ILKLEY Business Improvement District (BID) is urging the Government to stop plans to cut key rail services in the district.

Last month Northern Rail announced that services from Bradford Forster Square to Shipley, Ilkley, Keighley and Skipton would be reduced from half-hourly to hourly services from the middle of May, leading to widespread anger from rail users and politicians.

Now Bradford’s three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have joined forces to write to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to express their “most serious concern” over the plans and called on him to reconsider them.

In the letter chair of Bradford BID Ian Ward says: "We understand that these cuts are said to be ‘temporary’ but they could scarcely have been more ill-timed.

“Businesses in the city centre – as well as those in the surrounding town centres – have suffered greatly from the restrictions necessarily imposed in response to the Covid 19 pandemic and, with current inflation levels and the soaring costs of energy, many are again struggling to survive. Indeed, several businesses have succumbed to these difficult trading conditions in recent weeks and closed their doors for good.

“Bradford Council recently revealed that city centre footfall has still only reached 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, figures which our own footfall cameras network confirms.

“Bradford has fared better than many, given its lower-than-average reliance on office-based employment in the city centre, but the impact of working from home has still drastically affected the livelihoods of many retailers and hospitality providers and soaring energy prices are placing substantial pressures on those already operating on the tightest of margins.

“In the face of these challenges, Northern Rail’s response appears to be to make it harder than ever for customers to travel to and from our retail and hospitality centres.”

Helen Rhodes, manager of Ilkley BID, said: “Ilkley BID fully supports Bradford BID’s aim to try reverse the decision to reduce these crucial rail services. Many people who visit Ilkley for shopping and eating out come into the town by train and also many of our workers travel to Ilkley using these services.

“At a time when retail and hospitality businesses need all the help they can get, cutting visitor numbers and potentially making the recruitment and retention of staff more difficult are both real concerns.”

Her words were echoed by Simon Blondel, Chair of Keighley BID, who added: "Cutting rail services to and from Keighley is the last thing we need when we're all working so hard to get things going again after the last two years."

Tony Baxter, regional director at Northern said: “We recognise that some of our customers are disappointed with the upcoming changes to their service. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

"Along with the rest of the industry, some amendments to the timetable will be made from 15 May 2022. For the remainder of the year, services will be reinstated where possible with the intention of a larger uplift in December 22. These reinstatements will take us more in line with December 2021 service levels although any changes are dependent on several factors. We will share the final plans when we can."