Rail chiefs to be urged to improve services

Campaigners will argue offering a “much improved” rail service between Leeds, Harrogate and York will attract more visitors and stimulate the local economy in a series of high profile meetings in the New Year.

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

They will meet teams from Abellio Northern Ltd who are bidding for the Northern Franchise and First Group who are bidding for the TransPennine Franchise in January. A meeting with the third bidder for the Northern Franchise, Govia Northern Ltd, has also been arranged and they have already held talks with Arriva UK Trains who are shortlisted as bidders for the Northern Franchise.

They hope to press the case for short term improvements to services between Leeds, Harrogate and York, while at the same time emphasising the need for the electrification of the line in the long term.

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Brian Dunsby, chief executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce said: “Our aim is to convince each of these bidders that the Harrogate Line is a unique opportunity for them to attract many more fare-paying passengers, if they will increase the quantity and the quality of the trains running on this line.

“The Harrogate Line is not just a local commuter service - it is a vital route all day long for visitors, both business and leisure. Harrogate attracts over 1 million visitors a year attending conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, public entertainment and social events of all types.

“Many more of these visitors would travel by train if the frequency and the quality of the trains could be improved. In addition many more commuters would use the trains if they could drive to their nearest station and be sure to find a parking place,” Mr Dunsby added.

York Council recently added its voice to calls for the electrification of the line connecting York to Harrogate and Leeds in a bid to speed up journey times, ease congestion and provide better links to help bolster businesses.

In a joint letter, the leaders of the council’s political groups urged Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to prioritise investment in the line. In their letter, the party leaders describe the electrification of the line as a “strong economic opportunity.”

It said that a fast frequent service using modern trains would build on a 20 per cent rise in passenger numbers over the last five years and generate economic benefits worth £400m to the area.

Electrified rail lines typically allow faster, smoother and more frequent journeys than traditional diesel locomotives.

Mr Dunsby said to electrification would bring “much improved” services for commuters and visitors.

At the meetings campaigners will speak to those bidding for the Northern and TransPennine franchises about how services in and out of Harrogate can be improved and better connect to other services in both the short term and the long term if the dream of electrifying the route between Harrogate, Leeds and York is realised.