‘Early stages’ for Northern rail changes on Harrogate line?

The first of the 170s arrives at Harrogate station
The first of the 170s arrives at Harrogate station

Passengers on the Harrogate line were left frustrated this week despite the start of Northern’s roll-out of a new fleet of trains and timetable.

The rail operator and the Harrogate Line Supporters Group have said changes to the line are still in the early stages, including more refurbished ScotRail 170 Turbostar trains and services being added to the network.

However a number of commuters, including Charlie Treloar, say they were unhappy over service on the line this week.

He said: "You must be joking! Today’s 7:26 arrives at Hornbeam park at 7:39 and is half the normal size (still an ancient train), standing room only and at least 15 to 20 people left on the platform!"

Speaking to the Advertiser following this she said: “I don’t think Northern quite appreciate how much these changes have affected people’s daily commute. Incidentally it didn’t get much better as we worked our way further down the line.
“Nobody could get on at the subsequent stops, including Horsforth, where the platform was full of people who were left stranded.”

Poppy Davis also said: “”We might have new trains but we still have the same old delays and overcrowding. Yesterday evening when I was travelling from Leeds to Hornbeam Park, my train was delayed and so overcrowded that we left people behind at Leeds. I had to stand all the way to Pannal.”

Changes to the timetable took effect from Sunday and have early morning trains on the line making extra calls at stations including Pannal and Weeton. The first 170 Turbostars also came into use on Monday,

The rail operator says pacers will be used on their network until 2020 but there are plans for a total of 16 refurbished 170s to be introduced to its network by December. An express service is also expected to be introduced by December, according to Northern.

A spokesperson said: “Arriva Rail North (of which Northern is part of) is in the early stages of a multi- million project to introduce 2,000 extra services every week, with hundreds of millions being spent on refurbishing trains and investing tens of millions on all our stations. These are still the early days but by early 2020 this will be completed, and will be unrecognizable to the network that we inherited in April 2016.”

Brian Dunsby, of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group, echoed this and in support of the rail operator said: ”I understand why people are frustrated, but Northern can’t take pacers off until they can continue the cascade.
“They are short on trains and drivers so there is a lot of work to be done, but rest assured it is underway.”
He added: “Extra trains are coming, that is certain, but the cascading process has been delayed, that is why pacers are there and changes won’t happen instantly.
“However this work done by Northern confirms the high level of support that is there for the Harrogate line. We know they are releasing better trains and over time, as they go through the system, being refurbished and painted, we will see something better in place.”

Whilst also pointing to the benefits of the express service expected in December Mr Dunsby says the new timetable does offer benefits for residents who use stations such as Pannal and Weeton.

Mr Dunsby said: “Pannal and Weeton are in particular very important residential areas for business staff who work in Leeds, who have to get into work for between 8 and 9am. Likewise the stops at Headingley Park are very important for students trying to get to university.
“We were concerned at one point there were gaps in the timetable which would have left people stranded in places like Pannal which would have been unreasonable. But the management at Northern have accepted this and have managed to fill all but one of the gaps.”