Campaigners fight to boost rail services

Coun Loughran with campaigners who are fighting for better rail services to the Five Towns. p314a342
Coun Loughran with campaigners who are fighting for better rail services to the Five Towns. p314a342

‘Appalling’ rail services are damaging the economy and preventing people from getting jobs, claim campaigners.

Councillors are urging rail bosses to provide a half-hourly service to Leeds from Pontefract and Knottingley, with an extended service in the evening.

Celia Loughran, who represents the Pontefract South ward, told the Express the Five Towns is suffering through lack of good rail links.

She said: “My concern is we are living in a competitive world and we are being starved – there’s one train an hour to Leeds from Pontefract and Knottingley.

“So much of the employment and education is in places like Leeds, so we need to get there easily. It’s appalling, it’s not fair on people around here.”

The Pontefract and Knottingley councillors have written to Northern Rail demanding improvements to the Knottingley to Leeds line via Castleford, and the Knottingley to Leeds line via Wakefield Kirkgate.

Currently there is only one direct train an hour to Leeds during the day and the last service from Leeds is at 22.40, with a change in Wakefield.

Coun Loughran added: “We appreciate rail provision can’t be changed overnight, but in order for Pontefract and the surrounding towns to thrive we need to have good rail links and we cannot continue to tolerate this neglect of our area.”

Drew Haley, client and stakeholder manager for Northern Rail said the company is trying to drive investment to the area but warned improvements are difficult in the face of negotiations over the rail franchise.

He added: “We hope to find out soon from the Department for Transport if we can continue our franchise beyond our current contract end date of March 2014. Until this is decided however, it does make delivering potential schemes difficult.”

Campaigners have launched a petition to improve the services from Pontefract, Knottingley and other towns such as Featherstone. Visit www.facebook.com/railservicesinpontefractandknottingley to sign up.