The leaders of Harrogate’s campaign for more direct rail services to London have welcomed the news that the Office for Road and Rail has finally approved Virgin Trains East Coast’s bid for pathway allocations to bring those plans to reality.
The campaign for an increase in direct services from Harrogate to London has been led by Harrogate Chamber and its Harrogate Line Supporters Group.
Through extensive research and with help from experts, they focused the campaign on demonstrating the many benefits for both local people and visitors to Harrogate – and therefore the local economy – of bringing more direct services to the town.
They met with all the bidders for the East Coast franchise before Virgin Trains was announced as the winner, clearly putting across the case and gaining the support of the new franchisee. The announcement is a culmination of a great deal of hard work by a team of volunteers and a verification of the arguments made by them over many years.
Brian Dunsby, leader of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group and former Chief Executive of Harrogate Chamber, said:
This announcement is a great relief to everyone who has been involved in the campaign for more direct rail services between Harrogate and London. These new services with new high speed trains every two hours each way will be of great benefit to Harrogate District’s businesses, residents and visitors for many years to come.
On behalf of the business community, Harrogate Chamber put a great deal of time and effort into creating report to show the many benefits that such services could bring to our town. We are very grateful for the continued support of the Department for Transport, our MP Andrew Jones, North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Rail Future Yorkshire Branch and many other local organisations.
Brian also acknowledged the significant technical and commercial contribution from Mark Leving, the former Managing Director of Hull Trains, who first proposed running direct Harrogate-London trains in 2008, but at that time the ORR declined to allocate any paths.
We were pleased to win the support of Virgin Trains East Coast which, when it won the franchise, immediately announced it would include a two-hourly return service to and from London in its plans for the coming years. The decision by the ORR to allocate the required pathways is the final step in confirming that these services will be introduced, and our aspirations set out in 2008 will finally become reality.
It was particularly heartening to see the ORR refer to the benefit to communities being a key part of its decision. The needs of the Harrogate community and economy have always been at the heart of our campaign and we believe this final decision is recognition that those needs must be met.