Pioneering plan to electrify the Harrogate to Leeds railway line

15 July 2011

A PIONEERING plan to electrify a busy Yorkshire rail route and use former London Underground trains on it has been unveiled by Harrogate Chamber of Commerce.

This story has been supplied to Harrogate-News by industry experts with images accredited to 

Research has been underway on a proposal to install side-contact conductor rails on the Harrogate line, using trains which will soon become redundant on the District Line.

Its been revealed that discussions have been underway for some time between the Chamber and Network Rail, the RSSB, ORR and other industry bodies, and that a presentation was made to transport minister Theresa Villiers on 12 July.

Under the plan, likely to cost a total of some £150 million, between 25 and 30 six-car ‘D’ stock trains would be converted to side conductor rail pickup, using a system which is already in use on the Docklands Light Railway and some foreign metros.

The live surface is underneath, making it safer and also more resilient in bad weather.

The project director is Mark Leving, who was formerly managing director of First Hull Trains. He told Railnews that the line from York to Leeds via Harrogate is particularly suited to conversion to a form of interurban Metro, on which trains would probably run at least every 15 minutes.

“Not only do we have a city at each end, with Harrogate in the middle, but also a number of other busy intermediate stations,” he said. “There are countless tales of people being unable to board the present diesel trains at times, for example during the recent Yorkshire Show or when there’s top-class cricket at Headingley.

“This is an unusual route, and we believe it would be convertable to take second-hand ‘D’ stock for a comparatively low investment, which is in line with one of the recommendations in the McNulty ‘value for money’ report.

“We’ve had a positive response from Network Rail, and we are also proposing that the route could become a standalone concession when the present Northern franchise ends.

“Northern has done very well with the resources it has, but a mixture of Pacers, 153s and other small diesel units is not enough to cope with the demand.”

Network Rail LNE route director Richard Lungmuss has also been involved in the discussions, while Transport for London has already assisted with modelling the conversion of the present 650V ‘D’ stock to side conductor rail.

Mr Leving said: “We have a figure of about £6 million to convert 20 trains, although we would probably want up to ten more to provide spares. Although we would run at 750V, these trains were actually designed for that, and have been slightly underpowered during their time on the Underground.”

The last ‘D’ stock trains are expected to be withdrawn in 2014, when the full ‘S’ stock replacement fleet has been completed by Bombardier in Derby.







  1. A few immediate questions from first reading of this proposal – firstly, LUL stock stock has interconnecting doors within each set for emergency use only (an essential requirement in LUL tunnels). Would these be converted to conventional gangways to enable revenue protection staff and the public to pass between carriages? Secondly, no LUL trains have toilets. At present ALL trains on the Leeds-Harrogate-York route have toilets, and have for over 100 years. Is it proposed to further modify these (almost) 40 year old trains to incorporate toilet facilities, or will the public find no facilities on them when they are “cascaded” north. Finally, provision of DC 750v third rail requires a factor of 4:1 electrical substations per given distance compared with 25kv. This has huge cost implications. The proposed side contact third rail would be non-standard on the Network Rail network, and required a large stock of spare parts, plus a considerable investment in staff training and competences. Given that the Class 319 “Thameslink” units are to be replaced with new Siemens products, would it not make financial sense to use cascaded 319 units and electrify the Harrogate line with 25kv (assuming the tunnels have adequate clearances). These 4-car units are already equipped to Network Rail standards, and also have gangways and toilets. The environs of Leeds and York are already electrified to this standard, and if the Harrogate line were to be electrified at 25kv that would not only enable East Coast Trains (or its franchise successor)to operate scheduled Class 91 electric trains over that route, but also provide an extremely useful diversionary route for some trains when there are infrastructure problems or engineering work soutth of York or East of Leeds. I would challenge any cost benefit attributed to a 750v third rail scheme compared with electrifying at 25kv, with over 6 miles of proposed service electrification already electrified at 25kv (Leeds-Wortley Jn and York-Skelton Jn) plus the existing maintanance facility at Neville Hill and the route from Leeds to Neville Hill is similarly equipped.

