London Euston – 4 tph
  • Manchester Airport – 12 tph
  • Manchester – 12 tph
  • Huddersfield – 12 tph
  • Bradford – 12 tph
  • Leeds – 12 tph
  • Hull – 8 tph
  • York – 4 tph
  • Newcastle – 4 tph
  • Edinburgh – 4 tph

What would these frequencies do for train travel in the North of England?


The Gotthard Base Tunnel has been designed so that both freight and passenger trains can use the route.

There is a need for extra freight capacity across the country and I wonder if freight trains could use the Big Bore.

I estimate that the Big Bore would be 68 kilometres if bored straight and level between West of Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Lets assume it is seventy kilometres or 43.5 miles.

So times, through the tunnel at various average speeds would be.

  • 125 mph – 21 minutes
  • 110 mph – 23.7 minutes
  • 100 mph – 26.1 minutes
  • 90 mph – 29 minutes
  • 80 mph – 32.6 minutes
  • 62 mph (Gotthard Base Tunnel speed for freight) – 42 minutes.

Could it be mandated that freight trains can use the tunnel, if they could maintain a particular speed?


  • A 125 mph train with stops at Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would probably take thirty minutes to transit the tunnel.
  • A freight train running at 90 mph would take more or less the same time.
  • Fifteen tph would mean a train every four minutes.
  • Automatic control of all trains in the tunnel would be a possibility. It appears to work on the much more complicated Thameslink.

I think with the following conditions, one or even two freight trains per hour, in addition to the passenger trains, can pass through the Big Bore in each direction.

  • The locomotives have the performance of at least the Class 93 locomotive, which is currently being built.
  • Freight trains can be hauled through at a minimum speed, which could be between 90 and 110 mph.
  • The passenger trains and train and platform staff work together to produce very short station dwell times.
  • All passenger trains are identical.
  • Station platforms are designed so that passengers can leave and enter the trains rapidly.

It will be a Big Bore with a capacity to match!

What About Sheffield?

I haven’t forgotten Sheffield, but I think it could be linked across the Pennines by another route.

Under the upgrades for Northern Powerhouse Rail, it is proposed that services between Sheffield and Leeds become 4 tph in 25 minutes along the Dearne Valley Line.

Does Boris Know More Than He Lets On?

The headline on the front cover of Issue 885 of Rail Magazine is Boris Backs New Pennine Railway.

There is also a sub-heading of PM commits to Leeds-Manchester line.

Boris didn’t apply any substance to the speech, except to say that it will be funded.


I believe that my naïve analysis in this post shows that a TransPennine tunnel is possible.

But I believe that the right tunnel could have one big advantage.

Suppose it was built to handle the following.

  • A capacity of eighteen tph, which is the same as High Speed Two.
  • An operating speed of 140 mph or more. The Gotthard Base Tunnel has a maximum operating speed of 160 mph.
  • High Speed Two’s Full-Size trains.
  • The largest freight trains.

It would be future proofed for longer than anybody could envisage.

There are also other smaller advantages.

  • It would by-pass a lot of difficult areas.
  • It would cause very little aural and visual disruption.
  • IIf it were designed with care, it would affect the flora and fauna.
  • As with the Swiss tunnel, it could be dug level, which would save energy and allow trains to run faster.
  • It could be running twelve tph between Leeds and Manchester Airport via Bradford, Huddersfield and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Existing surface railways at the Eastern end could serve Cleethorpes, Darlington, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Hull, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Scarborough, Sheffield and York
  • Existing surface railways at the Western end could serve Barrow, Blackpool, Carlisle, Chester, Glasgow, Liverpool. North Wales, Preston and Wigan.

It would be more like Thameslink for the North turned on its side, rather than Crossrail for the North.



August 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

From Liverpool To Huddersfield

These pictures document a trip I took between Liverpool and Huddersfield.

Some thoughts on the trip.

The Class 319 Interior

The first batch of Northern’s Class 319 trains are very much pack-it-in specials for running commuter services around the Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester Airport triangle.

