Y&H Rail Utilisation Strategy

The Yorkshire and Humber rail utilisation strategy was released mid-July 2009. At 148 pages and with a large number of appendices it would be almost impossible to provide a critique on the full document, therefore, this post will concentrate on the issues affecting the Airedale and Caldervale lines, (those that have the most effect on Bradford).


A rail utilisation strategy is a document prepared by Network Rail (NR), who own and maintain the track and infrastructure (bridges, signals, etc), the aim of the document is to plan using submitted evidence, and existing statistical data the developments of a railway in an area. This plan is meant to provide guidance to NR, the DfT, and to the regulator of rail funding, the ORR.


The Yorkshire and Humber region experienced growth of 54% overall between 1996-2006. Airedale achieved 82% growth (Y&H Passenger Flows)

Electrification on the Airedale line is flagged in the report (3.5.3), we are already aware that power infrastructure is insufficient for the the Class 91 trains to operate on the line to Skipton. Hence the use of diesel trains. (Class 91’s are the electric trains operated by National Express).

The lack of passing capacity on Airedale is also a known problem, leaving freight to wait in Leeds (at both Armley and Whitehall junctions) before it can travel up to Skipton and beyond. This is realised in the report (3.4.6 & 3.5.3).

What isn’t mentioned is that there is existing trackbed between Apperley Junction and Dockfield Junction. A third line between these two junctions would provide capacity for passing freight, if the third line was electrified it would also provide extra passing capacity for passenger trains.

Whilst 3.5.3 acknowledges the loading gauge (height and width of the train) is a problem on the Airedale line for larger freight going up and across the Settle-Carlisle stretch of track, this would be a more long term issue to resolve if pressure for a “third route to Scotland” was ever realised.

Many of the stations along the Airedale line have short length platforms allowing only for 4/5/6 carriage trains to stop. NR believes that extending to 6 carriage length platforms would be the maximum possible train length, as longer platform would be near impossible stations such as Shipley, where the triangle layout would be a significant barrier to increasing platform length and signalling constraints would limit the number of trains that could traverse Shipley East junction per hour.

NR has also laid down it’s plan for Apperley Bridge and Kirkstall Forge: suggesting that only the Leeds – Bradford Forster Square trains serve the new stations. (5.5 p72) This would make sense as most peak traffic would be towards Leeds, passengers towards Skipton would have to change at Shipley.

We need to be aware of developments on the Harrogate line (specifically the proposed Horsforth turn-back). As both lines share the Armley Junction, and without remodelling may hinder further capacity improvements on both lines.

  • Bradford Forster Square has the 6th highest daily passengers in Yorkshire & Humber.
  • Ilkley is the 9th busiest station in Y&H


NR: “The largest conurbation primarily dependent on this route is Bradford” p86

The Calder Valley is recognised as being problematic for freight due to the limited gauge of W6 (small) between Leeds and Sowerby Bridge.

Speed limitations between destinations are caused by an in-direct route and the need to reverse trains into Bradford Interchange from Mill Lane junction and then back out again. (A problem that would be solved with Bradford Cross-Rail).

NR: “During the high peak hours and parts of the shoulder peaks the eastern end of the route is one of the most overcrowded in the RUS area with passengers on some trains standing into Leeds from as far as Halifax.” p85

NR therefore proposes 5 additional trains operate between Halifax-Leeds in each peak period.

NR: “It is anticipated that the additional passengers that would be generated by a potential new station at Low Moor can be accommodated by the recommended option.” p85

So not only a new station, but up-to 5 trains per-hour in peak hours. With the existing 4 services operating as passing services.

If Neville Hill-Colton Junction is electrified (Leeds – York), it would improve the business case for electrification of the Calder Valley line up-to at least Halifax (so as to provide through services), (7.2.6, p120).

However no mention is made of linking Interchange to Forster Square to increase track-redundancy and improve journey times.

During the high peak hours and parts of
the shoulder peaks the eastern end of the
route is one of the most overcrowded in
the RUS area with passengers on some
trains standing into Leeds from as far
as Halifax.”


It simply isn’t mentioned, except by BRUG’s submission to draft RUS. The RUS states that it can only include “new lines” where there is a capacity constraint.

However, there is a capacity problem! Especially for passengers, as identified earlier, from Halifax passengers have to stand on the route to Leeds; with Cross Rail, Passengers for Bradford could use direct trains: Halifax, Low Moor, Interchange, continuing through to Forster Square becoming and Airedale train into Leeds. This would separate demand between passengers going into Bradford and those going into Leeds. Whilst removing the need for reversal until the terminating station at Leeds.

Cross Rail would reduce the need to increase platform lengths at Shipley, as the Bradford/Leeds loop it would create would provide a high speed link to different parts of the city, and a Leeds Bypass, London-bound passengers would be more tempted to use Interchange services (Grand-Northern) rather than wait at Leeds for the NXEC train to reverse out.

Cross-Rail link would provide a freight diversionary route and access to/from Skipton and the North-West avoiding Leeds and the congested Whitehall Junction.

Cross-Rail would provide the infrastructure to support improved city-centre public transport including trams, and bring investment into the city rather than periphery out-of-town shopping.


Yorkshire and Humber Rail Utilisation Strategy – July 2009

Option Appraisals – what NR considered for each route

Y&H Passenger Flows

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