Northern postpones key rail improvements in Yorkshire - and blames delays to Manchester electrification scheme

Three key improvements to rail services in Yorkshire will not happen in May as promised because of delays to an electrification scheme in the North West.

Northern was hoping to run four services an hour between Leeds and Harrogate and introduce a fast service between York and Leeds via Micklefield as part of proposes timetable changes.But the planned improvements, as well as an extended service between Huddersfield and Castleford, via Wakefield, have been postponed, with no set time for completion.

The rail operator announced today that trains would stop twice an hour in both directions at Kirkstall Forge station, in west Leeds, compared with the current rate of one every hour.

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There will also two trains an hour between Leeds and Knottingley/Pontefract, and an extension to the service between Leeds and Southport, via Dewsbury and Brighouse.From May 20 extra services will run between Leeds, Lancaster and Carlisle on weekdays and Sundays.

Senior Network Rail boss tells MPs and peers the East Coast Main Line needs more investmentBut is said it had been forced to postpone some of the improvements it had hoped to deliver because of the knock-effects of delays in the delivery of the Manchester to Preston electrification.Paul Barnfield, Northern’s Regional Director, said: “Our proposed timetable for May 18 was dependent on the successful delivery by Network Rail of the Manchester to Preston electrification project, which has been significantly delayed. "This means that some of the extra services we had originally planned for May, will now be arriving later than we had hoped.“The delay to some of our service improvements will not, however, delay our overall modernisation plans.

"By 2020 we will provide 2,000 extra services each week across the Northern network, will have introduced 98 brand new trains, have refurbished the rest of the fleet and removed all Pacers from the line. We are absolutely committed to transforming the journey experience for our customers.”

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Keith Wakefield, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, welcomed the news of more frequent stops at Kirkstall Forge.

He said: “Delivered as part of the Rail Growth Package, along with nearby Apperley Bridge station, Kirkstall Forge has been a success since the outset.

“I am glad that efforts by the Combined Authority and its partners to ensure that the station’s popularity is reflected by an improved train service have paid off, and that passengers will be enjoying an enhanced service soon.”