Local rail users may have up to wait up to 57 minutes to connect to hourly trains

New timetable has problem connections for some rail commuters

After the sweeping changes made in the May timetables, passengers were probably hoping to keep improvements made while tweaks were made to improve bad connections. However, in most cases the new timetables which started on Sunday (December 9) are set to disappoint as ill-thought-out timings are inflicted on the local commuter network. These sometimes force much longer journeys and potentially add to overcrowding on trains used for them.

First, however, let us look at a positive. Commuters in the Colne Valley should note that hourly TransPennine Express trains from Huddersfield to Manchester are now stopping at both Slaithwaite and Marsden, restoring a link severed in May when at most times an alternating service was introduced which would stop at one or the other station.
Regular trains between Slaithwaite (pictured) and Marsden are restored
The downside for the Colne Valley is that there will not be the regular through services to and from Leeds that were in the May timetable. The stopping service will only run between Manchester Piccadilly and Huddersfield and, if they wish to travel on to Leeds, passengers will be back to changing to a faster train at Huddersfield.

TransPennine Express are now operating a separate stopping service between Huddersfield and Leeds, although with a delay in the introduction on new sets of carriages due to have been coming into operation by December, it is understood TransPennine Express will at times be running this service with trains borrowed from Northern.

So two separate commuter stopping services in each direction from Huddersfield, which shouldn't be too much of a problem except when you take a look at the timings of them. Say you want to travel across town from Mirfield to Marsden, a journey possible without changing trains in the previous timetable. Under the new timetable a change is necessary at Huddersfield, however timings are so bad that there is a 57-minute wait for the next hourly train in Huddersfield and the total journey time is up from 22 minutes to 1 hour 22 minutes using TransPennine Express.

There is another train from Mirfield into Huddersfield, provided by the Northern service from Wakefield. However Mirfield's two trains per hour are just 6-7 minutes apart, but it does mean that it trims that Mirfield to Marsden journey down to 1 hour 15 minutes if you catch the Northern service. Daft as it may seem, we were able to find a further improvement on that in the new timetable by catching a Northern train to Brighouse, changing to a Northern train to Huddersfield and then changing to the TransPennine Express to Marsden. This cuts the journey time to 54 minutes, but that is still nowhere close to the current 22 minutes.

A return journey from Marsden to Mirfield presents similar problems with a 56-minute gap between the TransPennine stopping trains at Huddersfield.

Another notable change in the new timetable is that Batley is back to having just one and not two trains per hour from Huddersfield, although the town returns to being a stop on services from Leeds via Dewsbury and Brighouse towards Hebden Bridge, a stop withdrawn in the May timetable. Cottingley becomes a regular stop for Huddersfield to Leeds trains in the new timetable.

While the new timetable appears to offer a debacle of connectivity when new connections are needed, there have been noticable time improvements over the past year for direct journeys where no change is needed. When trains run to time, minutes are clipped off journey times in some cases.

Wakefield Kirkgate is a connection black-spot for Northern trains from Huddersfield In Northern's timetable, the curtailing at Wakefield Kirkgate of services previously continuing to Wakefield Westgate was criticised in May. It was made particularly bad as a new service from Kirkgate to Westgate that passengers should have been able to change to at Kirkgate is timetabled to depart 3 minutes after the Huddersfield arrival and therefore does not count as being sufficient time for a connection. There is no improvement to this in the December timetable.

Another non-connection at Wakefield Kirkgate is to the train departing via Darton towards Barnsley and Sheffield at exactly the same time as the Huddersfield arrival. Rather than waiting an hour at Wakefield, however, the quickest route to Darton is via the congestion that is Leeds and back, a journey of around 1 hour 13 min rather than the 40 minutes it would take if trains connected at Kirkgate. A 1 hour 23 min journey changing at Barnsley is also possible.

Journeys between Huddersfield and the upper Calder Valley (Sowerby Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Walsden) seem to change with every timetable change and this one is no exception. More details can be found on our Calder Valley line page.

Penistone Line trains return from special timetables to beat the leaves Journey times on the Penistone Line are improved slightly from the autumn leaf-fall timetable with the journey time from Huddersfield to Sheffield at 1 hour 16 minutes. More details on our Penistone line page.

Northern is expected to start introducing its new fleet of trains from December, but as yet very few have arrived from Spain and it is likely to be the end of next year before sufficient have arrived to allow Pacer trains to be withdrawn. It will be 2020 before all 98 new trains arrive. Northern, however, also continue with the refurbishment of older trains, many cascaded from other parts of the country, and at least 100 of these have now been improved.

Strike action by the RMT union at Northern is planned each Saturday until the end of the year as the union continues its campaign to keep train guards for safety reasons. Northern services from Huddersfield have been particularly badly hit in recent weeks with all Northern's usual 49 Saturday departures from Huddersfield cancelled, hitting trains to Brighouse, Halifax, Bradford, Wakefield and along the Penistone line. It appears Northern have targetted services where train guards are most needed, such as on journeys via Mirfield and Brighouse, two sizeable towns where Northern do not even have ticket machines at their stations.

For further information we have updated our guidance for the Huddersfield line services to Leeds and Wakefield, Huddersfield line to Manchester, Penistone line and Calder Valley line services.

Please check timetables or with rail operators for full and up-to-date details. This travel study is provided for general guidance and is based principally upon weekday daytime journey patterns.

Useful web links

The website of West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro offers live departure information for all stations and for bus stops in West Yorkshire together with timetables. National Rail offers a journey planner and live station departure and arrival information across the country.

Metro   West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro's website (external link).
National Rail   National Rail Enquiries and journey planner (external link).

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