Franchise decision to 'transform' Harrogate line expected next month

Commuters in Leeds
Commuters in Leeds

The Harrogate rail line is on the verge of a ‘huge transformation’ with the announcement of a new franchise expected before Christmas.

The Northern Rail franchise which currently serves the Leeds-Harrogate-York line is due to end in February 2016 with a shortlist of bidders vying for the contract.

In 2014, Abellio Northern, Arriva Rail North and Govia Northern were pre-qualified to submit ‘innovative and ambitious proposals to the Department for Transport (DfT).

Now, with a decision imminment, Junior Transport Minister and MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones is expecting major improvements to follow on the line.

He said: “We know that all the bidders will be looking at how they can improve the line, including the removal of the old pacer trains and getting better rolling stock.

“That is the issue that I hear most about from people in this area but it seems now that we are on the verge of a huge transformation to our rail service.

“We will have a new franchise, greater frequency of trains and new rolling stock. What the line looks like now will be very different to what it looks like in three years time.”

In George Osborne’s 2014 Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that bidders for the franchise would be encouraged to ‘replace the outdated pacer trains with modern, better quality trains’.

Mr Jones is hoping the removal of pacer trains and greater frequency of journeys will help the network cope with the growing demand.

He said: “The areas where lines in the North link to Harrogate are success stories. We can see that by the sheer number of people using them increasing. We need to deliver more capacity to cope with demand.”