Harrogate Line Supporters Group outlines concerns over Northern Rail service cuts

The Harrogate Line Supporters Group has outlined its concerns to Northern Rail over service cuts on the Harrogate line between York and Leeds.

By Gemma Jimmison
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:00 pm

The Government-controlled rail provider has announced a reduction in services due to the lower-than-usual number of passengers and various operational difficulties.

This is the full list of concerns raised by the supporters' group:

Cancellation of 06:07 Harrogate - Leeds service:

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The Harrogate Line Supporters Group has outlined its concerns to Northern Rail over service cuts on the Harrogate line between York and Leeds.

The cuts now include the withdrawal of the 06:07 HGT to LDS service which is vital for business people and leisure customers trying to get to London Kings Cross before 10:00.

Not good news! We are losing the current first train of the day from Harrogate to Leeds which arrives at 06:44. The next train is not until 06:33, arriving at 07:10 which misses connecting with the earlier trains to Kings Cross – such as the 06:40 and 07:00 and 07:15.

The 07:00 starts at Bradford at 06:30 and arrives at KGX at 08:59. This is what Harrogate needs. We really must protest in the strongest terms at the withdrawal of this vital service.

Two hour gap in evening services:

The withdrawal of a through return service between Leeds, Harrogate and York in the mid evening, after the half-hourly service finishes, leaves an appalling two hour gap for users of the line.

We refer to the 19:29 Leeds-York, 21:10 York-Leeds and 22:39 Leeds-Harrogate. So there are no trains from Leeds to Harrogate between 21:29 and 23:39. The 21:29 is now the last train to Knaresborough and beyond - formerly it was one hour later.

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A complete list of cancelled services on the Harrogate line between York and Lee...

There is no train from York to Harrogate between 20:11 and 22:11. Similarly, there’s no train from Harrogate to Leeds between 20:46 and 22:45. All these cuts particularly inconvenience longer distance travellers returning back to Harrogate or other stations on the route. They severely impact late workers and the evening economy, and will lead to crowding especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

If trains at the edge of this gap were to be cancelled due to other issues, there would be roughly a three hour gap in service - in that case, would Northern make alternative arrangements to transport passengers, such as allowing passengers to travel via the Leeds-York line if this gives an earlier arrival or by providing a replacement bus?

Deep cumulative cuts to peak hour services:

Peak hour services between Harrogate and Leeds had already been cut with the Omicron ‘work from home’ instruction in December 2021 and despite this being rescinded on January 20, 2022 they remain cut now and this continues into the new timetable running from May 2022.

To this have been added further peak time cuts with the withdrawal of the 06:07 Harrogate-Leeds but also the 06:59 Leeds-York and 08:47 York-Leeds. There will be reliance on heavy lifting being done by the 07:36 Harrogate - King’s Cross which is not a particularly reliable service and whose cancellation would be serious with the limited alternatives in the current reduced timetable for the large number of passengers this nine-car Azuma carries. For example, checking the past week’s times, it failed to run this Monday (14 March).

Harrogate - Leeds semifast trains:

These were only introduced in May 2019 but then withdrawn in the first lockdown in March 2020, and running for only 10 months did not really give these services a fair chance to become established with the public. Faster rebound in leisure traffic should provide custom for these services outside peak hours.

The original May 2022 timetable proposal out to consultation a year ago showed these services reinstated over an extended number of hours, into the early evening.

These semifast services are not shown as restored in July on Real Time trains, unlike many of the other services which have been removed.

We believe that these services should not become ‘forgotten’ but that it should be the intention to reinstate them at some point in the future.

Reinstatement of services:

We appreciate the various issues faced by Northern and can understand reductions in peak services where usage has fallen greatest, but to us some changes seem inappropriate and disruptive (the cancellation of early Harrogate-Leeds services and the two-hour mid-evening gap), and the cuts to peak services on our line seem exceptionally deep.

We hope that as resources become available we will see improved service provision as soon as possible on the Harrogate line with earlier starts restored, the two hour evening gap eliminated, peak hour services reinstated and eventually with the reintroduction of the semifast services.