Rail campaign gathers pace

A CAMPAIGN to overhaul Harrogate’s railway line is gaining strength thanks to significant new support.

Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce now counts City of York Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire PTE (Metro) and Leeds City Regional Transport Panel among its advocates.

Unanimous votes of support have been given by Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council’s Harrogate committee.

Brian Dunsby, chief executive of Harrogate Chamber, said: “The chamber officers are delighted that all of the local authorities concerned have now agreed on the need to electrify the Harrogate Line, with a common approach and strategy that benefits all of the locations along the whole 39-mile route and also enables construction of several new stations along the line.”

The authorities are now working to produce a development plan looking at two options - either a conventional overhead electrification like the routes to Skipton and Ilkley, or a modern for of “third rail” electrification using refurbished London District Line rolling stock, as originally proposed by the chamber.

If both proposals prove impossible in the short term, additional and upgraded rolling stock will be pursued in the interim.

Project director Mark Leving said: “We have been able to pull the previously disengaged parties together to form a unanimous single voice in favour of common-sense electrification of the line. This represents a long awaited and much needed first step in being able to establish the necessary business case and funding.”

Last week in Parliament, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who has also given his support to the scheme, called for a debate on the state of railways in the region.

He added that support from the Leeds City Region Transport Panel made the project the next priority, following the announcement that the trans-pennine route was to be upgraded.