They are good for a thirty-year-old train, but they could be better.

In Porterbrook’s Class 319 Flex brochure, they show a proposed interior based on a Class 319/4 with the following.

  • A mix of 2×2 and 2×3 seating.
  • 12 First Class seats
  • 255 Standard Class seats
  • A full-accessible toilet.
  • Two luggage racks per car.

It would certainly be a much better passenger experience.

Works At Edge Hill

Buckingham Group obviously have a big project on to the East of Edge Hill station.

This Google Map shows the lines through and to the East of Edge Hill.

Note how to the South of the Retail Park and/or warehouses, work seems to be going on. Are extra tracks being created?

There is also a white scar at Wavertree Technology Park station, so if this was two fast lines, then fast services between Liverpool and Manchester and Wigan could storm in and out.

The Atherton Line

The Atherton Line is part of the Manchester-Southport Line and runs between Wigan Wallgate and Salford Crescent stations.

Wikipedia says this about Improvements to the Atherton Line.

There is ongoing feasibility into the conversion of parts of this line (Wigan–Atherton–Manchester) to operate as a Manchester Metrolink service with a higher frequency metro service for the Greater Manchester Boroughs of Wigan and Salford into the city centre. In November 2013, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority approved a recommended strategy for reconfiguring existing commuter services into tram-train operation, identifying the Atherton line as providing an opportunity for extending potential tram-train services from the south-east (Marple, Glossop) across the city centre and outwards to the north west.[2] Southport and Kirkby services on this line would be diverted to operate via Bolton. Additionally, Network Rail has identified electrification of Wigan to Southport, together with the Ormskirk–Preston line and the Burscough Curves as a possible source of new services.

I also think that the route from Salford Crescent to Southport via Atherton and Wigan could be ideal for electrifying in stages using Class 319 Flex trains to bridge any gaps.

The tools seem to be there, now is the time to think about how the work will be done.

Salford Crescent

Salford Crescent station could look very different in the future, as modern station design might be seen to favour two island platforms, one face of each dealing with Manchester Victoria station and the other Manchester Piccadilly station.

  • Passengers going in to Manchester, needing trains to the other terminus, would just wait on the platform and catch the next train.
  • Passengers coming from Manchester, who needed a different distination would change at Salford Crescent to their desired train.
  • Comprehensive information would be provided.

The platforms would be built with lots of space, waiting rooms and coffee kiosks and would be well-staffed.

Manchester Victoria Station

Manchester Victoria station is starting look dirty again.

It must be all those elderly diesel trains.

Huddersfield Line

The Huddersfield Line took me to Stalybridge station and then later on to Huddersfield station.

There was no sign of any electrification work.

Stalybridge Station

As a coeliac, I found Stalybridge station one of the most gluten-free-unfriendly stations I have ever found.

In future, if I’m going that way, I’ll make sure that I stock up in Manchester or Leeds first.

TransPennine Express

The train was crowded and getting on at Stalybridge for the short trip to Huddersfield was delayed, as the conductor couldn’t get near to the doors to open them. Whereas the driver could have had a clear view.

It’s about time the NUR stopped this Driver Only Operation farce, which nearly all passengers think is sillier than the Teletubbies.

I hope the idiot, who landed TransPennine routes with the inadequate number of Class 185 trains, now has a job where he can do no harm, like in charge of the railways on the Scilly Isles.


I don’t know Huddersfield and the only thing I’ve ever bought in the town is a ticket to the football.

You arrive in the Grade I Listed Huddersfield station and walk out into the magnificent St. George’s Square, which should be a welcoming gateway to the town.

Compare it to Kings Cross Square, where there is generally something going on and on a Friday is bustling with food stalls.

I walked to the shops and did find Marks and Spencer in a prominent place, but why wasn’t the route for pedestrians only, as it was crammed with traffic and parked cars.

Huddersfield needs to think how they organise their town centre, as except for the square ut’s about as weloming to visitors as Turkey is to the Dutch.