  2. A few more thoughts on this matter…..Re The claimed “Safety” benefits of side-contact third rail, one of the problems facing the Harrogate line in times of prolonged rain or thawing snow is flooding. This is regular and predictable at Horsforth (where the electric point motors were temporarily lifted before they became inundated in 2006), Rigton, Hornbeam Park area and Nidd Bridge. This brings grave risks of electrocution for those examining the line when flooding is reported. These risks are recognised in DC areas when floodwater is above sleeper level, yet in other areas (including AC) trains can continue to move when water is up to 100mm/4 inches above the top of the rail subject to on the ground checks having taken place (water not moving or displacing ballast)- and with no electrical risk to those staff examining the line.
    Another consideration is the on-board environment of District line stock. They were designed to operate in less challenging environments, with a substantial part of their daily lives being spent in tunnels and fully covered stations. They are very poorly insulated against heat loss, the heating units are meagre – an all the heat in a train would dissipate in seconds when the doors are opened. There is a world of difference between a train calling at Earls Court or Bayswater or Tower Hill and one calling at any station on the Harrogate line in the middle of a Yorkshire Winter when temperatures in the countryside served by this route can dip to between minus 20C (1981/2) and minus 15C (2 months of 2010/11 and most other years). Add driving snow or high winds to the equation and you would have a most unatrative travel experience.
    The only other location to which LUL trains have been successfully re-deployed in retirement has been the Isle of Wight, where 2 generations of former LUL trains have provided an excellent service since 1967. But there is no comparison in operating conditions or temperatures in these two totally different environments. There is also a significant difference in the mileages and journey times over these two routes. York to Leeds via Harrogate takes over an hour, whilst Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin takes only 23 minutes.

  3. 1. Starbeck LC.
    When trains run to time the LC is closed to road for just under 3 mins per half-hour. This will become per quarter-hour, a great deal worse if trains are of of path. There are queues for up to half-a-mile, worse in peaks. One result is that the bus service between Harrogate and Knaresborough, frequent though it is, suffers from bunching, which can only get worse.

    2. Stock
    Are these trains to run at 70mph? The ride quality on the Underground leaves much to be desired at 30mph.
    Are the motors axle-hung? If so there will be an increase in track maintenance.

    A stand-alone depot will be required. I can’t imagine 3rd rail through to Neville Hill is really practical, so the only area that comes to mind is York Yards, which operationally is in the wrong place.

    To run a half-hourly service to York without any track upgrade can beshown to work, but it would brook no delay whatsoever. Once there is a delay the only means of recovering time will be to cancel trains. This will also have a severe affect on Starbeck LC.
    I assume only 2-3 platforms would be electrified at Leeds, so there would be only a few pairs of points accessing these. A serious risk.

  4. What a crazy idea!

    For about £40m they could just buy 9x 4 car diesel trains to run the enhanced service with a train every 15 min to Harrogate – job done!

    No need to lower all of the platforms, which would mean axing the through London trains. Nor having to somehow fit accessible toilets with retention tanks to a former tube train!

    • Speechless isnt that the idea. Harogate will not get new Diesel Trains, isnt that what was said in the meeting. No new trains for the North

  5. Some speed data facts from LUL material in response to Simon’s post.
    D78 stock has a maximum design speed of “around” 60 mph, although the speedometer reading does not go above 60mph.
    At present there are several speed configurations which the driver can select, and are represented by two “flag” switches visible through the “second man’s” window when in the raised position (Right Hand Side, furthest from the driver – beyond reach when the train is in motion).
    With both switches “down” – the train speed is limited to 30mph, but maximum acceleration is available.
    With only the “Weak Field” flag switch raised, the maximum speed is 40mph, but a lower acceleration rate is available.
    With only the “Coast Control” flag switch raised, the maximum speed is 50mph, again with a lower acceleration rate available.
    With both “Weak Field” and “Coast Control” flag switches raised, the maximum design speed is achievable – but with a low acceleration rate.

    The traction motors are axle hung. The primary suspension is rubberised, and is designed to give a comfortable ride even when fully laden.

    The running board height of D78 stock is similar to other stock on the National Rail Network, so no adjustment of platform height would be necessary for use on Network Rail infrastructure.

    However, the train lengths as the trains are currently composed as 6-car units would mean some stations would require their present operational length extending.

    Each car is 18.37 metres long, so a 6-car train would be 110.22 metres in length. The following stations would require their operational length extending to accomodate a 6-car train –
    Burley Park (97metres down and up platforms)
    Headingley (97 metres down and up platforms)
    (Horsforth is 115 metres, so OK)
    Weeton (Down plat 88 metres, up plat 72 metres)
    Pannal (91 metres down and up platforms)
    Hornbeam Park (72 metres down and up platforms)
    (Starbeck is 139 metres, so OK)
    Knaresborough (Down plat 82 metres, Up Plat 83 metres)
    Cattal (Down Platform 86 metres, Up platform 70 metres)
    Hammerton (Down Platform 89 metres, up platform 82 metres)
    Poppleton (Down and Up platforms 84 metres)
    (Sources of Information – Network Rail Sectional Appendix)

    In reality, most platforms on the route are longer, but are fenced off and not maintained beyond these lengths)

  6. What a load of rubbish. Discredited in the fact that it has not been thought through first. Do they not know about benefit/cost analysis? An island of non standard fourth rail railway in isolation from the rest of the network. Consultants paid in bottons obviously.

