- Northern to lose franchise?
Northern Rail, which operates nearly all the stopping services in the Hope Valley, could be stripped of its franchise. The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, has described Northern’s trains as being “routinely late” and its performance as “unacceptable”. He has asked the Department for Transport to plan for the replacement of the current franchise with either a new short-term management contract with Northern or with the Operator of Last Resort, under direct government control.
The Yorkshire Post has reported on some of the reasons for Northern’s poor performance, some of which are outside Northern’s control. These include delays to electrification, lack of trains to replace the Pacers, driver shortages, new timetables , strikes, problems of combining the working practices of the previous ‘east’ and ‘west’ franchises.
- New timetable (Dec 2019)
The new Hope Valley Line timetable was introduced across the Rail network on the 15th December. There are few changes from the previous timetable.
- 125 Celebrations
The first stopping passenger trains came through the Hope Valley 125 years ago. The first train, on 25 June 1894, took a group of schoolchildren from Hathersage to Edale amongst the other passengers. To celebrate this there were a series of walks, talks, trips, exhibitions and other events between June and August centred near stations on the line (see Hope Valley 125 Summary of events). The events received generous funding from Northern Rail and the High Peak and Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership.
Our chairperson Kath Aspinwall was instrumental in getting the 125 events up and running, helping schoolchildren all along the valley with artwork and specific talks on how the railway changed life along the valley.
- Our Annual General Meeting
was held on 12th June in Hathersage’s Lawrence Hall. It included an exhibition on the 125-year history of the line and talks on the Kinder Trespass, by writer Roly Smith and Katherine Clarke of the National Trust. The Minutes are here: AGM 2019 Minutes
- Hope Valley Capacity Scheme
The scheme should improve reliability and capacity on the line for both freight and passengers. It consists of a new freight passing loop at Bamford and the doubling of tracks through Dore & Totley station. It will allow Northern’s hourly passenger service to call at all stations. At present there are gaps in the service as trains miss out some stations to avoid blocking scheduled freight paths. Not all freight paths are used but Peak District quarries are becoming busier and transporting more stone and cement by rail, so more paths are being taken up.
The Capacity Order came into force in April 2018. The Government recognised the importance of the scheme. It was referred to in November 2018, by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling:
”… let us also remember that the North is not just about cities. It also has some of the most stunning countryside in Europe. And a very important rural economy. That’s why we’re also supporting local railways like the Hope Valley line. Network Rail is proposing to modernise sections of the railway between Bamford station and Jaggers Lane Bridge in Hathersage. And around Dore and Totley station.”
In 2018 Network Rail had expected construction to start the following year and be complete by 2022 but this was clearly over-optimistic. In October 2019 , a Network Rail spokesman said:
“We are reviewing the original plans for the Hope Valley line and expect to put the contract out to tender in the next few weeks. The chosen contractor, once approved by the Department for Transport, should be announced by Autumn 2020.”
Construction is now expected to start in 2022 and be completed in time for the December 2023 or May 2024 timetable changes.
- Pacer Withdrawal
Withdrawal of the 35 year old Pacer trains began in August 2019 and is months behind schedule, due to unavailability of replacement stock. Northern’s original deadline for withdrawing Pacers was 31 December 2019 but it is now 17th May 2020. They are being replaced on the Hope Valley line by generally younger and more comfortable stock cascaded from elsewhere on Northern lines and other operators.
Meanwhile the Government is looking at how Pacers could be used. They have launched a competition to give community groups the opportunity to put forward ideas on alternative uses for the trains. Any ideas?
- Transport for the North – a Strategic Plan (February 2019)
Transport for the North (TfN) has officially launched their Strategic Transport Plan, which outlines TfN’s vision for transport investment in the North of England over the next 30 years. See Reports and Articles for more information.
- Station extensions (February 2019)
Grindleford, Hathersage and Hope stations should have had their platforms extended by the end of January 2020. They will then be able to accommodate longer trains with more seats. See the Network Rail Platform extension Programme for details.
- New Ticket Vending Machines (January 2019)
Northern has produced a video on how to use the new Ticket Vending Machines which have been installed at stations along the line.