This Google Map shows the area.

I feel that Huddersfield needs what most European towns of this size would have and that is a tram, that goes through the centre.

You would walk out of the station and in the square would be a tram stop. Trams would go South along a pedestrianised John William Street and New Street. Obviously the route would be designed to go through the town to the main hospital, the University and if possible the the Council Offices, the Courts and the football/rugby stadium.

Incidentally, if you search for Huddersfield Hospital, you don’t find the NHS hospital, but a private one. All major hospitals should have a name like Ipswich, Reading or Crawley Hospital. It should also be galleria for sports venues to constantly change their names.

Huddersfield might wonder, why it doesn’t get the visitors, it thinks it should. It’s because it isn’t visitor friendly.

If I was a businessman wanting to set up a depot, warehouse or whatever in a large town in the North of England, Huddersfield would put me off because of its non-existent and chaotic transport system, built around everybody having a car with a sat-nav.



March 10, 2017 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome To Huddersfield

In my trip to Huddersfield yesterday, I took the TransPennine Express from Manchester Piccadilly.

These pictures show the supremely inadequate three-car Class 185 train at Huddersfield and passengers tying to board to get to Leeds and York.

On return, I asked a Team Leader what was going on. He said trains had been cancelled because of driver shortages and that three-car trains were inadequate anyway and should be five-car. They certainly have overcowding issues and bad passenger feedback.

In some ways these trains are their own worst enemy. After Huddersfield, it was standing room only and the stop at Stalybridge took a lot longer than it should, as passengers fought to get on and off with suitcases and bicycles. So by the time we got to Manchester Piccadilly, where we called at the inadequate and very crowded Platform 14, we were nearly fifteen minutes late. There were several passengers who missed their booked seats on the 1815 to London.

I never book return seats on a journey back from football, especially if TransPennine or Manchester Piccadilly is involved.

The Team Leader at Huddersfield didn’t seem pleased, but he did indicate something would be happening soon.

It certainly needs to.

I think TransPennine’s only problem of their own making is the driver shortage. Nearly everything else can be put down to inadequate investment by various Governments over the last fifty years.

I suppose you could blame passengers for creating the increased demand across the Pennines, but as the Class 185 trains seem to have been ordered without an ability to lengthen, the trains have been unable to grow with the demand.

Compare this situation with that of the Class 390 trains on the West Coast Main Line and the Class 378 trains on the London Overground. Both these trains have been lengthened, by the simpler expedient of adding new carriages in the middle.

We should make sure that all the Ministers and the Civil Servants, who conspired to give the North some of the most crowded trains in Europe, should ride these trains at least once a week, so they can at least understand their crap legacy to the travelling public.

But then no self-respecting Government Minister or Civil Servant, would be seen taking a train between Manchester and Huddersfield, when a perfectly serviceable chauffeur-driven limousine is available.

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Know Your Ticketing

My trip yesterday illustrated one thing, in that you can save pounds and pence by being smart with ticketing. This picture shows my six tickets from yesterday.

Tickets To Huddersfield

Tickets To Huddersfield

I travelled virtually along to Sheffield on the 07:24 for £17.15 and back on the crowded 20:49 for £19.15. Both tickets were for use with a Railcard in First Class and bought on-line from East Midlands Trains.

If I wanted to do that journey today, the cheapest ticket I can find on the web is £48.85

My Return from Sheffield to Huddersfield was bought from the ticket machine in Dalston Junction for £6.20, which was incidentally ten pence cheaper than one of my tavelling companion’s ticket bought on-line some days earlier.


April 7, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Why the North Needs Electrification And Pacer Eradication

Huddersfield is one of these classic Northern towns and cities that do not have a direct train to London.

In the past, when Ipswich have played there, I’ve either taken a fast train to Manchester or Leeds and then taken a train across in a twenty minute ride or so ride.

A typical trip via Leeds takes about ten minutes under three hours, with one via Manchester Piccadilly taking perhaps ten minutes longer.