    Park and ride stations with no possible road access, a Leeds/Bradford airport park and ride station less than a mile from Horsforth station where a line right to the airport is proposed by West Yorkshire PTE. Ten stations in eighteen miles to Leeds and nine in twenty miles to York. Journey times need to be shorter not longer.(A new 90 mph, overhead electric railway line recently reopened between Edinburgh, Bathgate and Airdrie with similar station spacing to present Harrogate-Leeds services equates to a journey time of twenty six minutes all stations or eighteen minutes stopping only at Horsforth). Intermediate stations are very lightly used outside the peaks now so where are the passengers coming from to justify the new stations in rural locations at a fifteen minute interval service? Unsustainable. The ideal P&R site, next to the A1M at junction 47 has not been proposed. This would be used by residents of Ripon, Boroughbridge, Wetherby and surrounding villages.

    Old Underground stock, UGH, not for me. I would rather crawl. Who wants to travel sideways to allow room to STAND! These trains are worse than the current diesel trains and twice as old. Harrogate needs modern trains, either diesel cascaded after electrifying Edinburgh to Glasgow or 25Kv AC electric(with seats) replaced by new trains on Thameslink services both available from 2014.

    The new designs of overheads for London-Cardiff together with new works trains have lowered the cost of AC electrification significantly. Two miles can be completely installed and ready for use on existing bases in one eight hour overnight shift. Overbridges are still a problem. They have to be rebuilt to give sufficient clearance.

    Overhead electrification already exists at the nodal points in Leeds and York and the whole Harrogate loop could be fed from these points. DC would need a completely new feeder system with booster stations. I would be amazed if Network Rail allowed third/fourth rail into York and Leeds. Every fifth sleeper would have to be replaced to accommodate the contact rail fixings in 38 miles of railway.

    This has been instigated by Harrogate Chamber of Trade. It has a poor history of supporting rail travel. The Chamber was very antagonistic when asked to support the reopening campaign to Ripon and Northallerton giving Harrogate through trains north and south once more. Part of this 1988 initial report was for a proposed station at the now Hornbeam Park. The Chamber opposed it as they had bus operator members who were against it. Hornbeam Park is now one of the busiest on the line. Sickening mentality. For £150M, a line could be reopened all the way to Northallerton with much better trains operated by Transpennine and East Coast. All the relevant studies and costings were done by Leeds based consultants, Arup and JMP, with funding through Ripon City Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the now defunct Countryside Agency. Again, Harrogate Chamber of Trade has totally ignored this fact in their submission even though two of their contributors were on the North Yorkshire County Council Ripon Reopening Steering Committee.

    If £150M can be found, then reopening a new route to Northallerton would attract more passengers and better trains than new remote stations with an obsolete traction system. At worst money should be spent building a two mile spur from Horsforth to the airport first, redoubling to York next, then diverting away from Crimple Viaduct(and a 20mph curve) and the unstable embankment and viaduct at Arthington, to reduce journey times. Isolated and parochial is the last thing needed in transport planning and that is what this report is. Buttons.

    • There’s an awful lot of opinionated and factually incorrect comments here, masquerading as well informed judgement when in fact it isn’t.

      1. The basis of the proposal is the non availability of any cascaded 25kV rolling stock until 2018-20, by which time the rolling stock that is available will be older than D78. Other rolling stock suggested is, according to DfT sources already allocated to other 25kv schemes.

      2. The Harrogate Line is not on any current 25kV electrification proposal and unliley to qualify for such investment.

      3. No-one, including the incumbent franchisee has come up with anything to resolve the serious problems experienced on this route apart from a limited number of 4-car 150 services being introduced, with some platform extensions around 2006. There is nothing proposed in either the Northern RUS or the Electrification RUS.

      4. The proposal is based (a) on the availability of very recently heavily refurbished rolling stock, which appears far more appropriate to this route (which already has closely spaced stations @ around 1.6 miles apart before any new ones are built in some key areas) than heavy main line 100 mph rolling stock. It is also based (b) on a more affordable electrification system on the basis that funding for 25kV will not be made available in our lifetimes. The line speed for the route is 60 mph with 2 short sections of 65 mph. 25kV electrification with 100 mph rolling stock good value for money? I think not. Passengers have to pay for investment these days and value for money is their top priority according to research by Passenger Focus. They are not railway personnel travelling for free.

