Network Rail says that “genuine progress” is being made on possible action to ease horrendous traffic queues at Harrogate’s worst railway crossing.
The giant semi-public body in charge of 20,000 miles of track and the national railway infrastructure says it hopes to complete investigations into alleviating barrier times at Starbeck in a matter of months.
State of Harrogate - is it time we all worked together?
A spokesperson for NwR said: ““We are currently in the process of warding the contract for this work with an aim for it to be completed in the coming months so that North Yorkshire County Council can consider the alternatives available for alleviating barrier downtime at this very busy crossing.”
“This work is a constructive move forward as it will formally identify the options available. What happens next will ultimately depend on funding being found for any solution/s. It’s safe to say that genuine progress is being made.”
The positive noises will be welcomed by the hundreds of frustrated drivers stuck at the crossing for up to five minutes many times a day on their slow way along Knaresborough Road, one of Harrogate’s busiest routes.
NwR had previously announced an agreement with North Yorkshire County Council to fund a study to look at a range of options to reduce the level of barrier downtime.
NYCC is keen for the study to be completed before the end of the year and is committed to funding effective proposals to improve matters at Starbeck crossing.
It believes the costs would be justified by substantial reductions in congestion.
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for passenger transport, said: “NYCC highways and transport officers have made clear to NwR that the County Council would be very interested in making an investment in the signalling infrastructure either side of the Starbeck level crossing in order to reduce downtime of the barriers.
“The reduction could be substantial and lead to much less congestion and shorter queues of traffic on Starbeck High Street and Knaresborough Road.”
One possible source of funding would be the county council’s on-street parking surpluses.
The sudden green lights for progress follows years of campaigning by Bilton man Trevor Dale.
His in-depth personal investigations include looking at crossings at Swineshead Bridge near Boston in Lincolnshire, Nantwich in Cheshire and Barmouth in north west Wales.
The rail expert is convinced barrier times at Starbeck are longer than elsewhere and he has taken his case to both NwR and Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones.
Any improvements would also help alleviate local residents' fears over air pollution as queues of cars build up as trains arrive travelling to and from Leeds and York.
But a word of caution has been sounded by North Yorkshire County Council on the situation.
Coun Mackenzie said, while the NwR's statement was "very welcome", the Starbeck crossing was only part of a bigger picture of improvements on the Harrogate line.
He said: "NYCC plans to invest £12.5m in track and signalling upgrades at Cattal to allow a doubling of the frequency in service between Harrogate and York.
"We hope to have confirmation from NwR later this year that they can guarantee access for 2tph (two trains per hour) through Skelton Junction."