Rail link fears

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper is angry about plans to cut back Pontefract's rail link to London. Pictured at Monkhill station, Pontefract.'p6917a146
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper is angry about plans to cut back Pontefract's rail link to London. Pictured at Monkhill station, Pontefract.'p6917a146

A DEFIANT MP has vowed to fight plans to cut Pontefract’s rail service to London – which train company bosses say only serves 20 passengers a day.

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper is urging Grand Central to keep a full timetable to and from the town after the company revealed it had applied to “partially reduce” its service from December.

Earlier this year, the company told the Express it had asked the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for permission to take a “faster” and “more direct route” to the capital after “disappointing” passenger figures from the town’s Monkhill railway station.

Ms Cooper said: “This is a shocking decision by Grand Central only two years after the service first opened. When they were originally granted rights to the line, one of the conditions was that it served Pontefract and it was on this basis that people round here lobbied the rail regulator to get the service in place.

“Instead of advertising the service and getting more people to use it, they are running it down and making it easier to ditch altogether. At a time when unemployment is going up and our local economy is very weak we badly need good transport links to boost growth and jobs.

“Instead Grand Central is pulling the rug from under us.” A spokesman for Grand Central said: “The diversion required to enable us to call at Pontefract adds 20 minutes to the end to end journey time between Bradford, Halifax, Brighouse, Wakefield, and London. With such low passenger demand from Pontefract and the need to improve over all journey times for the majority of our passengers Grand Central has been exploring with Network Rail and the ORR whether or not we can take a faster route to or from London avoiding Pontefract.

“We are very sorry to have to disappoint the small number of people who use the station, but the business case for using the faster route and speeding up our services between Bradford and London is very, very strong.”