      5. DC third rail electrification seems to work well enough in the very wet and frequently flooded Mersey and LU tunnels, so the occasional Wharfedale flooding will not be insurmountable. Remember too that nationally, 5% of all infrastructure delays are caused by 25kV overhead line equipment failures according to Network Rail. The 3rd rail DC figure is indiscernable, despite the high train mileage operated on the former BR southern Region. The DLR style underrunning system is also elevated from the ground (3ft), not suceptible to icing and works admirably in Copenhagen during the very icy and snowy winters.

      6. Most new build EMU’s in the UK are dual voltage, so could, in future, with the right shoegear fitted operate over the route, so the standardisation argument is nonsense unless someone genuinely believes that a local train operating in Yorkshire might also need to operate south of the Thames on the same diagram?

      7. The press release shows that the trains have been modelled by LU over the Harrogate Line in all of the Flag up/down modes, and yet still deliver a 12% reduction in journey times when compared with diesel. If new stations are to be opened, such performance, which is better than a 25kV main line EMU is vital. This excludes the further benefit of reduced station dwell times.

      8. The trains have selective door controls, which allow up to 50% of doors in the front and rear cars to be operated simultaneously. This means that with the exception of Knaresborough, the trains can operate without platform extension at all stations. A solution for Knaresborough has already been identified.

      9. The trains have 40% more seats on average and loads of standing room/luggage space. Tell the poor passengers who can’t board the trains after any event along the route (Cricket, Rugby, York races, Yorkshire Show etc.) that something like this isn’t needed – they’ll laugh you out of court. The seats are also wider,mostly with armrests and unlimited legroom – streets ahead of a 142, 144 or 150.

      10. According to the releases, the proposal also provides for inter-car gangway connections that passengers can use. Way better than the current situation where passengers can’t move between units to find seats.

      11. Airport passenger flows elsewhere in the UK are disappointing at best. This proposal has the added benefit of linking both Harrogate and York to the Airport, not just Leeds.

      12. Harrogate Chamber has been actively supporting rail for some time now – it was they who got the London-Harrogate service reinstated last May. They are also just about the only body who seem to understand the key needs of passengers wanting to get to Harrogate – that they exceed Horsforth-Leeds commuters, pay a lot more and want better connectivity to both Leeds and York.

      Don’t assume some of the other suggestions included here aren’t already on the radar of this proposal just because you’ve not seen them. Reinstatement of double track initially between Knaresborough and Cattal along with re-routing of the Harrogate services into York west side (new platform) via the Slow Lines is definitely there as an aspiration. Harrogate Chamber should be congratulated in articulating a full route strategy for the whole route, not just Leeds-Horsforth or converting the route to tram operation. Their proposal is a much welcome and needed dose of common sense that the rail industry desperately needs.

      • Do you have to compete with everybody on technical knowledge and superiority to post a comment here?

        The simple fact is that this is another “bodge” and appears haven’t we learnt anything from the mess created through dieselisation in the 60’s and John Majors blunders.

        Yes we need a light rail system to use on lines like this but having a third rail system does not integrate with overhead infrastructure already in place causing more work and resrictions.

        If you believe there is no problems with flooding and third rail, go and stand in Eastbourne station when its flooded and watch the waiting passengers run for the hills when the sparks fly and they’re big.

        I don’t understatnd this “all or nothing” thinking for rail infrastructure, it should be an ongoing development and expnasion with a 40 year future proof plan, how much more dithering will it take before the Ripon and the Otley lines is reienstated, the link to Leeds / Bradford airport built, would they also have a third rail system, gets complicated doesn’t it?

        There is enough passenger revenue not only from this route but on the entire passenger network to warrant significant investment nationwide.

  7. I’ve used these district line trains many times. In comparison with what we get on the Harrogate line they are significantly better in many respects including passenger comfort. They are certainly warmer than a Pacer train in the winter, even with the doors opening at stations and they used to have passenger operated door open buttons which I’m sure could be reinstated if necessary. LU blanked them off because it made station dwell times too long. These trains accelerate very well so I can see why they would make a big improvement in journey times.

