Harrogate's rail future - what the business world thinks of latest Government moves
While recognising that the new version of HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail plan still represents a substantial investment in modernising the rail network, businesses in our region are keen that progress on better transport links continues.
David Simister, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, said: “Those commuting to and from Harrogate know how vital it is to have a modern and reliable rail service.
“Thanks to many years of lobbying, we have seen our ancient rolling stock upgraded, an increase in the number of trains travelling between York and Harrogate, and the introduction of direct trains between Harrogate and London Kings Cross.
“Ongoing investment in our rail network is vital, particularly if we want to reduce the reliance on cars in favour of public transport, and encourage visitors - leisure and business - to arrive here via rail.”
But many business leaders in the wider region fear last week’s partial U-turn on rail improvements will have damaging long-term effects.
Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is a huge disappointment to the thousands of businesses that were relying on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to fire up economic regeneration through the improved capacity and connectivity of our rail network.
“The economic benefits that they would have brought to areas across the Midlands and the North would have created growth opportunities for businesses across the country.
“There is also grave concern that without more capacity on our railways, any significant progress on shifting more freight transportation off our roads and onto the rail network will be stymied, making it much more difficult to achieve our net zero ambitions.”
North Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce chair, Amanda Beresford, said: “After 11 years of campaigning for improved rail connectivity both within and across our region, the Government’s announcement will call into question just how serious it is on levelling up .”
What’s in new £96bn rail package?
The HS2 eastern leg from the East Midlands to Leeds has been scrapped. HS2 trains to and from London will instead run on existing lines. The decision is set to make journeys between Leeds and London take 32 minutes longer than originally envisaged.
No new high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester, instead it will now be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.
Electrification of the Midland Main Line and the Transpennine route.
The East Coast Main Line will be upgraded.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, in total, the £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) would slash journey times across the region with 110 miles of new high-speed line.