TRAIN users in Marsden and Slaithwaite could lose out if Network Rail plans go ahead.
They could have to wait up to two hours for a train under current proposals.
The current Huddersfield to Manchester service which stops at both Colne Valley villages is under real threat if plans to introduce six fast trains an hour between Leeds and Manchester are introduced, according to local rail campaigners.
Dr Paul Salveson, a former senior manager with Northern Rail who also helped launch Grand Central Railways, said that if the proposals were given the green light, the villages of the Colne Valley were in danger of losing their connectivity.
He described the current proposal being considered by Network Rail for introduction in 2014 as “very arbitrary” and added: “It completely wrecks any idea of a local train service being about connecting local communities.
Currently, some trains between Huddersfield and Manchester stop at stations in between. There is one train an hour and extra services at peak times.
Under the new proposals, six fast trains an hour would run between Leeds and Manchester, with four of these being express trains. The other two would provide a “skip-stop” service, stopping at either Slaithwaite or Marsden. On the other side of the Pennines they would stop at either Greenfield or Mossley.
This means that each of these villages would receive only an hourly train service. Currently the village services are well used by commuters, tourists and leisure travellers and at busy times the trains are overcrowded.
One advantage of the proposed timetable is that Colne Valley users would be able to travel eastwards directly to Leeds without changing trains in Huddersfield.
Dr Salveson said: “It is a complicated agenda and there will be winners and losers. Perhaps the worst aspect of this sorry saga is the lack of consultation.
“ Local people’s interests are being sacrificed in the interests of some wider, quite abstract, notion that six trains an hour is what the route needs, come hell or high water. But you would lose the connectivity between local communities.
“The worry is that by the time any consultation is done it will be meaningless because the decision will have been made.”
Dr Salveson said that increasing the current two or three carriage trains to four or six carriages was the obvious cost-effective solution.
Hill Top resident and chairman of SHRUG (Stalybridge to Huddersfield Rail Users’ Group) Tony Bower agrees with Dr Salveson.
He said: “We can’t see where the argument comes from that we need more high speed trains. There should be longer trains, rather than more trains.
“Our real issue is the loss of connectivity of villages along the route.
“One example is the recent Marsden Jazz Festival when the service was extensively used.
“The other point is reliability. If a train was cancelled because the fast train was delayed, then people at Marsden or Slaithwaite would be left two hours without a train.
“There is also a complete lack of clarity at the moment.”
Another proposal which has recently come to light is the possible electrification of the line which would speed up train services.