Harrogate wins better London rail service 20 years after cut

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating securing a new direct return train service between Harrogate and London after it was axed 20 years ago.

The new route, seen as vital in ensuring the economic prosperity of the spa town, was announced by bosses at East Coast yesterday .

It 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.

Brian Dunsby, chief executive of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: "This is absolutely brilliant news but this is 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 service, which begins on May 23, will run six days a week leaving London King's Cross at 5.30pm and arriving in Harrogate via Leeds at 8.30pm.

Previously there has been a morning direct service from Harrogate to London but no return.

Campaigners hope for seven trains a day each way by 2016.

East Coast chairman Elaine Holt said: "We have listened to some very persuasive arguments for the economic and social benefits that an inter-city daily return service between Harrogate and London could bring to the town.

"We appreciate that there remains an aspiration by stakeholders to deliver more services to the town. Capacity issues on the network continue to make this very difficult to achieve but we will continue to explore our options."