The Transport Talk column with Don Mackenzie

The new Azuma which is scheduled to begin up to six services every day between Harrogate and King's Cross.
The new Azuma which is scheduled to begin up to six services every day between Harrogate and King's Cross.

I attended a meeting on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council earlier this month in York of the East Coast Mainline Authorities, a grouping which includes representatives of transport authorities along the 400 mile length of this rail route from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh.

I asked the senior manager of LNER, who gave us an update on his company’s current and planned services, to confirm that Harrogate rail passengers can still look forward to five additional direct services to and from London every day with effect from December 2019.

Yes, we can. I then asked the manager to confirm that the new Azuma train sets will be arriving in Harrogate in December.

Yes, they would, and that all six daily services should be provided by Azumas.

The Azuma is built by Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe.

There will be a total of 65 Azumas providing passenger services for LNER when the replacement process is complete.

Three quarters of these will be electric-powered, and a quarter will be bi-mode for use on non-electrified routes like the Harrogate Line.

I believe that this is really excellent news for rail passengers, public transport in general, and especially for Harrogate District and our visitor economy.

In other local rail news: the county council continues to make preparations for its investment of £12.5m in track and signalling upgrades at Cattal with the view to enabling the doubling of frequency of journeys between Harrogate and York to two per hour. Final confirmation on whether that work can be completed is expected later this year.

The uncertainty arises because Network Rail has not yet been able to guarantee access for these additional journeys in both directions through Skelton Junction where the Harrogate branch line joins the East Coast Main Line. NYCC is very hopeful that timetabling work by NwR and the train operators over the next few weeks will result in the guarantee being issued.

Talks continue between County Council transport planners and NwR concerning the reduction in closure times of the Starbeck level crossing. NYCC will consider making an investment in signalling infrastructure in order to bring about a significant shortening in traffic hold-ups on the A59 at this location.

Harrogate Congestion Study Public Engagement – Final tally of responses: 15,510

The public engagement concluded on 8 July, and a total of 14,896 responses were received by close of the day on 8 July.

A very large number of paper returns, many of which had accumulated at libraries, arrived the following morning and increased what was already a huge response to an even more impressive grand total of 15,510. Of these, 99% were from individuals and just 1% came from organisations and businesses.

All the responses are now being collated. The data will be analysed and will form the basis of a report to NYCC’s Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee on 29 August, and to the Skipton and Ripon ACC on 6 September.

Members of those committees will be asked to give their views. The report will be published by 23 August.

A decision on the way forward in overcoming the effects of congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough will be taken by the NYCC Executive at the end of this year.