Four hours to travel 10 miles

For several years I have been very dismayed by the ever worsening public transport provision in the area, particularly in Cleckheaton and surrounding districts.

What use to be a reasonably decent system began its drastic deterioration in the early 90s with the removal of the evening and Sunday 220 service to Huddersfield and has gone rapidly downhill ever since. A recent experience highlighted the depths to which we have now sunk.

I needed to get to Slaithwaite on a Sunday to attend a rehearsal with the local orchestra, as a member of the chorus for a performance of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman in Huddersfield Town Hall.

The rehearsal was due to last from noon-5pm. To ensure I arrived in time meant my leaving home at 9.30am to catch the 268 to Dewsbury, a train to Huddersfield and then change trains.

I arrived at the Civic Hall with a few minutes to spare – journey time two and a half hours. So how long would it take me to get back? Unbelievably it took four hours! Four fours to travel a direct distance (omitting the enforced diversion via Dewsbury) of 10 miles; one could walk there quicker.

This might just be acceptable in a small rural village, but we are living here as part of a large conurbation with a sizeable population which merits a far better provision.

I find it difficult to imagine that there can be an urban area anywhere in the country where the average speed of a daytime journey equates to two and a half miles per hour.

I expect you find this difficult to believe, so here are the details. The rehearsal slightly over-ran which meant just missing the 5.19pm train and an hour wait for a nine minute journey, arriving in Huddersfield at 6.28pm followed by a 50 minute wait for the next train to Dewsbury, which left me with a further three quarters of an hour wait for the next 268 to Cleckheaton, which arrived about 8.40pm. While I could have walked and got home slightly earlier, I decided to wait for the 252 to arrive home finally at 9.20pm. So, omitting, this final leg, an actual total travelling time of 44 minutes involved a combined waiting time of two hours 35 minutes.

This simply should not be acceptable, but I am not asking for a whole load of increased services, just better planning and collaboration between the various operating companies in order to render connections more feasible.

Not surprisingly there is a prime example on this journey: throughout the day two express trains leave Huddersfield for Leeds only 10 minutes apart; why can’t at least one of them stop at Dewsbury?

If this had been the case I could have arrived there almost half an hour earlier, in plenty time to catch the 268 at 7.15pm instead of having to wait for the 8.15pm.

Despite such cases of crass stupidity which result from this lack of collaboration, the fact that all these companies are in competition with each other is the dominant factor with profitability the top priority and quality of service the sacrificial lamb in order to pay large bonuses to top management and shareholders, so that the necessary changes are just not going to happen.

The only solution is obvious: re-nationalise the railways and nationalise the bus companies while giving local authorities the power to work together to provide transport services based on customer needs rather that profitability.

I am convinced that this should be taken up by Ed Miliband and given priority in the next Labour manifesto, and would be a major factor in securing a Labour majority at the next general election.

It would also be a sure sign of the desperately needed return to an element of socialism totally absent from the Blair and Brow-led New Labour governments which seemed happy to continue with the Thatcherism despised by so many Labour supporters.


Carlton Way