Sheer weight of numbers puts transport under strain

The queue on Saturday for Harrogate trains from Leeds Station
The queue on Saturday for Harrogate trains from Leeds Station
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THE TOUR de France put local transport links under strain at the weekend, with long delays on rail routes and crowds at train stations.

At one point on Saturday, cycling fans and other passengers were warned of delays of at least two to three hours for services from York and Leeds to Harrogate, where the first stage of the race finished. Images showed large crowds in the forecourt at Leeds station with long queues outside.

Rail operator Northern Rail said around 60,000 people had been through the station by 1pm.

One commuter described Leeds station as a “vision from hell” while cycling fans said they had abandoned plans to travel to Harrogate after seeing the queues.

The Rev Danny Walker, vicar of St Paul’s Church in Birkenshaw, Bradford, tweeted: “Queue at Leeds station for Harrogate train literally a mile long. Gave up and came home to watch race on Eurosport.”

There were similar scenes in York. Doug Winter said: “York station is absolute carnage. TdF far more popular than expected.”

David Brown tweeted: “Northern Rail has had two years to plan for the #2014TDF Grand Départ and they have mucked it up. Not a great advert for future tourists.”

Northern Rail, which operates the route, said an “awful lot of people” were trying to travel to Harrogate. A spokeswoman said they had worked alongside rail organisers ahead of the event to prepare for an increase in the number of travellers.

“Everything we have got is out there. We are running extra trains, we are running longer trains and we have hired extra trains.

“We are operating as much as we can. There is an awful lot of people waiting to get there and we are trying to do that as quickly as we can.”

She said the bulk of the queues eased by around 2pm.

Rail bosses later apologised to spectators and thanked them 
for their patience and for “entering into the spirit of the weekend”.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “By 2pm today we had already seen 60,000 more passengers pass through Leeds station than on a normal Saturday.”

She said additional trains and longer trains were running to all locations to help meet the increased demand.

“We apologise that there have been delays which have been caused by the sheer volume of passengers wishing to travel,” she added.