Harrogate-York trains to go 'twice hourly' by end of 2020?
Optimism remains that the number of train services between Harrogate and York will double later this year - despite the Government’s decision to strip troubled rail operator Northern of its franchise.
North Yorkshire County Council says £12.5 million worth of improvements to increase the line capacity and allow two trains per hour in each direction on the line could still happen by December this year and it will continue to work on that basis.
Coun Don Mackenzie, the county council’s executive member transport, said: “North Yorkshire County Council will shortly commission Network Rail to undertake the detailed design and delivery of the scheme which is targeted for completion by late autumn, thereby allowing a doubling of services between Harrogate and York as part of the December 2020 timetable changes.
“We have already been in touch with Rail North/Transport for the North to seek clarity about the implications of this transfer on March 1 for our Harrogate line improvements scheme.
“Initial indications suggest that the changes with Northern pose no significant risk to our aspirations. We are ready to move forward with this as soon as possible.”
The positive assessment for Harrogate rail campaigners, such as the Harrogate Line Supporters Group, follows Transport minister Grant Shapps’ announcement last week that the Government was taking back control of all Northern’s services.
North Yorkshire County Council had thought that the introduction of a twice-hourly service on the Harrogate-York line would require an almost full doubling of the track at a cost of more than £40m.
Following an investigation with Network Rail, an affordable scheme has now been identified, involving limited track improvements and signalling upgrades, which enabled the removal of token block working on the single track sections.
The £12.5m scheme will enable faster speeds and more efficient use of the length of double track at Cattal.
At a recent meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee, the county council’s corporate director David Bowe told members a solution had been found which would allow trains to pass at Poppleton and not conflict with other trains arriving at York.
The main improvement will involve upgrading the token block signalling to more modern technology.
A total of £9.5m of the scheme’s budget is being provided by York North Yorkshire & East Riding Enterprise Partnership.