Harrogate district’s rail services could be restored to their pre-Beeching glory after councillors put the line forward for a £12m funding windfall.
A new scheme is set to give Harrogate better links to the East Coast main line to London, make services to both York and Leeds more frequent, reliable, faster and safer by upgrading rails on the Harrogate to York route, according to a council report. North Yorkshire County Council is to bid for a share of a £14m transport funding pot to pay for double tracks to be installed on a two to two-and-a-half mile stretch between Knaresborough and Cattal, allowing twice as many trains to run on the line and taking the first step in bids to see the route completely modernised.
The money will come from a new pot of funding given to the North Yorkshire Local Transport Body.
The pot is specifically for transport improvements in the county in the next six years.
The county council has decided to bid for two schemes to be funded by the NYLTB – the rail scheme and smaller project to improve the A64 junction at Tadcaster.
The railway upgrade will cost around £12.5m, but the new fund will cover only around 90 percent of the cost and demand around 10 percent, as well as all the preparation and planning costs, from local sources, that could include money raised by parking fines in Harrogate, according to a report to NYCC’s Executive by county council officials.
The work has to be done by 2019 to qualify for NYLTB funds, and will be carried out at the same time as a signalling upgrade by Network Rail, the council report adds.
Businesses in Harrogate have welcomed the move to help the district economy through better transport links
Brian Dunsby, Chief Executive of the Harrogate and District Chamber of Trade, said: “This is a very significant step towards upgrading services on the existing Harrogate to York line which currently suffer from recurring delays due to two sections of single track, where one line was removed in the Beeching era.”
Double-tracking is a vital first step in plans for the line, Mr Dunsby added, and will make it possible to build a new Flaxby Moor Parkway Station with a large park and ride site as part of the proposed Flaxby Green Business Park near the A1/ A59 junction.
Harrogate’s County Coun Don Mackenzie sits on the Executive which voted to support the scheme. He said: “The potential economic benefit of the doubling of the track from Knaresborough to Cattal is huge, opening up the possibility of faster and more frequent rail services between Harrogate and the East Coast main line at York.” The project will strengthen calls by the Harrogate Line Supporters Group, led by Mr Dunsby, to electrify the whole York-Harrogate-Leeds line, and is the first improvement to the line prior to electrification, County Coun Mackenzie added.