‘Half-hearted’ Boxing Day trains avoid the crowds

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The long-awaited introduction of Boxing Day trains in Yorkshire, after an absence of three decades, will be limited to just two routes and bypass the county’s main cities, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Mainline stations in Leeds, Sheffield, York and Hull will remain closed, with only Bradford open to passengers, on the lines to Ilkley and Skipton.

Leeds rail station

Leeds rail station

The Christmas service – which the train operator Northern is obliged to revive under its 2016 franchise – has been planned despite the absence of any Boxing Day football crowds in Bradford.

The details have emerged in the leaked, confidential minutes of a meeting of the planning body, Transport for the North (TfN) – which warned the company that it must to better next year.

The proposals were condemned by Ilkley’s MP, John Grogan, who called them “the opposite of a joined-up railway”.

Northern told TfN it had picked Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton stations because it controlled them itself and could open them without consulting Network Rail.

But Mr Grogan said: “If you’re running an experiment, you want one that works. This is just half-hearted. A few years ago they ran some Boxing Day trains on Merseyside but they were linked to a Liverpool home game.

“The Government needs to start knocking heads together here. Surely it wouldn’t be too hard to open a couple of platforms at Leeds Station.”

Football fans, as well as bargain hunters at the sales, will flock to Leeds and Sheffield on Boxing Day. There are home fixtures in both cities, but Bradford City will play away at Carlisle.

Northern’s contract requires it to run at least 60 Boxing Day trains, and TfN’s minutes call its current plans “unlikely to be sustainable”. It has also asked the company how it intends to spend the money it saved by not running services for the last two years.

Northern said it had planned the services having “taken into account engineering work by Network Rail over the Christmas period”. TfN said the arrangements were “still under development”.