Work to improve the Calder Valley rail line will start in the new year.
Campaigners who have been calling for improvements for years have welcomed the announcement, but are now pressing for more detail on what the work will involve.
It is thought the improvements are needed before electrification of the trans-Pennine route, which was announced in September, to allow for diversions during the electrification work.
The Halifax and District Rail Action Group has been seeking improvements for years, and has now received a letter from the Department for Transport saying work on capacity and speed improvements will start in January. The letter also says Network Rail will consider the case for electrifying the line as it updates its national electrification strategy for 2019-24.
HADRAG welcomed the announcement, but has written back to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin asking for clarification on the scope of the work. It says Network Rail’s 2014-19 five-year plan included proposals to increase line speed through Hebden Bridge and Halifax to Bradford, upgrade signalling to allow a more frequent and reliable service, and remodel Milner Royd Junction at Sowerby Bridge.
Sir Peter Hendy, the new chair of Network Rail, is understood to be reviewing projects, which is why there is concern about what work will be carried out. He is due to report in November and HADRAG wants assurances all aspects of the Calder Valley work will go ahead.
Stephen Waring, chair of HADRAG, said: “It is good news that after literally years of waiting work is about to start on modernising the track and signals on our line.
“But the announcement is slightly lacking in detail and we have written back to the Government asking for clarification.
“We need to know the whole project is going ahead with speed and capacity improvements all the way from Manchester to Bradford and things like the Milner Royd Junction upgrade.
“All of this is needed to deliver improved services that are expected in the new Northern trains franchise – cutting the journey time from Bradford and Halifax to Manchester by about 10 minutes with more trains and new destinations such as Manchester Airport.”
The announcement of the electricification of the trans-Pennine line came three months after it had been “paused”. It is expected to create six faster trains per hour on the line through Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
After it had been halted, the Huddersfield Examiner and Manchester Evening News campaigned for it to be brought back on track.