On my trip north to Huddersfield, because I wanted to do take some photos in Sheffield and because the West Coast Main Line was closed, I decided to go via the old steel city from St. Pancras. With just one change at Sheffield this journey takes ten minutes short of four hours.

So imagine, you were perhaps a businessman needing to go to Huddersfield to check something out or a fan going from London to see your team play Huddersfield Town, would you bother?

I probably wouldn’t except for the fact that I got First Class tickets to Sheffield £36.30.  That was Advance tickets with a Senior Railcard and I did buy them several weeks ago, but both journeys were in two hours, so it was probably good value.

I then took a local train from Sheffield to Huddersfield on the Penistone Line, with the journey taking over an hour in a dreadful Class 142 Pacer, as it meandered through the Yorkshire countryside, stopping at stations with interesting names like Wombwell, Denby Dale and Silkstone Common.

At least I wasn’t alone, as I shared the journey with an Ipswich-supporting student and another guy, who like me had been to Loverpool University. So at least it was an entertaining journey.

When you arrive in Huddersfield, you aren’t greeted by some dreadful pile of bricks, which has suffered the excesses and poor imagination of British Rail’s in-house architects, but a regional station that is second to none and is up there with Kings Cross for grandeur and setting.

Huddersfield station deserves a lot better than it is currently getting. The Wikipedia entry, says this about the views of those who knew about architecture, trains and stations.

The station frontage was described by John Betjeman as the most splendid in England and by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘one of the best early railway stations in England’.

The only blot on the station, is that in front is a statue of one of Huddersfield’s most famous sons; Harold Wilson. When he was Prime Minsister, he could surely have done more to put an electrified railway across the Pennines from Liverpool and Manchester to Sheffield and Leeds via his home town. Wilson also has the dubious claim to fame in that despite the recommendations of Beeching, he was Prime Minister, when the only electrified line across the Pennines, the Woodhead Line was closed to passengers in 1970.

But things could be getting better.The number of Trans Pennine trains has been increased in the last couple of years and the Huddersfield Line from Manchester to Leeds has been funded for electrification by 2018.

Six fast electric trains every hour between Leeds and Manchester via Huddersfield will be a big improvement in terms of speed and capacity, even if for a few years, they are just refurbished Class 319 trains. For example, journey times between Manchester and Leeds via Huddersfield will be down to forty minutes.

I find it rather ironic, that an electric train based on a design started under Wilson’s Prime Ministership, which was designed for the mountains of the South East, has such an important role in the exorcising of his sins as regards to railway electrification across the Pennines. It probably shows that engineers know a lot more about providing good infrastructure than politicians. But although Class 319 trains may be ugly buggers, underneath and behind that extremely tough steel bodywork, lies all the suspension and power systems to create a comfortable, fast and reliable train, that rides with all the smoothness and finesse of a top of the range car. The one I rode on in Liverpool recently had certainly scrubbed up well.

But this 100 mph electrified railway across the Pennines will be ruined for many, if there is no improvement in feeder services on other routes, which are generally worked by the dreaded Pacers.

To be fair to Northern Rail, yesterday’s example did have new seats and had been smartened up, but that doesn’t alter the fact that they should be sent to the Army for use as targets in gunnery practice.

Take the Penistone Line on which I travelled to Huddersfield. It has four major stations at Sheffield, Meadowhall, Barnsley and Huddersfield, with a host of what look like to be well-maintained stations in smaller and often rural communities. A Pacer trundling along the line once an hour is not exactly a passenger-magnet.

Northern Rail probably don’t have enough trains to provide a more frequent service, but surely in an ideal world, there should be at least two trains an hour along the line. Hopefully, with electrification in the north and transfer of trains from other parts of the country, in a few years time, we’ll see a better service on the line, provided by something like Class 172 trains.

