Long-debated ideas for commuter services on a world-famous steam heritage railway should not be dismissed, it is claimed.
Councillors have vowed to continue pursuing the vision of increasing use of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (K&WVR) to help alleviate rush-hour traffic congestion on the A629.
The Worth Valley ward politicians spoke out after revealing West Yorkshire’s Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) had rejected the idea.
Coun Glen Miller, who is also the Tory group leader on Bradford Council, said: “I find the decision of the ITA very disappointing and potentially short-sighted.
“It has undertaken a ‘demand and revenue analysis’, which suggests the predicted usage is 300 journeys each way per day, which whilst being a nice round figure may be little more than that.
“This level of usage would see the service run at a loss, and whilst many other routes also lose money, the subsidy required would – for the first few years – be too high for it to be considered.”
But he says such analysis is of little value, recalling that a study several years ago predicted no growth in train usage in West Yorkshire, when in fact it mushroomed by more than 60 per cent.
Coun Miller added: “I am of the view that if the service was provided on the Worth Valley line, as word spread and people became aware the passenger figures could well increase over and above those currently predicted, decreasing the subsidy required in the early years and potentially seeing the service pay for itself in a few years.
“We are calling on the ITA not to give too much weight to any demand and revenue analysis, and we remain committed to the proposals.”
Dr Matt Stroh, chairman of the K&WVR, said: “I’m really keen we help the local communities, but our role as a charity is running the heritage side and we cannot be distracted from that.
“I’m pleased these questions are being asked, but we must remain focussed. We can’t compromise the heritage nature of what we do or undermine the work of our volunteers.
“We are a 99 per cent volunteer organisation, and if the railway was going to be used as intensively as it would need to be for commuter services, something would have to be built in accordingly.
“The infrastructure is fine, but capital investment would be required around the diesel fleet and more paid staff would be needed.”
The ITA was unavailable for comment.