THE campaign to electrify the Leeds-Harrogate-York railway line took a major step forward yesterday as council leaders unveiled a £100m bid for Government support as warnings were made the line needs significant investment if services are to improve.
Next week a partnership of North Yorkshire, York and Harrogate councils, together with Metro, will be formally presented to the Government and yesterday Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough, MP, championed the campaign at a launch event at Harrogate railway station.
Leading councillors from the partnership signed a letter which will be sent next week to Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, enclosing the business case and urging the Government to provide the vital £100m investment in the line.
Metro Chairman Coun James Lewis said: “...we’ve reached a point where services can’t be improved without major infrastructure work. “Electrification would bring more and more modern trains to this important inter-regional route, provide relief from overcrowding, provide an attractive and environmentally-friendly alternative for car drivers so reducing congestion and help the local economies along its route.”
Any decisions about whether to support the scheme are likely to be some way off but campaigners say electrifying the route would allow trains to run at least every 15 minutes between Leeds and Harrogate as well as boost the frequency over the Knaresborough-York section of the route.
North Yorkshire County Council, Metro, York Council and Harrogate Borough Council, Network Rail, Northern and Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, have been working with consultants looking at the modernisation of the line. It is hoped having a business case in place will allow campaigners to be in a strong position to get Government backing when it is next handing out cash for rail schemes.
The North Yorkshire and York Local Transport Body has already agreed a contribution of £9.6m from funding provided by the Department for Transport. North Yorkshire County Council has also pledged £3.4m from its own resources for improvements on the line.
County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for passenger transport said: “The benefits of this proposal are obvious to anyone living in the area or using the existing line.
“With twice as many trains and faster journeys this proposal would be terrific for residents, visitors and businesses in North Yorkshire. It really will make using the Harrogate line the faster, smarter choice and improve access to jobs between Leeds, Harrogate and York.
Coun Dave Merrett, York Council’s cabinet member for transport said: “I wish every success to this bid, which will help commuters and shoppers coming to York, and also the York and Harrogate tourist trade.”
Coun Alan Skidmore, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for transport, who is also a voting member of the North Yorkshire Transport Board, said yesterday: “The evidence presented today makes a compelling case for electrification and for investment in the line. We hope that ministers take note of benefit cost ratios well above the industry norm and act accordingly.
“I am pleased that our Member of Parliament has taken a close interest in our work, that he has agreed to champion the cause in Parliament.”