By Andy Hirst
A £1.5bn railway improvement scheme between Huddersfield and Dewsbury is in danger of being a missed opportunity, it is claimed.
Huddersfield Civic Society (HCS) says the project will do very little to enhance access to Huddersfield Railway Station and there will not be enough car parking.
The society has had input to a planning inquiry into the project which is now running at the John Smith’s Stadium.
HCS says the scheme fails to allow access to the opposite side of the station where the imposing but largely derelict huge St George’s warehouse now stands.
They say this lack of access could have an impact on the viability of the warehouse being redeveloped in the future, including a large open space of land next to it.
HCS chairman David Wyles said: “We think pedestrian access from the station to the land on the other side of the tracks and then on to the Fitzwilliam Street area is very important and to not do it would be a missed opportunity. There also needs to be plenty of cycle storage as more and more people are expected to cycle to the station in the years ahead.”
HCS also says the plans fail to link in with Kirklees Council’s 10-year Huddersfield Blueprint plan to create a thriving, modern day town centre – including the area next to the station and, hopefully, redeveloping St George’s warehouse.
Mr Wyles said that providing access to the town centre over the station – perhaps with a pedestrian footbridge or subway – will make such a redevelopment far more attractive.
He added: “The warehouse seems very disconnected from the town centre now which may be why it has stood empty for so many years and not been redeveloped.”
HCS also says many people are put off from using Huddersfield Railway Station because of a lack of parking – there are now only 28 parking spaces in front of the station.
Mr Wyles said: “If people are to use the railways in significant numbers they need to have somewhere they can park conveniently and cheaply otherwise they will just do they journeys by road instead.”
The scheme will extend the station’s platforms over the John William Street viaduct which will need to be widened and HCS wants to see improved lighting there to make it brighter for pedestrians – similar to what has been done under the Dark Arches on Neville Street in Leeds beneath the city’s railway station.
The main focus of the overall scheme is the electrification of the railway line between Huddersfield and Westtown in Dewsbury with the number of tracks doubled from two to four. The aim is to provide a more reliable railway with more trains, more seats, faster journeys and better connections across the north.
It will cause major disruption though as eight bridges will need to be rebuilt and a new one constructed in Ravensthorpe. Mirfield station will get a major upgrade while Ravensthorpe will get a new station.
A decision on the scheme is due to be made in early 2023 with work possibly starting later that year and be completed within three years.
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.