Around the end of this decade, Sheffield will be electrified to London and fast electric trains will do the journey in well under two hours. As Huddersfield will also be electrified, the electrification and modernisation of the Penistone Line and the related Hallam Line between Sheffield and Leeds , could be a logical step to take. In fact the recent report on Electrification in the North has recommended this.

This would open up all possibilities for services, such as providing direct electric services from Leeds, Barnsley and Huddersfield to London via Sheffield and the HS2 interchange at Meadowhall, in addition to very much improved local services.

I look forward to the day when voters in London and the South East start moaning about all their money being spent on electric railways in the North. Hopefully by then, London’s Mayor will have a lot more freedom on how to fund railways in the capital.


April 7, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Blackpool And Huddersfield May Get Direct Services To London

I’m leaving the may in the title, as nothing is cast in stone yet, but according to this article, Network Rail have found the space to squeeze direct services to Blackpool and Huddersfield from London into the schedule, by a new train operator called Great North Western Railway.

The services won’t be running until 2017 at the earliest, as trains have to be ordered and built.

And who knows what will happen in the negotiations?

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

To The Football At Huddersfield

I arrived in Manchester on my trip from Southport at Piccadilly and had the long walk from Platform 13 to the main concourse to get the tram to my hotel. There are plans to put another two platforms here, so careful design must be used to avoid worsening a nightmare interchange.

I had a bath and then returned to Piccadilly for supper in Carluccio’s. This branch seems to be much faster than most and I’ve not missed a train yet there, due to a slow meal.

I nearly did this time though, as the next Huddersfield train left at 18:11 and I didn’t get to Platform 13 until 18:15.  But the crowded train was late!

I was in my seat half-an-hour before the match started.

Ipswich won 2-0 and I was able to catch the 22:00 train back to Manchester, where I had a non-alcoholic nightcap in Carluccio’s.

I suspect that Piccadilly needs almost to create a new concourse linking the dreaded Platforms 13 and 14 and the proposed two new ones to the lines in the main station, at the far end of the station.

Let’s hope some of the UK’s best architects are working on creating a station fit for the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first!

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Food, Sport, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Clever Funding Route From Huddersfield University

Huddersfield University has teamed up with peer-to-peer lender; Funding Circle to create an interesting route to finance and develop small businesses.  It is described in this article. These paragraphs sum up the essence of the scheme.

Known as the Business Lending Partnership, Funding Circle’s recently-announced scheme alongside the University of Huddersfield has set a precedent for commercial and alternative lenders to start providing capital for non-traditional institutions. 

Using Funding Circle, the university will lend an initial tranche of £100,000 to small businesses across the UK. The initiative seeks to support SME pioneers of the present and future, with all interest earned by the university’s investments to be put towards student scholarships for the University’s ‘Enterprise Development’ degree. Over the next five years, it is expected that more than 200 students from socially deprived backgrounds will gain access to the course. 

Both Funding Circle and the university will also develop a series of seminars and internship opportunities with borrowers to ensure that the upcoming generation of business leaders can gain hands-on experience with flourishing British businesses as part of their degrees.

Obviously, not all partnerships will use the same model, but Huddersfield University and Funding Circle have used a clever model that can be cloned and/or adapted for other partnerships.

It will be interesting to see the nature of partnerships that develop in the next few years.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Business, Finance, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Getting To Huddersfield By Train

Huddersfield is the tenth largest town in England, with a population of 146,000 or so. As I found on my trip yesterday, it has a grand railway station with good connections to Manchester and Leeds, but it doesn’t have any good connections to the South and London. Those that came up by coach and car from Suffolk, weren’t too impressed by the roads to get their either.

I went by changing at Manchester Piccadilly, which at least has a frequent connection to Huddersfield. Going as fast as you can that way it takes a few minutes under three hours, as it does via Leeds.  Going via Wakefield can be a bit quicker, but trying via Sheffield say stretches the journey to nearly four hours.

