Rail services revamp ‘will bring business bonus for Yorkshire’

A MASSIVE revamp of train services on the East Coast main line will encourage thousands more passengers to opt for rail travel as well as ensuring that new enterprise locates in Yorkshire, transport chiefs say.

There will now be two trains every hour between York and London, plus a third in alternate hours serving many intermediate stations.

From Leeds, a train will run to the capital every 30 minutes, with 65 services per weekday between West Yorkshire and the capital.

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The new express weekday train will take less than two hours to London, arriving at King’s Cross at 8.59am.

From Doncaster, there will also be an additional 15 weekday services to and from the capital, part of a high frequency service with up to four trains an hour.

In Harrogate, increasingly reliant on its visitor economy and conference centre – which pumped £92m into the spa town in the past six months alone – the new direct services are being hailed as one of the greatest successes of today’s announcement.

Last month, East Coast announced it would operate a new weekday and Saturday evening service from London King’s Cross to Harrogate as part of the new timetable.

Now it has confirmed to the Yorkshire Post that it will introduce one new service in each direction between the spa town and the capital on Sundays as well.

The chief executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Brian Dunsby, said : “This is absolutely brilliant news but this is still just the start.

“More than 60 years ago Harrogate enjoyed a frequent service to London with up to 10 trains per day and we have now been without a return service for over 20 years. It has been far too long to wait. There are millions of visitors who come to Harrogate every year and better train services for them are vital.

“The new Sunday southbound service from Harrogate to London Kings Cross will attract more visitors to spend a long weekend in Harrogate and will also be ideal for Harrogate business people and residents going down to London either for meetings starting early on a Monday morning or for long-haul flights departing from Heathrow or Gatwick on Monday morning.”

The Harrogate announcement follows a long-running campaign, which has intensified over the past six months, involving business leaders, residents and Andrew Jones, Tory MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, who before Christmas handed over a 25-page dossier to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond demanding better train services.

Reacting to yesterday’s announcement, public transport campaigner Alexandra Woodsworth from the Campaign for Better Transport said: “This is great news for passengers in Yorkshire.

“We welcome these additional services. Frequent services are important to make train travel attractive to more people and should provide a much-needed boost to the local economy. However, extra services must not come at the expense of higher fares.”

The East Coast main line is now effectively under state control, but it will pass back into private hands in the autumn of 2011. A public sector company, East Coast, took over from the troubled franchise National Express in November last year.

Managing director Karen Boswell said: “The launch of this exciting new timetable represents the biggest change to the East Coast route in a generation. It will deliver more services, more seats and a much improved pattern of services for millions of passengers.”

Tickets for the new timetable go on sale on February 25.