Pay-to-park plan to hit rail users?

Rail commuters in Brighouse could see the cost of their journeys rise as Northern Rail considers making train users pay to park.

It is believed that Brighouse station is one of 18 across Yorkshire - and four in Calderdale - where parking charges could be introduced.

The proposals have emerged as the Government negotiates an extension to the franchise held by Northern Rail, the company which runs local services across the region.

The Government pays millions of pounds in subsidies to Northern Rail and Ministers have been looking for ways to offset the cost. But Metro, the West Yorkshire transport authority, councillors and rail users have urged the Government to shelve the idea of parking charges.

There are concerns that if the charges go ahead, residential streets near the stations could become blocked with parked cars.

Mr Peter Harrison, who lives near Brighouse railway station, said the roads near his home were already busy with commuters’ cars. “It is getting harder and harder for residents to find spaces near their homes - and that is before charges are introduced at the station.

“Some people park up early in morning, catch the train to London and don’t return until the evening.”

Coun Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse) said long-term investment in creating additional parking spaces was needed.

“Due to the lack of free parking close to the town centre, many of the people who park in the station car park are not actually catching trains. The number of passengers using Brighouse station has continued to grow year on year and we have to a duty to further encourage people to use the station and to improve the rail services available to commuters.

“While introducing charges would free up spaces for those catching the train, it would create additional problems and could undermine the tremendous success of the station. Long-term, what we really need is additional investment to create extra car parking spaces for commuters using the station - this will ensure that passenger numbers continue to increase well into the future.”

Coun Colin Stout (Ind, Brighouse) said the re-opening Brighouse station in 2000 had been a big success with passenger numbers rising. He said it was important that people were encouraged to continue to use railway services.

David Sidebottom of consumer watchdog Passenger Focus said passengers who parked in station car parks would feel aggrieved at having to pay more to travel by train.

A Northern Rail spokeswoman said: “We continue to have constructive discussions with the department for Transport and Rail North on what they want to happen in the new franchise agreement. As part of those discussions we have been asked to provide proposals that would reduce the cost to the taxpayer of running the railway as well as providing better facilities and information for Northern customers.”

The other stations in Calderdale where charges are under consideration are Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.