Press release 9th June 2020


Rail campaigners in Bradford, Calderdale, Pontefract, Selby and Hull fear direct trains between their towns and London, at present suspended during the pandemic, could be permanently lost.

Railfuture Yorkshire Branch and five local rail user groups have today written to the Secretary State for Transport calling for Government action to ensure the survival of two vital Yorkshire train services. These are the Grand Central Service to London from Bradford, Halifax, Brighouse, Mirfield, Pontefract and Doncaster; and the Hull Trains service from Beverley , Hull, Brough, Selby and Doncaster.

Unlike LNER, these are Open Access operators, the result of entrepreneurial initiatives to plug gaps in the franchised services. Unlike the franchised operators, GC and HT have not been given management contracts to run train services until October – a situation which will have to continue into the foreseeable future. Most Grand Central and Hull Trains staff are currently furloughed, and no trains are operating.

Railfuture Yorkshire Chair, Nina Smith said: “These have become vital services to business and leisure travellers in the areas they serve. It would be a damaging blow to the local economies in many areas of Yorkshire if these services are not resumed once the pandemic is over and normal rail travel is safe again.”

Pontefract Civic Society Chairman Paul Cartwright said ”Grand Central is essential  for Pontefract, a town that needs better rail services to help boost the local economy. We want all Grand Central trains to stop at Pontefract, and we need better local services  

Stephen Waring, Chair of HADRAG, the Halifax & District Rail Action Group added: “Just ten years since Grand Central started running four trains daily from Halifax and Brighouse to and from London, the service is suspended during the pandemic. The worry is this could become permanent. But these trains are no longer a luxury. We’ve come to see them as part our essential rail service.”

David Pennie of the Hull & East Riding Rail Users' Association said "Hull Trains are essential for the economy not only of Hull, but the East Riding as a whole."

Terry French, Secretary of the Selby Rail Users Group added  "Hull Trains services are vital for the Selby District which has the highest predicted population growth in North Yorkshire."

The five local rail user groups are: Halifax and District Rail Action Group; Bradford Rail Users’ Group; Upper Calder Valley Sustainable Transport Group; Pontefract Civic Society; Selby & District Rail Users Group; Hull and East Riding Rail Users’ Association.

OVERALL: Nina Smith, 07984 670331 nina.smith at railfuture.org.uk
GRAND CENTRAL SPECIFIC: Stephen Waring (Halifax)  07804 879994 js.waring at hotmail.co.uk
Paul Cartwright (Pontefract)  07837 281886   chairman at pontefractcivicsociety.org.uk
HULL TRAINS SPECIFIC: David Pennie (Hull) 07425 145872  d.a.pennie.hull at gmail.com
Terry French (Selby) 07855 240056 selbyrailusers at btinternet.com

Here is the full text of the letter:

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP,
Secretary of State for Transport.

Dear Secretary of State,

Firstly, can we express our full support and gratitude for your prompt action in putting the franchised TOCs on management contracts until October. We feel sure that this will need to continue beyond then.

Our particular purpose in writing relates to the two Open Access operators, Grand Central Trains and Hull Trains, both of whom are of vital importance to  residents and businesses in Yorkshire.

We recognise that Open Access operators are independent of the franchise system and that in normal times they carry the risk. However, these are not normal times, and we are concerned that the continuing avoidance of train travel during the pandemic may affect the long term survival of the important Beverley - Cottingham - Hull- Brough - Selby- London, and Bradford- Halifax- Pontefract- London services. In normal times, these are well used, because they provide direct, comfortable, and fairly priced services from important regional and local origin points to London. They also enable earlier journeys to London on a Sunday than would be possible using the LNER service from Leeds or Doncaster. The Grand Central service also provides a useful direct service between the Yorkshire cities and towns of Bradford, Low Moor, Halifax, Brighouse, Mirfield, Wakefield, Pontefract and Doncaster, in addition to serving London. Halifax provides connections from the upper Calder Valley, Brighouse from the Ryburn Valley, and Mirfield from Huddersfield. Hull Trains is important throughout East Yorkshire due to connectivity with the Wolds Coast Line at Hull, and with buses from other towns that serve Hull Interchange.

GC and HT have been helped by the furlough scheme, but we are concerned about the future of these important services as it winds down.  These trains are seen as essential by both business and leisure users, and have established themselves as an essential component of the local/regional service pattern. They are of considerable economic benefit to the towns they serve, and their wider catchment area.

We therefore ask you to take whatever measures may be necessary to ensure the survival of these important public services once the pandemic is over, and people feel confident to use trains again - which, we suspect, may be at least a year away.

We look forward to a positive response from you.

Yours sincerely,

Chair, Railfuture Yorkshire Branch
Chair, Halifax and District  Rail Action Group
Secretary, Upper Calder Valley Sustainable Transport Group
Chairman, Bradford Rail Users’ Group
Chairman, Pontefract Civic Society
Secretary, Hull and East Riding Rail Users' Association.
Secretary, Selby and District Rail Users Group