Harrogate Bus Company calls for 'bold thinking' in debate over town's £7.9million Gateway scheme

“We must go further for our town’s future” – that’s the call today from CEO of The Harrogate Bus Company, Alex Hornby, as the debate continues over a £7.9 million regeneration plan for one of the town’s busiest thoroughfares.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 10:38 am

Mr Hornby says bolder thinking is needed to ensure the ‘Harrogate Station Gateway’ scheme succeeds in cutting air pollution on the streets – and today, the bus operator is calling for a low emission zone to be introduced to cover Harrogate bus station and Lower Station Parade which runs alongside it.

A partnership of North Yorkshire local authorities has already secured a total of £31 million from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities fund for three separate projects in Harrogate, Skipton and Selby. The aim is to finalise designs and start construction work by summer 2022, with completion in 2023.

A Harrogate Electrics bus leaves the town’s bus station, currently divided from the town’s retail centre by Lower Station Parade – a two-lane, one-way road which prior to lockdown saw frequent traffic congestion.

The ‘Harrogate Gateway’ forms an integral part of a wider plan to cut emissions and tackle ever-growing traffic congestion across the town, including public transport and highway improvements. Key elements of the scheme include:

- A better-linked public transport hub for buses and trains.

- New bus priority areas at Lower Station Parade and Cheltenham Parade.

- Options to reduce vehicle traffic to one or two lanes on Station Parade.

Bus operator The Harrogate Bus Company is calling for a Low Emission Zone to cover the bus station and Lower Station Parade which runs alongside it, as part of the proposed £7.9m Harrogate Gateway scheme.

The proposals aim to create a more welcoming town centre for bus and rail users with more safe space for pedestrians and a new area for public events. An online survey is currently underway to gather residents’ views ahead of further engagement work this spring and summer.

The bus operator has begun a programme of trials using a variety of battery-powered demonstration vehicles, to help inform its own future investment plans and with the aim of switching to fully electric operation across its network in the next few years.

Aex Hornby said: “While we see the Station Gateway proposals as a positive step towards our shared aim of a low emission town, we must go further for our Harrogate’s future by making the most of this tremendous opportunity. Our positive experience with our ground-breaking Harrogate Electrics buses shows we can change our town’s air quality for the better if we do things differently – but we must do much more.

“The creation of a low emission zone, covering the current bus station, plus Lower Station Parade which currently divides the bus and rail stations from the main shopping area, is vital if we are serious about improving Harrogate’s air quality.

“The proposed bus priority measures at Lower Station Parade and Cheltenham Parade – the first such measures to be put forward in the town’s history – are a positive start, and are to be welcomed, but by themselves are unlikely to go far enough to achieve Harrogate Borough Council’s stated aim of creating a net-zero carbon economy by 2038.

“Consultations on Harrogate’s 2016 Masterplan and the county council’s 2019 congestion study both showed majority public support for non-car solutions to traffic problems. Now is the time for bold thinking to make a vision of a congestion-free public transport gateway to our town a reality, with a low emission zone at its heart.”

Currently, Lower Station Parade is a one-way street with two lanes of traffic, both of which are open to all road users.

The bus company says a low emission zone would mean access to Lower Station Parade and the bus station would still be available to the least polluting vehicles, such as hybrid and all-electric cars and vans, and all The Harrogate Bus Company’s buses, all of which meet zero or very low (Euro 6) emission standards – while making the area safer for pedestrians as well as vehicles by reducing overall traffic levels.

The call comes on the same day the Department for Transport has announced a £3bn plan to make buses across the country cheaper and easier to use.

The plans include hundreds of miles of new bus lanes, price caps on tickets, extra services and a promise to deliver 4,000 new electric or hydrogen buses by the end of this parliament.

An online consultation into the Harrogate Gateway proposals is underway and continues until Wednesday, March 24.

To have your say, visit: www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/northyorkshire