Harrogate and Knaresborough MP has welcomed the news that a direct two-hourly service between London and Harrogate is to be introduced over the next five years. This means an additional six trains every day between Harrogate and Kings Cross. The scheme is part of a number of changes being brought in by Stagecoach-Virgin after they were awarded the franchise for the East Coast line and is scheduled to be introduced in 2019.
It was only four years ago that direct evening services from London were re-introduced after decades without an evening service. This followed a campaign by local businesses and Andrew Jones. Since then Mr Jones, as Vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rail in the North has been lobbying for further improvement to the service to the capital.
As well as the two-hour direct service from Harrogate to London, Stagecoach-Virgin is planning a number of other improvements to the line:
- New trains and faster more frequent services
- £140m planned investment to deliver an improved service and more personalised travel
- Over £25m planned spend in improving stations and car parking
- Investment in staff with more training and new dedicated innovation council
- New technology to improve customer experience on-board and at stations
Commenting on the news, Andrew Jones said: In a decade we will have gone from having little or no direct service to and from London to at least six direct trains between Harrogate and London. It is important to have these new services for many reasons.
Easy and quick connections always bring an economic benefit with them. These new services could boost business and leisure tourism.
The new services also help strengthen the case for electrification of the Leeds – Harrogate line. While it is important we have these services with modern carriages and facilities, it would be odd to run them on a line which doesn’t enable them to perform at their best.
Only this week we have heard that Northern Rail are investing approaching £1million in Harrogate station.
With this new franchise we will see a further investment of £25 in mainline stations. Combined with the electrification programme the government has begun this is the biggest investment in rail since Victorian times.
I am very pleased that Harrogate is getting a significant enhancement to its connections to London.
The announcement of Virgin Trains and Stagecoach as the winner of the franchise to run the East Coast mainline rail service has been welcomed by Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
The Chamber, which has campaigned actively to get a two-hourly service to the capital, said the winning bid will bring significant benefits to the North Yorkshire spa town.
Chamber Chief Executive Brian Dunsby said: This is exactly what we have been working towards for five years and we are absolutely delighted that it looks like we have been successful.
We were able to get one return service per day between Harrogate and London in 2011, but we were always clear that that number needed to be significantly increased. We met with all of the bidders for the franchise to emphasise the need for a strong link between Harrogate and London and it seems our hard work has paid off.
The six new direct services will make an enormous difference to Harrogate. As a town which relies heavily on the visitor economy, both through tourism and the conference trade, strong links to and from London are absolutely vital.
On top of that, we have a very high number of service businesses in Harrogate and they need to be able to get to and from London with ease in order to grow and operate successfully. This announcement will make that ambition a reality and will also enable people to access onward rail and air connections through the capital.
We are very pleased with this news and look forward to working closely with Virgin and Stagecoach in the future to ensure Harrogate remains a key consideration in their East Coast operations.