Top regional rail executive Alex Hynes has given his seal of approval to community partnership work which has turned Todmorden railway Station into somewhere special and well-placed to take advantage of upswings in passenger numbers.
Managing director of service operator Northern Rail, Mr Hynes was shown around high spots and innovations made at the station by station master Matt Gibson and TCRP’s Mary Clear, and he also shed some light on why services set to use the £9m reinstated Todmorden Curve are not yet in place.
Mr Hynes saw innovations such as the free read-it-and-return-it library, the herb tubs on the platforms, the artwork done by Todmorden schoolchildren and casting work courtesy of Todmorden company Weir, as well as looking at work under way to improve station approach.
He also saw how Todmorden Art Group have utilised what were once unused station buildings as the Platform One gallery and studios, where he met artist Jack Jarman.
Plans to boost use of the bike hire scheme at the station were also discussed, the aim being to make it easier to do so, making Todmorden more attractive to visitors and the station as a perfect starting point to explore the area, with the national cycleway Route 66 leading straight from the station. Investment had been made to increase parking 18 months ago.
Mr Hynes said: “I know this route very well indeed but this is the first time I have visited Todmorden. We are 47 per cent busier than we were ten years ago and the service we provide is more reliable than we’ ve ever been.
“Railway stations are a part of the community, making it more than just a building.
“We lease the station off Network Rail and the track is Network Rail’s. We’re putting back rails to operate new services, next year from Burnley to Manchester.”
When asked about why there was a delay in extra services using the completed Todmorden Curve, Mr Hynes said Northern Rail did not have a contract yet.
“Lancashire County Council pressed Network Rail to build a curve and we are in discussions with LCC to operate the service.
“But actually we don’t have a contract yet and until we have a contract we can’t operate the service.
“As soon as the LCC and Northern reach agreement, we can make plans to operate the train service,” he said.
One upcoming problem was advising cyclists not to bring their bikes on the train with them when the Tour De France hits Yorkshire on July 5 and 6.
“We don’t have limitless space but these are nice problems to have because they are the problems of growth,” he said.
Mary Clear, of Todmorden Community Rail Partnership, said Mr Hynes loved to go out and see in person what was happening with stations.
“We have got a unique train station here, with its library, it’s environmental and vandalism is virtually nil here. Having the art gallery at the station also makes a difference.
“This is Todmorden’s front door, this is what it says about Todmorden, that we are a friendly, fun town.”
The rent-a-cycle scheme had enormous potential, she said - currently people need to join as a member, it being £10 to register and bike hire, once booked online, was just £3 per day.
The possibility of being able to do this “on the day” rather than having to register and book in advance was being explored, she said.