Council chiefs lobby for improved Harrogate rail service

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Council bosses have met with train companies bidding to run the Northern Rail franchise to press the case for improved services between Leeds, Harrogate and York.

Over the 11 years of the Northern Rail franchise, passenger numbers have increased by 50 per cent but there are concerns that little investment has been made to accommodate such a large growth in passengers.

Harrogate Borough Council’s proposals include increasing weekday train frequency to four trains per hour between Harrogate and Leeds and two trains per hour between Harrogate and York, earlier weekday services and better links with Manchester Airport and Manchester city centre, as well as other Yorkshire cities.

It also wants to see later services to boost Harrogate’s evening economy, improved parking and other facilities at stations and also stresses its support for the long-term aim of the potential electrification of the route.

Coun Rebecca Burnett, the council’s cabinet member for sustainable transport said: “We need to create a service on the Harrogate line which is suitable for business use, with quick, comfortable, clean, modern trains that are easy to communicate and work from. The number of services running through the day needs to be increased and we need to ensure there are suitably early and late trains available.

“We have high hopes for our railway line. Significant progress has been made in producing a business case for its electrification and also to fund dual tracking of a section of the rail line as a precursor to electrification,” she added.

Abellio Northern, Arriva Rail North and Govia Northern are competing for the new franchise which is due to start in February 2016. The council has expressed its ambitions for the rail line, with the hope they will be incorporated into each of the train company’s submissions.

The three franchise bidders have already met with the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce and a selection of local business representatives to gain their views on how the rail service can be developed to encourage business travel.