    As for a separate spur line to the Airport – this proposal does not preclude that, though it would be very costly for limited benefit.Use of Airport stations by air passengers is quite limited in comparison with domestic rail passenger journeys and a station on the main route served by existing trains that also link Leeds, Harrogate, Knaresborough and York must be a much better option. If it is successful it would only help the business case for a separate link, but the benefits would be confined mostly to Horsforth-Leeds. A station with a car park at the proposed site would be brilliant for anyone living in Bramhope or Yeadon. It’s impossible to park at Horsforth after 0800.

    Some of the earlier comments are nonsense – a 90 mph 25kV route? – what a waste of taxpayers money. More benefit on time is achieved through high acceleration from stations and relieving lower speed restrictions. Even between Knaresborough and York, trains would never get anywhere near 90 mph before having to slow down, but more time benefit would be achieved by improving the 20 mph speed at Crimple, even by 5 or 10 mph.

    This proposal is refreshingly realistic and common sense. It recognisies the difficult public funding situation the country is in and the need to improve this route quickly. Well done Harrogate Chamber for taking the initiative. No-one else appears remotely interested in this route nor has come up with a remotely affordable proposal. As a taxpayer and council taxpayer I welcome it and hope it is successful.

  8. This is still Pie in the Sky. It is arrogant in the extreme to claim that the Chamber knows what is better for Harrogate than anybody else. From his limited knowledge, am I to assume C. Johnson is acting as mouthpiece for Harrogate Chamber of Trade? If not then I wish someone from the Chamber would answer the following:-

    1 Has a business plan and benefit to cost analysis been done or at least a revenue demand forecast for the proposed new stations? If not then this is not a report, just a wish list without foundation. I cant see where the extra passengers are coming from to justify £1.0M per station only yards from existing stations out in open countryside. At these costs, footfall figures would have to be over a thousand per day to give a positive benefit/cost ratio. 15 minute interval services is totally unsustainable at current off peak levels.

    2 There are many examples where 90/100 AC electric units are used on lines with exactly the same curvature, gradients and station spacing as the Harrogate line so dont scoff at this suggestion. Leeds to Doncaster, Skipton, Ilkley and Bradford, not to mention around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Any doubters just try it and see how quickly they accelerate. Its only a few miles away in Ilkley.

    3.Has 25kv been costed in this report? The latest Department of Transport figures from 2007 are £800k-£950k per single track mile. Since 2007, installation costs have been reduced to £700k-£850k with more reliable and cheaper to maintain designs to justify new nationwide electrification projects.
    These track/mile costs are broken down into supply, 25-35%, bridges/tunnels, 30-40%, overheads installation, 25-30% depending on complication of crossovers, sidings, depots etc., signalling, 5-10%.
    There are 61 single track miles on the Loop of which 9 are already wired. That makes 52 therefore 25kv electrification would cost £46.4M. But wait a minute, the supply feed stations are already there at Kirkstall and Poppleton so this can be reduced by 25%. This brings the overall figure to £34.7M, or call it £40M as there is one long and three short tunnels on the route.
    Did the Chamber get anywhere near this figure? Obviously not.

    Regenerative braking can be used with 25kv therefore reducing overall energy costs.

    4 Where DC electrification interfaces with pre-existing 25kv such as proposed at York and Leeds, then complex technical solutions are required to avoid stray DC current which causes excessive electrolytic corrosion.
    25% of DC energy is lost compared to 3% of a AC due to leakage. Over years this is expensive. For these reasons the DofT have ruled that no new DC schemes should be constructed in isolation, only extensions of existing systems.
    DC needs more extensive/expensive feeder/supply systems and booster statons than AC especially when in isolation.
    Signalling would need expensive immunisation in Leeds and York to protect against stray DC.
    Have the Chamber costed all this ?

    5 Five AC electric trains from Scotland are being cascaded to West Yorkshire this year to replace ‘under the wires’ diesels. Some of these diesels could be available for peak time use by Christmas.

    In 2013, more diesels will become available as part completion of the Scottish Central Belt electrification occurs. Also in 2013, more diesels will be available as Manchester Airport-Glasgow/Edinburgh trains cut over to electric traction when part of the Lancashire Triangle electrification is completed. In 2014, the first of the Governments latest £1.4B order for new electric trains will be delivered for use around London.(why do they get all the new trains). This will release 86 good quality 25kv electric trains for other parts of England. All this is on the DofT website.
    Why then do we need redundant Tube trains in 2014 when there will be plenty of other, better types available? Why does the Chamber not know this?

    6 Harrogate fulfills three out of the four Network Rail criteria in their Route Utilisation Strategy Electrification Report of 2009.
    Type A; Electrification to enable efficient operation of passenger services.
    Type C: Electrification to increase diversionary routes available.
    Type D: Electrification to allow new patterns of service to operate, ie. new electric London trains from 2018.

