End of the line for rail link?

Grand Central starts a new service connecting Wakefield Kirkgate to London Kings Cross. 'Grand Central arrives at Monk Hill station, Pontefract.'w1952f020
Grand Central starts a new service connecting Wakefield Kirkgate to London Kings Cross. 'Grand Central arrives at Monk Hill station, Pontefract.'w1952f020
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RAIL chiefs have revealed plans to axe a service between Pontefract and London – hailed as the ticket to boost the town’s economy – after serving just 15 passengers a day.

Grand Central Trains announced this week it has applied to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to take a “faster” and “more direct route” to the capital after “disappointing” passenger figures from the town’s Monkhill railway station.

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper slammed the plans and said she believed the town had been “used” by the firm.

The company launched the long-awaited service – which starts at Bradford, also calling at Halifax, Brighouse, Wakefield Kirkgate and Doncaster – last May.

Ms Cooper said: “This is outrageous.

“The service from Pontefract has only been running for a short time – it was just getting going.

“Everyone supported Grand Central’s bid to run the service because it was reaching towns like Pontefract that do not have service to London already.

“To pull the plug right now goes against Grand Central’s original bid and the pledges made to us.

“The regulator when it made the decision made it clear that one of the benefits was a London service to Pontefract for the first time.

“This shows even more clearly why it’s so unfair for Grand Central to try and axe the service now.

“We will fight against this all the way.”

Peter Cookson, chairman of Pontefract Civic Society, said historic records showed the route between Pontefract and London was faster in 1865 than it is now.

He added: “The problem is things like speed limits.

“We need to know all the facts before we can mount a properly considered objection.”

A spokesman for Grand Central said passenger numbers from Pontefract had been “disappointing” and confirmed it had applied to the ORR to change the route – making an additional stop at Mirfield.

He added: “In order to reduce shorten the journey between Doncaster, Bradford and London we are currently seeking the right to run the train via a more direct route that misses out Pontefract.

“An independent assessment has been untaken that shows we will get far more passengers from other stations because the journey will be a saving of 15-20 minutes.

“That will more than balance the loss from Pontefract Monkhill, which currently has 15 passengers a day. It is a very small number from Pontefract and it has been the most disappointing performance on the current route.”