Sunday rail service to London axed

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
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SUNDAY rail services between Pontefract Monkhill and London King’s Cross have been axed by train operator Grand Central.

The revised timetable, which took effect on December 11, also sees a number of weekday and Saturday services between the capital and Pontefract scrapped.

The train company said the decision to reduce the number of services was due to “disappointing” passenger numbers boarding the train at Pontefract.

A spokesman for Grand Central said: “Passenger loadings at Pontefract have been very disappointing since the start of our West Riding service 19 months ago – on average fewer than 20 passengers a day make use of Grand Central services from Monkhill station.

“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.”

Grand Central said calling at Pontefract added 20 minutes to the London journey between Wakefield, Brighouse, Halifax and Bradford.

It asked Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation for permission to find a “more direct route” to the capital, which avoids calling at Pontefract to speed up the journey time.

Permission to partially reduce the service was granted on December 7 – meaning the last service from London to Pontefract between Monday and Friday is now at 2.48pm.

Two further services on Saturday from London to Pontefract have also been axed leaving only one service at 7.20pm.

Peter Cookson, chairman of Pontefract Civic Society, said trains calling at Pontefract 100 years ago were faster than those running on the current Grand Central line.

He said: “The company has gone for the easiest option which is to cut out Pontefract which saves 15 minutes.

“But if it worked harder it could have saved that time elsewhere. It’s dawdling around which is the problem.”

He added: “This issue of small numbers of people using the service is because Monkhill is isolated and nothing has been done about it.

“It’s a tragedy we’ve lost this service, it’s never had a proper chance.”

Yvette Cooper, MP for Pontefract, Castleford and Normanton, said the decision was “unfair” to the community.

She said: “This is a shortsighted and unfair decision by Grand Central which is bad for local people and local jobs.

“Part of the reason Grand Central was granted the rights to run services on the line was because of the stop at Pontefract.

“Yet it doesn’t seem to have ever taken the Pontefract service seriously. It hasn’t advertised it effectively and it looks like it is just trying to run it down. “