    7 I was fortunate in the 1970s to ride in the cab of an empty loco-hauled train from Leeds. The train was 45 minutes late leaving Neville Hill depot due to a technical problem with a coach. We stormed the bank to Horforth, passed at 60mph instead of the usual 40mph, shot out of the bottom of Bramhope tunnel at a touch under 90mph and apart from 80mph through Weeton, almost held this speed until brakes were applied passing Pannal for the sharp curve at Crimple. At no point did I feel this speed was unsafe. 60/65 may be the official top speed but this is due to signal spacing and sighting. Much work has been done since, upgrading to continuous welded rail, concrtet sleepers and deep ballasting. 80 mph would be more realistic with better siganalling. I dont expect the Chamber to know this.

    Having used this line since 1968 and commuted daily to Leeds for six years, I think I know what the good residents of Harrogate want and Conference delegates expect and that is not DC electrification and 40 year old cast-offs.
    As a snippet of amusement, at the time of change to decimal currency in 1971 the Harrogate-Leeds fare was 34 pence RETURN (17 pence single or £1-50 weekly) and petrol was 33 pence per GALLON!!.

    I have campaigned for twenty years to reopen the line to Ripon and Northallerton, yes with business plans, Revenue Demand Forecasts, Environmental Impact Studies, engineering studies, Benefit/Cost analysis, signalling plans, track designs, so I know a little about the subject, and was invited to be on the West Yorkshire PTE.

    What the Chamber should do is lobby the Minister hard, as I have done, for compatible, synergetic 25kv electrification and trains and not be duped by the McNulty Report. If they want to spend their £150M, then spend just a third of it but on 25kv AC not DC.

  9. Michael, as much as I would like to see the speed limit raised at Crimple above 20mph, due to local topography this would cost in the order of £50-£60M. A completely new line would have to be built avoiding the viaduct across Crimple valley joining/leaving the current line just east of the A61 overbridge to just south of Hornbeam Park. I agree savings of the order of 3-4 minutes would be saved on trains not stopping at Hornbeam Park and Pannal. The viaduct would still be required when the line to Wetherby is reopened in 20-30 years.

    • DC trains can, and do operate with regenerative braking – it is not confined to 25kV AC. However the benefit only really arises on any train where there is a another train taking power in the same section. So the benefit is limited in any event but can certainly be achieved with the District Line trains if it were felt worthwhile.

      I also can’t find any evidence for such low 25kV costs being delivered anywhere in the UK. They look hugely optimistic. Network Rail call it optimism bias! I’ve been caught up in two major incidents on the Leeds-London line in the last few weeks – caused by the overhead wires coming down, so I don’t agree that 25kV is a better system for the Harrogate line, paricularly if it is de-specified for cost savings as the East Coast route was in the 1980’s.

      The D78 trains will definitely save time without having to miss any station stops – that is the whole point surely? I think they will do better in practice than the claimed 12% reduction in journey time, but the point is the achievement of better journey times with the same (and more) stops being one of the big attractions.

      The line speeds on the Harrogate Line are 60 mph MAX between Leeds and Knaresborough, with 65 mph possible over the single line sections between Knaresborough East and Poppleton. However the Airedale/Wharfedale route has considerable 80-90mph capability and Leeds-Doncaster is mostly 100mph, therefore the point that 100mph 25kV trains is an overspecification is correct – it is not necessary for the Harrogate Line.

      I’ve seen curves like Crimple eased to 25-30 mph for very modest outlays of less than £1m (I don’t know where you’ve got the £50m-£60m tag from?) – that would save more time than having a higher maximum speed. Again, with Metro type rolling stock, it is so agile, it can achieve much more, more quickly on a constrained curvy and hilly infrastructure with lots of stations.

      I wish you luck in reopening Harrogate to Wetherby. I could see Wetherby to Leeds and even Ripon to Harrogate as a distant possibility but only if something like this idea comes off. This is because it’s the only technology that offers the potential for driverless trains in the future, lower cost alignments and trains and keeping operating costs low.

  10. Mr Morgan is wrong and misguided to rubbish this proposal. I also fear he is misquoting facts to support his arguments.

    As far as I can see, Harrogate Chamber’s objective vision is to get the proposal under the microscope and tested in feasibility, in the absence of any other proposals for the route and taking into account information provided by rail industry bodies about the availability of additional diesel vehicles and/or overhead line 25kV electrification. Anyone who does not support that i.e. a body fighting for a better deal for Harrogate’s rail services deserves nothing better than we currently enjoy. Another journey standing on the 2-car 1759 from Leeds tonight.

