Harrogate's fab new Azumas hit by rail station infrastructure problem

The Harrogate Advertiser has learnt that Harrogate railway station’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded to accomodate the popular new Azuma trains and reduce congestion on the line.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:25 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:25 pm
The new Azuma train service to London has been hailed as a game-changer for Harrogates tourist industry. Picture: Gerard Binks.

Network Rail admitted the sidings at Harrogate station were a problem for the new state-of-the-art trains which offer regular direct services from Harrogate to London but said plans were in hand - as part of an ongoing upgrade of infrastructure - to install a new rail crossover at Harrogate by the end of this year.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Last year, Network Rail completed the first stage of an upgrade to bring the sidings at Harrogate railway station back into use for trains.

“The next step is to install a rail crossover, a specialist piece of equipment which allows trains to move from one piece of track to another.

"Work on the next stage of this project is scheduled to begin on site at the end of 2020.

"This will help to reduce congestion at the station and provide an improved service for passengers.”

The development comes after eagle-eyed local rail campaigners claimed that the new Azuma trains, introduced last month, were simply too long for the current platform in Harrogate.

The idea was quickly rejected by LNER, the operators of the sleek new Azumas trains which have been hailed as a ‘game changer’ for Harrogate’s links to London.

LNER says many trains with ten carriages or more stretch a little past the platform at stations across the UK and they had onboard systems to operate specific doors to ensure passengers had safe and suitable access to the train.

But Trevor Dale of Harrogate Line Supporters Group reported that the new Azumas were blocking the way for the Northern services because the existing sidings meant that Azumas had to conduct two reversals to get out of the way instead of none.

Mr Dale said that he watched the arrival of the 14.19 Azuma service on Thursday, December 19 as it reversed through the station to the siding.

He said: “The entire manoeuvre took so long that the 14.45 arrival from York was held up, a minute or more.”

And he said there was a straightforward solution to the problem, on paper at least.

He said: "If the siding turnout was further to the North the train could run straight into it from Platform 1. It could then access either of the platforms for the London departure."

Dr Adrian Morgan of Leeds Northern Rail Reinstatement Group, said he witnessed a similar situation on January 7 when he had seen the 18:32 trian from London reverse back in the direction of Starbeck before eventually leaving Harrogate “nearly 20 minutes late.”

A spokesperson for LNER, acknowledged there was an issue beyond its making: “In order to run additional daily services to and from Harrogate and reduce congestion on the line, our Azuma trains are scheduled to spend time between journeys in the specially commissioned sidings at Harrogate.

"Depending on the timetable, the trains move either towards Leeds or Starbeck to make their journey to the sidings.

"In stations like Harrogate, where some coaches extend beyond the platform, our onboard systems are able to operate specific doors to ensure our passengers have safe and suitable access to the train.”