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Harrogate Line Rail Service Cuts – May 2022 – Harrogate Line Supporters Group voice objections

These detailed comments have been prepared on behalf of Harrogate Line Supporters Group.

Cancellation of 0607 and 0633 Harrogate – Leeds service

Losing the 06:07 it is very bad news especially as the 06:33 is also being removed. To lose both early trains is even worse and would destroy any realistic prospect of people from Harrogate considering using the train for any long-distance leisure or business journeys.

Brian Dunsby of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group said:

Apart from the impact on early commuters, this is disastrous for passengers making longer distance journeys. We have campaigned for many years to get an earlier departure to Leeds in time to catch the earlier long-distance trains to London and Birmingham leaving Leeds around 06:00.

A few examples are set out in the table below of the impact of this double change on the earliest arrival times at certain key destinations is as follows;

 

Destination

Arrival using 06:07 HGT – LDS 06:44

Arrival using 06:56 HGT – LDS 07:28

London Kings Cross

08:59

10:00

Sheffield

07:50

08:54 (possibly 08:36)

Birmingham New Street

09:08

10:04

Manchester Victoria

08:42

09:05

Manchester Airport

08:41

09:12

 

Brian Dunsby of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group said:

On further inspection of the proposed new timetable reveals the complete nonsense of a service that would remain.

There would be no trains before 06:56 and then a total of five trains in the next 49 minutes @ 06:56, 07:04, 07:24 07:37 (LNER) & 07:45.

Surely commuter numbers don’t justify this at present after losing both the 06:07 and 06:33?

If a train (or trains) really do need to be lost, then we suggest that the 06:07 must remain and some other later departures could be removed instead. The early trains all start in Harrogate so surely, they could wait in Leeds for longer before resuming on a later amended diagram.

Harrogate Line Supporters Group suggest the following with the trains in red to be removed, which would be a compromise but would give a much more even spread and a better overall service;

  • 06:07 HGT – LDS 06:44 (Train to wait in Leeds until 07:32 then form 2C06 to York instead of 06:56 ex HGT)
  • 06:33 HGT – LDS 07:10 (This train was removed from the December 2021 timetable)
  • 06:56 HGT – LDS 07:28 (Non-stop from Horsforth)
  • 07:04 HGT – LDS 07:41 (Starts Knaresborough 06:54)
  • 07:14 HGT – LDS 07:49 (Semi-fast Hornbeam Park & Horsforth only)
  • 07:24 HGT – LDS 08:02
  • 07:37 HGT – LDS 08:06 (LNER Horsforth only)
  • 07:45 HGT – LDS 08:21

The planned withdrawal of the 07:14 and 08:05 HGT-LDS commuter services and the 09:05 Knaresborough to Harrogate and Leeds service are also totally inexplicable.

Two-hour gap in evening services

The withdrawal of a through return service between Leeds, Harrogate and York in the mid evening, after the half-hourly service finishes, leaves an appalling two-hour gap for users of the line. We refer to the 1929 Leeds-York, 2110 York-Leeds and 2239 Leeds-Harrogate. So, there are no trains from Leeds to Harrogate between 2129 and 2339.

  • The 2129 is now the last train to Knaresborough and beyond – formerly it was one hour later
  • There is no train from York to Harrogate between 2011 and 2211
  • Similarly, there’s no train from Harrogate to Leeds between 2046 and 2245

Brian Dunsby of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group said:

All these cuts particularly inconvenience longer distance travellers returning back to Harrogate or other stations on the route. They severely impact late workers and the evening economy, and will lead to crowding especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

If trains at the edge of this gap were to be cancelled due to other issues, there would be roughly a three-hour gap in service – in that case, would Northern make alternative arrangements to transport passengers, such as allowing passengers to travel via the Leeds-York line if this gives an earlier arrival or by providing a replacement bus?
Deep cumulative cuts to peak hour services

Peak hour services between Harrogate and Leeds had already been cut with the Omicron ‘work from home’ instruction in Dec 2021 and despite this being rescinded on 20 Jan 2022 they remain cut now and this continues into the new timetable running from May 2022. To this have been added further peak time cuts with the withdrawal of the 0607 and the 06:33 Harrogate-Leeds (see above) but also the 0659 Leeds-York and 0847 York-Leeds.

Brian Dunsby of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group said:

There will be reliance on heavy lifting being done by the 0736 Harrogate – King’s Cross which is not a particularly reliable service and whose cancellation would be serious with the limited alternatives in the current reduced timetable for the large number of passengers that this 9 car Azuma carries. For example, checking the past week’s times, it failed to run on Monday (14 March 2022).

The cuts to Harrogate-Leeds commuter services look like they’ll be restored as peak time usage increases based on the comments shown – ‘Services remain withdrawn as commuter market is suppressed’ and ‘Service better aligned to developing demand’. In contrast to other routes where the reason given is resource shortages, the comments for our line suggests that our cuts are longer term.  This is a great concern as we believe a reinstatement of capacity needs to be ahead of demand, rather than behind it, to make a return to rail commuting attractive.

There’s a chicken and egg situation there – lack of trains at the right time will slow down the return of commuters, as will a return of overcrowding on the surviving services when passengers are still rightly wary of continuing high levels of Covid cases. Surely the commuter market will remain suppressed with such deep cuts to frequency, and the removal of both the earliest and next earliest train? There is a need to tempt people off buses, cars or WiFi to return to rail commuting.

Harrogate – Leeds semi-fast trains

These were only introduced in May 2019 but then withdrawn in the first lockdown in March 2020, and running for only 10 months did not really give these services a fair chance to become established with the public. Faster rebound in leisure traffic should provide custom for these services outside peak hours.

The original May 2022 timetable proposal out to consultation a year ago showed these services reinstated over an extended number of hours, into the early evening.
These semi fast services are not shown as restored in July on Real Time trains, unlike many of the other services which have been removed.

We believe that these services should not become ‘forgotten’ but that it should be the intention to reinstate them at some point in the future, while accepting that they would be a lower priority than the 0607 morning service, the two hour evening gap and the deep cumulative cuts to the peak hour services.

In order to ensure that this is possible, can Northern retain virtual paths for these semi fast services in future timetables to underwrite their eventual restoration?
General Points

  • These cuts go against levelling up objectives of improved connectivity.
  • The reductions go against objectives for sustainable transport to reduce impacts on climate and urban pollution.
  • The Station Gateway Scheme investment at Harrogate is undermined by having services severely reduced in this way.
  • People may be driven to use alternative car transport which is bad for congestion and also very expensive due to current fuel prices which will result in financial hardship.
  • Housing expansion is going ahead at several locations with stations on strength of good rail services but this is being undermined.  Applies to our line at Pannal, Knaresborough and Cattal as well as Harrogate itself.

Reinstatement of services and recovery of traffic levels

Brian Dunsby of the Harrogate Line Supporters Group said:

We appreciate the various issues faced by Northern and can understand reductions in peak services where usage has fallen greatest, but to us some changes above seem inappropriate and disruptive (the cancellation of early morning Harrogate-Leeds services and the two-hour mid-evening gap), and the cuts to peak services on our line seem exceptionally deep.

We hope that as resources become available (with completion of training, easing of industrial relations issues etc.) we will see improved service provision as soon as possible on the Harrogate line with earlier starts restored, the two-hour evening gap eliminated, peak hour services reinstated and eventually with the reintroduction of the semi fast services.