    I don’t think anyone would turn down a 25kV proposal if it were on anyone’s agenda, affordable and Network rail could genuinely deliver it for the sort of costs quoted above, but the facts clearly show that none of these are case at the current time. The Harrogate Line does NOT feature in the Electrification strategy set out by network Rail as either a core strategic or “other” route with a BCR in excess of 2.0.

    It is a lowly 5th tier route, way down the pecking order and favourable only in one of four categories (passenger) and not as a diversionary route or for new services as wrongly stated by Mr. Morgan. He might aspire to that, as might we all, but that is NOT what the report states. Similarly the Northern Route Utilisation Strategy contains nothing for the Harrogate Line. So I repeat, Well done to Harrogate Chamber for attempting to seize an opportunity and raise the route’s profile. I don’t see any other body fighting for the route do you?

    The most recent estimates for the Midland Main Line suggest a range of costs between £400m & £620m, which, even if the lowest cost were achieved would still represent £1.1m per track mile. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect nothing other than slow, unreliable diesel trains for the foresseable future unless someoene starts fighting Harrogate’s corner. History continues to demonstrate WYPTE have little or no interest beyond Leeds-Horsforth, as they focus their efforts on to the Airedale & Wharfedale routes – even though the Harrogate Line carries more passengers than Leeds-Ilkley.

    So – lets say we get 25kV electrification…. but where are the trains going to come from? There is no 25kV cascadable rolling stock available that is not already spoken for. None will be until the end of this decade. Therefore to explore a potentially achievable opportunity for which rolling stock is available makes perfect sense, particularly if the cost of the infrastructure electrification is expected to be at a lower cost than 25kV.

    There are 450 x D78 vehicles potentially available and such availability alone would be a significant advantage to any proposition to reconsidering reopening to Ripon or Otley for that matter. These trains are better because they climb steeper gradients and curve radii of 90m. This would enable the cost of repoening over various stretches of new alignment (necesssary becasue of building and other development on the old routes since closure) far more affordable.

    Come Mr. Morgan, recognise that someone is finally attempting to get our line on the radar with a proposition that could work and provide significant benefits, including a favourable position for reopening to Ripon because of the availability of rolling stock. There’s never been a better opportunity. Maybe you’d prefer continued slow Pacer trains or even Trams in 2050, when many of us will be pushing up daisies?

  11. There you go again C. Johnson, wishing the worst on anyboby who questions the Chambers proposal. The proposal is not water tight so can easily be rubbished.

    Read my lips. Everything I have quoted is on the DoT and Network Rail websites. You are questioning their figures not mine. If I can find it, then the Chamber could also. It is very mischeivous of you to call me a liar without backing it up with hard figures.

    Five cascaded units are coming to West Yorkshire this Autumn and further tranches in 2013/4/5 starting with 86 Class 319 units, followed by 314 in Scotland and 313 around London.

    I am sorry but I cannot follow your logic. 1989 built diesel units can never become older than 1978 built LUL units.

    My quotes of 25kv installation costs are there on the website, and the new designs of overhead are there in the January 2011 edition of Rail Engineering, a professional periodical that you must be familiar with if proposing line upgrades?

    The only reason Government has sanctioned electrification from London-Bristol/Cardiff is that overheads must be more reliable at 125/140mph, cheaper to maintain, such as hydraulic tensioning, and 10-15% cheaper to install.

    My quotes of £850k per track mile is the new improved cheaper design. Your quote of £1.1M for the Midland line is more expensive because it is designed for up to 125mph. But using your figure only takes the cost to £42M. All the expensive bits have already been done at Leeds and York.

    Now I ask yet again Mr? Johnson. What are your figures?
    What is the cost of DC installation right into Leeds and York?
    What is the cost of immunisation?
    How much energy will be lost per annum due to leakage?
    How long beyond 2014 can these trains be economically operated and maintained?
    Where will they be maintained?
    What are the contruction costs of a two platform station?
    Where are passengers coming from to justify doubling the frequency of off peak trains?
    If the LUL stock is so good why is LUL replacing it?
    What are your annual footfall predictions for new stations at say Pool, Buttersyke Bar, and Belmont?
    How do you propose to provide access and parking at Airport and Buttersyke Bar when the sites are so remote from roads?

