POLL: Project to boost rail network

tis. Commuters wait to board the train to Leeds at Harrogate Train Station. GS2102081b.
tis. Commuters wait to board the train to Leeds at Harrogate Train Station. GS2102081b.

Harrogate’s rail network could be electrified by 2020, boosting frequency and reducing operating costs between the town, Leeds and York, claims a group working to revamp the route.

Harrogate Line Supporters Group announced a £50,000 feasibility consultation into the project will be presented with a business case to the Department of Transport in May with the backing of 
the town’s MP.

It marks progress in the group’s crusade, which includes separate plans to eliminate level crossings in busy areas such as Starbeck and see new stations built at Flaxby Moor and Manse Farm.

On the 50th anniversary of the Beeching Report which closed, among others, the Harrogate to Northallerton line serving Ripon, Brian Dunsby, chief executive of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, explained the proposal.

He said: “The significant step forward is the region’s authorities supporting an investigation into the technical and financial feasibility of electrification.

“The investigation will also estimate the potential return in terms of revenue that would be attached to an enhanced service.

“However, detailed cost and engineering feasibility has not yet been carried out.”

Once submitted, Harrogate’s case will be considered against other Yorkshire networks such as those serving Hull and Scarborough when funding becomes available after the 2018 electrification of the Transpennine line between Manchester and Leeds.

Mr Dunsby added: “Although there is no assurance of funding at this stage, our aim is to have this project ready in the pipeline when the Treasury decides to release additional funding for investment in further rail electrification.”

Mr Dunsby revealed he and Harrogate business leaders met with Network Rail’s route managing director Phil Verster to discuss ways of revamping the line. This could include the removal of level crossings.

MP Andrew Jones said: “The line is already a success and has seen significant growth, but electrification matters because it is part of dealing with the cost and capacity challenges the railway is facing. It costs less to run an electric train than a diesel one.

“They weigh less, so have less wear and tear on the tracks, and electric trains require less engine space so you can get more people on them.

“This is a positive development.”

The group needs evidence of capacity or frequency problems on the current service. Any such information could aid the study, contact info@harrogateline.org