Tod Curve rail link ‘no benefit to Pendle’

The “Todmorden Curve” will bring no benefits to Pendle, according to a rail campaigner who has criticised the timetabling of trains.
Picture taken by David Evans of the first train to traverse the recently completed Todmorden CurvePicture taken by David Evans of the first train to traverse the recently completed Todmorden Curve
Picture taken by David Evans of the first train to traverse the recently completed Todmorden Curve

Peter Brass says, in one instance, trains using the Todmorden curve from Manchester Victoria heading for Blackburn, and trains travelling in the Colne direction from the west arrive and depart Rose Grove – the most convenient connecting station – in the same minute at 6-51pm, leaving little prospect of people making the connection.

Mr Brass states a number of possible connections at Rose Grove for Pendle rail users miss by a matter of minutes and operator Northern Rail has also slipped up with fares.

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Mr Brass said: “All it needs is a train shifting back three minutes. It’s not a big job. Is there nothing to stop that happening?

“It’s not meeting the needs of the local community and it should have been right from day one. There’s no chance of people making the connection. I think it’s stupid.

“According to a 1960 timetable, it took 12 minutes from Manchester Road to Todmorden and now it’s taking 16 minutes so I would have thought there’s some slack in the timetable there. The fares are also not right, too. It’s costing nine pounds odd from Manchester Road through to Todmorden which is about nine miles. Compare that to Clitheroe to Ramsgreave, a similar distance, which is £3.40.

“I was told the pricing is still accounting for going in and out of Hebden Bridge but that should have been right form the start as well.”

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While Burnley celebrates direct travel with the north’s largest city, the current quickest time being 52 minutes, and proposed future economic benefits of that link, travel times from Pendle by rail are seeing no improvement at all.

According to the National Rail website, almost all the quickest journeys from Colne to Manchester Victoria are still via Blackburn.

Commuters from Colne to Manchester wanting to reach the latter by 9am for work currently have to get on either the 5-31am or the 6-21am service, travel times of 1hr 52mins and 1hr 39mins respectively.

The first viable return journey for anybody finishing work in Manchester at 5pm or 5-30pm to Colne is the 5-58pm from Victoria, which takes 2hrs 14mins via Blackburn getting into Colne at 8-12pm.

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This, despite a train leaving Victoria four minutes earlier at 5-54pm via Todmorden arriving at Rose Grove at 6-51pm, the same time the 4-58pm train from Victoria via Blackburn leaves Rose Grove for Colne.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “I have contacted Claire Perry, Under Secretary for Transport about this. A simple timetabling change could vastly improve times and we could really see the benefits of this.

“I’m optimistic about changes soon but the Northern Franchise is currently going through the bidding process so I don’t know how quickly it will be. Interim improvements have been made to Rose Grove though such as the waiting areas.

“With the new franchise we want to look at improved services across the North of England and brand new rolling stock, not second hand trains to replace the pacer trains which are to be scrapped.”

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The Todmorden Curve, a 440-yard stretch of track, was reopened this month at a cost of about £9m.

It finally provided Burnley with a direct rail link to Manchester since its closure in 1972 and a Northern Rail spokesman said: “The Todmorden Curve is a milestone in railway history. We’re committed to bringing better services, improved stations and a wealth of local opportunities to the region and this new service is a positive step in the right direction for all concerned.

“This is a busy line for both commuters and leisure travellers and we have worked closely with the community to offer all possible journey opportunities to and from Manchester.

“We introduced a route via Todmorden in September 2014 that is cheaper than the Any Permitted fares but we are constantly reviewing our fares structure to offer best value for money for our customers.”