The campaign by a partnership of North Yorkshire, City of York and Harrogate councils, together with Metro, for the electrification of the Leeds-Harrogate-York railway, has taken a big step forward.
The “compelling” business and financial case drawn up by this partnership and rail industry representatives is being formally submitted to the Department for Transport next week.
Leading councillors from the partnership today signed a letter which will be sent next week to Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, enclosing the business case and urging the Government to provide the vital £100 million investment in the Leeds-Harrogate-York line.
The North Yorkshire and York Local Transport Body has already agreed a contribution of £9.6m from funding provided by the Department for Transport. North Yorkshire County Council has also pledged £3.4 million from its own resources for improvements on the line.
The business case demonstrates that electrification of the line would bring:
- £400m of economic benefits
- twice as many trains
- faster journeys
- better connections right into the centre of our important towns and cities
- lower operating costs
County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Passenger Transport said:
Our compelling business and financial case will be formally submitted to the DfT next week and so we are delighted that local MP Andrew Jones has taken our campaign right to the heart of government.
The benefits of this proposal are obvious to anyone living in the area or using the existing line. With twice as many trains and faster journeys this proposal would be terrific for residents, visitors and businesses in North Yorkshire. It really will make using the Harrogate line the faster, smarter choice and improve access to jobs between Leeds, Harrogate and York. It is fantastic that the work carried out on this project has demonstrated objectively what everyone knew, namely that investment in this line will provide excellent value for money.
Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis said:
As regular passengers will know, the Harrogate Line is one of the most successful routes in the local rail network,” . “But we’ve reached a point where services can’t be improved without major infrastructure work.
Electrification would bring more and more modern trains to this important inter-regional route, provide relief from overcrowding, provide an attractive and environmentally-friendly alternative for car drivers so reducing congestion and help the local economies along its route.
Cllr Dave Merrett, City of York Cabinet Member of Transport, Planning and Sustainability, said:
The electrification of the Leeds-Harrogate-York railway will provide real scope for improving the quality and frequency of the York to Harrogate part of this proposal. I wish every success to this bid, which will help commuters and shoppers coming to York, and also the York and Harrogate tourist trade.
Cllr Alan Skidmore, Harrogate Borough Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Transport, who is also a voting member of the North Yorkshire Transport Board, said:
This council has for a number of years been at the forefront of attempts to secure improved rail services on the York – Harrogate – Leeds line.
We were instrumental in pulling together the coalition of agencies that has overseen the work on the business case and we were one of the four partners who provided funding to support the technical studies.
The evidence presented today makes a compelling case for electrification and for investment in the line. We hope that ministers take note of benefit cost ratios well above the industry norm and act accordingly.
I am pleased that our Member of Parliament has taken a close interest in our work, that he has agreed to champion the cause in Parliament and that he has secured a meeting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He goes into that meeting with our best wishes and hopes for a successful outcome.
Rob Miller Board Member of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership agreed:
We know that investing in infrastructure is good for business and the economy. This investment in the Harrogate line will mean additional capacity to alleviate overcrowding, boosting local businesses and providing better access to jobs for people in York and North Yorkshire.
I was delighted to see, back in August, that the Local Transport Body supported this scheme with the award of £9.6m towards infrastructure improvement.
Andrew Jones MP said:
North Yorkshire Count Council, Metro, Harrogate Borough Council, York City Council are the organisations that have been the sponsors of this project and we are very grateful for all they have done in making it happen.
We also have support of Network Rail, Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce and North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP – a huge team effort to get us this far.
This is a significant day because we need this business case to succeed, it is the start of us asking for a huge sum of money to improve our railway line.
This line is a huge success, the numbers are growing year-on-year, yet, it is also not good enough, it is not good enough because we have some of the oldest rolling stock in the country and the frequency of the trains is not good enough.
We will not be able to improve our service without electrification, but it is not about electrification itself, but what it enables.
Electrification brings an enormous array of benefits – they are cheaper to run, cheaper to buy and have less wear and tear on the tracks, so the costs come down. They are more environmentally friendly and accelerate and decelerate quicker so we can have more journeys in terms of faster times or more stops, or a combination of the two.
They also require less engine space so we can have more people on the trains themselves and through that, tackle capacity. So, to improve our service, which is what we want and want, we need this business case for electrification.
So we know what we want and the question is how do we get it, well we are asking government for money.
We won’t win Government money unless our business case is competitive as we are competing against rival bids from all over the country.
The plus side is that the government clearly buys where electrification has been part of the future for our network.
We have had huge commitment in 850 miles of rail electrification in just 3.5 years of government, which is an enormous commitment and compares very favourable to the 9 miles in the previous 13 years.
We have a number of different bodies that have worked together to produce this, and that will likely be one of the key criteria for success. We have had Northern Rail and Network Rail contribute very significantly in management information and different bodies come together in terms of funding, not just for the business case but funding to produce some of the other benefits which we will need along this line such as Network Rails work on signalling or the dualling of the track on a stretch near to Knaresborough.
This project therefore ticks many boxes, it will drive economic growth and bring lots of different bodies working together.
Our business case is very strong, this case produces a cost benefit ratio 3.6 to 1 so for every £1 spent we get £3.60 back in economic return, that is a very competitive business case. In comparison terms, cross rail, which is the biggest rail investment currently taking place in the UK, has a business case of 1.8 to 1.
This is the right time to do this as well, not just because the government are clearly buying the concept of rail electrification, but we are seeing a huge amount of investment in the north.
I want to see our service, if at all possible, be introduced alongside the trans-pennine electrification.
We need to take this case to Ministers – that’s my job which I am very happy to do that. That means seeing transport minister and treasurer ministers while making the case.