Millions of people in Yorkshire could be set to benefit from new train services to London within three years, bringing up to £150m of economic benefit to the region.
As passengers were rocked by the announcement of sharp rises in rail fares yesterday, plans were submitted to link Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden to the capital via a new service, which would also see increased direct trains being offered between Leeds, Bradford and Halifax.
Alliance Rail Holdings, the York-based business behind the proposals, says the move will create more than 100 jobs in the region and plough around £150m into the region’s economy if approved.
The company is headed by Ian Yeowart, former boss of York-based Grand Central which successfully introduced direct services from Bradford Interchange and Halifax to London as well as increased services from York.
His new firm plans to provide more links from Yorkshire to London’s Euston station. Yesterday it formally submitted plans to the Office of Rail Regulation and anticipates a decision by the end of the year.
If approved, Mr Yeowart said he expected services to begin operating as early as 24 months afterwards.
The new routes, which will also see new services rolled out in the North West and permit onward connections for Yorkshire travellers to Wales and the South West, will mark a £200m investment for the company which includes a fleet of new 125mph bi-mode tilting trains.
Alliance Rail hopes to be operating more than 60 trains every day across its network which it believes could deliver £3.5bn of wider economic benefit to those areas served.
Mr Yeowart told the Yorkshire Post: “There is a solid business case for doing this. Places like Bradford now have a direct service. After Bradford the biggest location with no direct link was Huddersfield. The new direct service we propose will be as quick as having to go into Leeds to change.
“We’re talking about places which in the recent past have not had a good service to London. Local businesses and leaders have been supportive.”
He added Network Rail had been very helpful in the dealings it has had with Alliance so far.
The news, however, came on the same day commuters were told they will have to fork out an average of eight per cent more for their rail tickets in the new year following last month’s inflation figures.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the increase would be necessary to fund rail improvements but opposition politicians and passenger groups decried what they said was unfair rises.
The rise comes on top of the 10 per cent increase announced earlier in the month by West Yorkshire transport body Metro as it seeks to bring in extra carriages to increase capacity.
David Sidebottom, director of rail consumer watchdog Passenger Focus, said, “Passengers in West Yorkshire who are already paying higher fares for more carriages will find it deeply disappointing to be asked to pay more.
“Having some fares regulated is clearly in passengers’ interests. However, the way that train companies are allowed to set fares on individual routes is deeply unfair. Some passengers who may have seen no investment or improvements can get hit year after year. We will forcefully advocate change to this system in the Government’s forthcoming fares review.”
Labour said the “eye-watering rise” would burden families, and customer watchdog Passenger Focus said the increase was “deeply unfair”.
Mr Hammond said: “We are now embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment for 100 years, delivering more than 2,700 new rail carriages, a £900m programme to electrify more lines and the vital Crossrail and Thameslink projects in London.
“Due to the scale of the deficit, these investments would simply have not been possible without the difficult decision we have made to increase rail fares. I know this decision has not been popular, but I hope passengers will appreciate the improvements it allows us to make.”
But Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said the increase showed the Government was “totally out of touch with the cost of living crisis facing commuters”.
“The cost of getting to work is for many people the biggest single item in the monthly budget.
“With train fares set to rise four times faster than wages in the next year, ministers should think again and give commuters a break.”