Train operator East Coast have today confirmed it will introduce a weekday and Saturday evening service from London King’s Cross to Harrogate – the first direct high speed service to the town from the capital in 20 years. The service is part of a major new timetable being launched by East Coast in May, which will see a number of new services introduced at East Coast destinations in Yorkshire.
East Coast expects the new Harrogate service to provide a major boost for business and leisure passengers who will be able to spend the day in the capital and then travel back on the same day using the direct service.
Visitors, including the hundreds of thousands of conference delegates and tourists who travel to Harrogate throughout the year, will now have a direct link to the town from London and the South East. The train is currently being scheduled to depart King’s Cross at 17.33 and arrive into Harrogate at 20.35, complementing the existing Monday – Saturday morning train that operates from the town directly to the capital. Subject to final industry approval, the timetable and service will be introduced in May and tickets will be available from next month.
East Coast Chairman, Elaine Holt said: “This is great news for Harrogate and the result of the very positive relationships we have developed with stakeholders, including the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, the local authorities and the regional tourism agency, Welcome to Yorkshire. “We made it our priority to engage with stakeholders and customers as we developed the biggest timetable change to the East Coast route for 20 years. We have listened to some very persuasive arguments for the economic and social benefits that an inter-city daily return service between Harrogate and London could bring to the town. “We appreciate that there remains an aspiration by stakeholders to deliver more services to the town. Capacity issues on the network continue to make this very difficult to achieve but we will continue to explore our options. In the meantime, we will work closely with stakeholders to make the new daily service a success.”
Harrogate Chamber of Trade & Commerce welcomed the East Coast announcement and Chief Executive, Brian Dunsby, said: “The new rail service to Harrogate will be welcomed, not only by Harrogate business people and local residents returning from trips to London, but even more importantly, by the thousands of business and leisure visitors coming to Harrogate from London, the South East of England and East Anglia.”
This new evening return train is just the first stage of Harrogate Chamber’s campaign to achieve a direct return service between Harrogate and London Kings Cross several times each day. Their campaign group created a 25 page bid document “Why Harrogate Trains?” which highlighted and substantiated the case in detail.
Chamber President, Simon Cotton added: “Whilst there are now frequent fast services from Kings Cross to Leeds and York, connections to Harrogate are poor quality and often ill-timed.” Harrogate Chamber has compiled consolidated timetables showing all the possible connections between Harrogate and London Kings Cross – more than double the number shown in the normal East Coast pocket timetables.
Former Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Economic Development of Harrogate Borough Council, Don Mackenzie said: “Having worked closely with Brian Dunsby and Harrogate Chamber members on this bid, I am delighted with East Coast’s decision. We received great support from officers of both Harrogate Borough and North Yorkshire County Councils, and from Andrew Jones MP; but, without question, it was above all the determination and perseverance of Brian and his Chamber colleagues, which drove this bid forward and which have delivered this excellent result.”