    If it is going to cost £6.0M plus just to convert these units for use on the Harrogate line then for the same amount three, two coach or two three coach diesel units could be purchsed from the factory and that would fix the present peak time overcrowding. Much cheaper than £150M.

    I am not questioning the Chambers vision of better trains for Harrogate but their ill advised decision to go for a DC system when there is so much advice out there saying DC should not be installed in isolation. More pressure must be applied on the DoT if the Chamber has clout.

  12. Michael, part of the Ripon reopening study of 1988 looked at improving journey times from Harrogate to Leeds so that KX-Leeds-Edinburgh HSTs could run this way. The route is 15 miles shorter than Leeds-York-Edinburgh. Ways were looked at to remove the Crimple curve but due to constraints of one end being on an immovable structure and the other against a steeply rising slope outside the curve made easing impossible. The curve is actually greater than 90 degrees.
    The solution was to install a junction just south of Hornbeam Park and start a 1 in 60 down gradient towards the viaduct. This would come out into Crimple Valley at approximately half the height of the Viaduct then arcing across the valley on a gradually reducing embankment until the route is joined again just before the A61 road bridge. This would be engineered for 90mph. There was a time saving for stopping trains at Pannal obviously but real time saving was for non stopping trains.
    The other area where diversion was discussed was at Arthington. The embankment here is unstable and the viaduct potentially costly to maintain long term. The plan was to build in a straight line from Bramhope tunnel to Weeton tunnel on a gradient that required only a low three arch bridge across the Wharfe aka LGV profile. This would have given 90/100mph line speed from Horsforth to almost Harrogate with 80mph through Weeton station reverse curve. This reduced the height of the embankment. North of Harrogate with the line engineered at 90mph to Ripon then 100mph on to Northallerton, Harrogate became an Inter-City route. Times were 15 minutes from Leeds and 38 minutes to Darlington. Faster then via York.

  13. In reply to my critics, all my figures are taken from DoT and Network Rail websites together with various articles in Rail Engineering, particularly January 2011 edition. They have not been ‘massaged and it is mischievous to say so.
    Using a figure of £1.1M per single track mile quoted by C Johnson, not the lower one I quoted, all the Harrogate loop could still be wired for £42M.
    There will be surplus diesel trains by Autumn 2011 as five electric units are cascaded in from Scotland to release ‘under the wire’ diesels on the Aire Valley line. Further trains by 2013, albeit diesel units after part electrification of the Liverpool-Manchester line, then limited AC electric and diesel trains from 2014 onwards. Facts again on the DoT website.
    If the surplus DC trains are that good, why is LUL replacing them? I dont understand the logic in a previous comment. 1988 built trains can never become older than 1978 built trains.
    Apart from £6M stated for conversion of trains, I have yet to see any factual figures of costs for any of the scheme proposed by the Chamber. At £150M, is this value for money when there are much cheaper options? Where is the money coming from? Are the rate payers of Harrogate paying.
    Nobody has answered my question about passenger numbers to justify extra stations and increased off-peak trains. It is just unsustainable.
    Overcrowding only occurs on Harrogate-Leeds morning peak and Leeds-Harrogate evening peak and mostly from/to Horsforth. One extra unit would solve this. Buy a new 172 diesel train from the factory now for £3.0M. Buy two, that will only be as much as converting old DC stock. Job done.
    I am not questioning Harrogate Chambers vision, just its ill-advised and misguided decision to go for DC when there is so much evidence out there saying not DC in isolation.

  14. Harrogate Chamber of Trade & Commerce hereby invites Dr Adrian Morgan of Ripon to make direct contact with the Chamber Officers to discuss the technical details of the proposed electrification of the Harrogate Line, including the prospects for reinstatement of the lines from Harrogate to Northallerton via Ripon and from Harrogate to Wetherby and Otley. Anyone else interested in discussing these technical issues in detail is invited to e-mail the Chamber Secretariat for further information and an invitation to a meeting to discuss the proposals. Please visit for more detailed information on this proposal including a FAQ section.

  15. I have found an article in October 2008 edition of Rail Engineer where 25kv electrification can be installed for £700k per single track mile inclusive on a rolling programme of 300 miles per annum. This is mainline costing capable of 140mph. Secondary lines would be marginally cheaper. This supports figures I quoted earlier.

    The Minister has just announced Northern is to receive eight two-car 150 Sprinters and thirteen two-car Pacers displaced from Birmingham and Bristol respectively. Leeds is due to receive two of each. With luck Harrogate peak services should receive one!!The bad news is that four two-car 156 Sprinters are being moved away to the East Midlands.

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