As the Government prepares to announce the “biggest ever public investment” in rail across the North, Kirklees Council has warned of “massive” disruption caused by the planned £1.5 billion TransPennine rail electrification scheme.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a £96 billion investment in faster train journeys across the North after the Yorkshire HS2 link was scrapped.
But Kirklees is already set to see electrification of an eight-mile stretch of line between Huddersfield Railway Station and Westtown just outside Dewsbury.
At a full meeting of Kirklees Council there were more warnings of disruption as it was revealed the council had secured a series of promises to limit the disturbance and, significantly, protect council taxpayers from extra costs.
Huddersfield Railway Station will be shut down for two 30-day periods and the A62 Leeds Road and Colne Bridge Road at Bradley will be closed for extended periods for bridge replacements.
Clr Peter McBride told the Huddersfield Town Hall meeting: “The disturbance while this is going on is going to be huge. We are going to have to be massively patient.
“To spend £1.5 billion over a limited area is bound to cause massive disruption.”
Clr McBride said he had been told there would be 38 weeks of disruption over the three-year period of the works, due to start in January 2023.
He said the 38 weeks wouldn’t be consecutive and would be split into weekend working or blocks but he added: “During that period it’s going to be very painful. And I think the public might think: ‘Is it worth it?’
“We know in the long term it is worth it for all concerned but the disturbance is going to be enormous and we want to warn people that is going to be true, and necessary, to achieve what we want.”
A public inquiry into the Transport & Works Act Order is currently underway. Kirklees Council had previously lodged a formal objection but withdrew it on the eve of the inquiry after negotiating concessions with Network Rail.
The council says it can’t make public the details of what was agreed while the inquiry is ongoing but director of regeneration David Shepherd said the council was happy with the outcome.
Mr Shepherd told the meeting that detailed workshops had taken place between council staff and Network Rail and added: “There was a significant number of concerns but I am pleased to say that all those concerns were addressed to my satisfaction.
“All of these issues have been addressed by a combination of measures. Some we have agreed that planning conditions will need to be put in place, others we have agreed legal and binding side agreements with Network Rail.
“We have also achieved statements of common ground which have been submitted to the public inquiry that’s going on at the present time.
“In some cases we have agreed commuted sums that Network Rail will pay for the impact of some of the works and ensure that the management and other aspects are not coming at the expense of Kirklees or our businesses and that Network Rail pick up those costs.”
The council secured deals over the new A62 Leeds Road Bridge and the realignment of Calder Road in Ravensthorpe where 4,000 new homes are planned under the Dewsbury Riverside development.
Planning conditions will protect historic buildings in the Huddersfield Conservation Area and also residents living near a works compound planned by Network Rail at Hillhouse. Plans have been put in place over “re-configuration” of the Weaving Lane recycling site in Dewsbury.
Mr Shepherd said: “Kirklees Council was always supportive of the wider principles, that was never in doubt and we made that very clear to Network Rail, but what Kirklees Council wanted to be heard – and acted upon – were legitimate concerns in order to avoid substantial costs but also unnecessary disruption for businesses and residents.
“There will be highway disruption and these are significant works and you can’t spend £1.56 billion, even in an area as big as Kirklees, without significant disruption.
“We need to ensure the highways continue running and if there are diversions they needed to be put in place. We couldn’t leave that to chance.”
Mr Shepherd was particularly pleased over a U-turn by Network Rail over the new A62 Leeds Road Bridge.
“There’s a need for widening and replacement and it’s very important that the council does not get landed with the original construction bill but also the upkeep and maintenance because that’s a considerable bill,” he said.
“I am pleased to say we have negotiated that and Network Rail have changed their position and accept that is their responsibility now and in the future.”
Mr Shepherd said it was important that the electrification scheme was not just for “commuters’ benefit passing through” and added: “It’s the people and businesses here that also need to see the benefits.”
Tory councillors Martyn Bolt (Mirfield) and John Taylor (Kirkburton) were concerned that while the full council had unanimously agreed to put in the objection, councillors had not been consulted – or given any details – over the withdrawal.
Councillors agreed to review the decision in a scrutiny meeting which will be held in private.
Clr McBride told councillors there was “no conspiracy” and that details couldn’t be revealed because of the ongoing public inquiry.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Thursday reveal details of the Government’s new Integrated Rail Plan with the biggest ever £96 billion investment in the rail network.
The scheme will include speeding up travel between Leeds and Manchester with journey times “similar to or faster than the original HS2 and Leeds-Manchester proposals, while doubling or trebling capacity.”