Harrogate passengers to be boosted by improvements in public transport but warning is sounded on financial landscape
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The comments came at a fascinating meeting organised by Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce last night which revealed the scope for growing capacity in the region still remains limited even as passengers numbers continue to grow in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The well-attended event at Cedar Court Hotel included presentations from prominent figures in the region’s travel sector, including Henri Rohard, Managing Director of Transdev/Harrogate Bus Company; Tony Baxter, Regional Director East at Northern Railway; David Flesher, Commercial Director of LNER; and Vincent Hodder, CEO of Leeds Bradford Airport.
The guest speakers at the meeting were invited by Brian L Dunsby OBE, Transport Spokesman for Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce and leader of Harrogate Line Supporters Group.
Henri Rohard of Transdev reaffirmed that Harrogate was set to have a £21million all-electric fleet in the summer of 2024 featuring 20 new electric single decker buses and 19 double deckers with a financial contributions from North Yorkshire Council and the Government.
The changes were a “game changer”, said Mr Rohard, which would lead to a wide range of improvements, including:
New air con
Additional wheel chair spaces
30% fewer carbon emissions in Harrogate by 2030
1,800 tonnes of C02 saved per year
Speaking for rail operator Northern, which was taken over by the Government in 2020, Tony Baxter described a challenging landscape of long-running strikes and a fall in business commutes since Covid balanced by a growth in leisure travel.
The bulk of the fleet was made of trains more than 40 years old and the goal was to introduce new trains in the next four to five years.
The financial challenges of electrification meant this was likely to involve 'tri-mode' trains that uses battery, electric and diesel power.
These can halve fuel consumption and carbon emissions without massive investment in new rail infrastructure.
Punctuality on the Harrogate line currently stood at 69%, Mr Baxter added.
David Flesher of LNER, who lives in Harrogate, said the rail operator was experiencing similar trends in passenger travel as Northern and capacity was a challenge.
But, he added, LNER, which runs the East Coast mainline to and from London, was experiencing better growth since lockdown ended than any other part of the rail sector.
Mr Flesher expected “timetable transformation” in 2024 which would include an increase in Harrogate services.
He said he expected the first direct train of the day to London from Harrogate to depart an hour earlier at 6.35am and a return at 6.35pm.
Vincent Hodder of Leeds Bradford Airport said the long-term aim was to transform the area’s key airport to the scale and quality of Manchester Airport which would require major backing by all local councils and public transport providers.
As a starting point, the goal this decade was the expansion and refurbishment of the airport terminal which would improve the experience of passengers and attract more airlines.
The meeting, which was helmed by Sue Kramer, President of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, ended with an address by Karen Weaver, Strategic Lead for Harrogate & District Community Action on how charities provide transport.