Looking at the various rail lines in the area, there is a line from Huddersfield to Sheffield called the Penistone Line. If someone had a bit of sense, it would seem that this area of Yorkshire could be given better transport links by improving this line so that it provides a better link to the Midland Main Line, when that is electrified to Sheffield. Many countries would electrify the line, but seeing the terrain yesterday and looking at the map, it might not be a cost-effective project.

The current improvements and electrification of the Midland Main Line will probably mean that going via Sheffield to London will be quicker than the other routes in a few years.

And then sometime in the next century HS2 might reach Sheffield Meadowhall station!

You can’t get over the fact, that Huddersfield seems to be a bit of an afterthought in railway planning and it has been like that for many years.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

A Trip To Huddersfield

Yesterday, I took the train to Huddersfield to see the two Towns share a goal-less draw.

I went via Manchester Piccadilly, as I wanted to have a decent lunch in Carluccio’s at the station, where I know the wi-fi is also excellent, as it incidentally was on Virgin’s trains and in their First Class lounge at Euston. The same can’t be said for their food and drink offering on the trains at the weekend.

It was very cold outside and as I passed through Highbury and Islington station to get to Euston, it was actually trying to snow.

It may seem strange to get to Huddersfield via Manchester, but then there are four trains about every hour on that route. They are new trains, but are only three coaches and often are completely full with standing everywhere. It was a classic case of the Treasury deciding how many coaches should have been bought for the Trans Pennine route and then dividing it by three to fit their budget. It’s a pleasant enough half-hour route though through the Pennines as this picture shows.

Manchester To Huddersfield

Manchester To Huddersfield

Although, the cleaner at Piccadilly was a bit slapdash.

Slapdash Cleaning At Piccadilly

Slapdash Cleaning At Piccadilly

I feel right to blame the cleaner, as he actually came into the carriage whilst I was waiting to sit down.

I should point out that these Trans Pennine trains, illustrate some of what is wrong with the layout of Piccadilly station, which was probably designed by a Scouser with a bizarre sense of humour, to get at their rival city. These trains turn up at all sorts of places in the station and are often the second or even the third train on the platform, counting from the concourse. I think it was the third yesterday. It must be a nightmare for staff to get passengers on the right train. But I’ve changed trains at Piccadlly so many times now, that I know the traps the station sets for you. Hopefully things will get better with the Northern Hub works.  But this won’t be fully implemented until 2018.

At present. there are two solutions for passengers to avoid the problems; allow plenty of time and have drink or a meal in the station or take another route. For Huddersfield yesterday, I could have gone via Leeds, but that would have meant a walk up the hill in the cold to get a meal, as Leeds station doesn’t have a restaurant only snack bars.

The journey on to Huddersfield was enlivened with one of those bizarre incidents that seem to happen to me. A screw fell out of the bottom of my camera onto the floor.  In crawling around the floor looking for it, I was assisted by a retired lady doctor from Hull, who like me had gone to Liverpool University. We must have looked an odd pair. I’ve now got the problem of finding a screw for the camera. Or should that be an independent camera shop?

Huddersfield station is not your ordinary drab station, as the picture shows.

Huddersfield Railway Station

Huddersfield Railway Station

It is a Grade 1 listed building and actually contains two pubs. Pevsner described it as one of the best early railway stations in England. The statue by the way is Harold Wilson. The football ground is a twenty-minute walk downhill from the station and despite Huddersfield Town not being on television very often, the ground is well-known to viewers because of Rugby League.

John Smith's Stadium

John Smith’s Stadium

The John Smith’s Stadium was one of the first modern grounds to be built in recent years. As the picture shows, the view is good and I’d rate it one of the best seats for visiting supporters along with Barnsley, Burnley or Wolverhampton.  You would never describe it as pokey or restricted like Charlton or QPR, although the stewards were complaining of the cold. So that must have been bad!

A steward incidentally told me that Ipswich had attracted a thousand fans.  This must be quite a lot considering the distance from Suffolk and the weather.  But on the other hand Ipswich, Suffolk and the football club must have one of the largest diaspora of any part of the UK.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , | 4 Comments