As expected, the severe limitations of the new (winter Sunday) Hellifield service, coupled with an absolutely ludicrous fares structure, meant only a handful of passengers used it. I am not even sure if anyone ventured north of Hellifield.
Three alighted from from the 10-30 from Hellifield and a few more boarded, but most of the 19 on board were railway supporters.
The 14-02 arrived from Preston with just six on board. One alighted and one boarded, but significantly, bound for Peterborough – the highest fare of the day by a long way.
Three of the others were rail supporters.
The 14-55 left Hellifield with six on board, mostly those who had just gone north. One person alighted and a further nine joined, making a total of 14.
The Peterborough fare of £19 was amazingly cheap for a journey of 131 miles each way. But not Clitheroe; Settle at £13 for only 18 miles, Hellifield £8.50 for only 13 miles, Skipton £30.10, a distance of 23 miles.
If we use the Darwen fare as base (£5.20 for 15 miles) it suggests Hellifield £4.60 and Settle £6.41. Skipton would have to be no more than £6 due to competition.
This service needs a change of direction. Providing a link to Skipton is both essential and simplicity itself.
All that is required is, on arrival at Preston at 09-27, the train would cross over and form the 09-40 to Manchester. This means the 09-17 to run to Hellifield connecting with the 09-40 Morecambe and continuing to arrive around 09-54 at Skipton.
Leeds and Bradford would both be reached at 10-54.
Leeds is the second busiest station outside London and offers a far greater range of destinations than either Preston or Manchester Victoria.
The unit would return from Skipton at 10-00 in plenty of time to form the 10-40 Clitheroe-Manchester.
This service pattern would continue until departure from Skipton at at 19-00. This would allow a connection from the 18-08 from Leeds, and at Hellifield passengers off the 17-00 from Carlisle would end their 22-minute wait.
A service of this nature would cost a little more to operate, but it would serve Morecambe, Carlisle and the Aire Valley much more effectively. And that means £££s.
The message to Northern Rail is: revise, re-price, re-route...and rejoice!
Students please note: Hellifield to Newcastle is only £20.53 with a Railcard, available at all staffed stations. On Sundays, Northern run a direct Carlisle-Leeds-Sheffield-Nottingham service.
Peter J. Brass
Friends of the Blackburn-Hellifield Line development