We have addressed the concerns raised by
local business people and residents in the FAQ section below. Click on the
section topic 1-6 to find our answer, or scroll down the page. Any further
feedback would be welcome at
electric Harrogate Metro Line?
Why an electric Harrogate
There are around 3.5m journeys p.a.
currently (ave 10k/day) over this self-contained route. There are no
material proposals for improvement of the whole route currently being
progressed by any body, including Network Rail, Franchised Train Operators,
DfT or WYPTE.
In our lifetimes and
To relieve severe peak
crowding and passengers being unable to board trains during events on the
route (Cricket/Rugby/Shows/York Races etc.)
To improve the economic
well-being of the region through which the route runs
To unlock the potential
for better serving the communities along the route through the development
of new stations without increasing journey times beyond current levels
To drive increased use,
modal shift and reduce operating unit costs
by large but dispersed population
To improve connectivity
between Harrogate and other key points on the route with main line
services at Leeds and York
Get Leeds & Bradford
Airport on the rail map to/from Leeds, Harrogate and York
operation, maintenance and energy usage (20-30% lower unit costs)
To significantly grow
usage and revenue and reduce reliance on subsidy
Realise the significant
journey time improvements possible by using Light Rapid Transit vehicles
on account of their vastly superior acceleration and braking capabilities,
which are particularly suitable over this steeply graded route with many
closely spaced stations (which are already less than two miles apart
through significant stretches).
A McNulty pilot,
locally managed route on an “Invest to Save” and improve approach.
Seek funding to
undertake full feasibility study
refurbished, modern electric metro rolling stock available in 2014/2015
Average 40% increase in
seating capacity and consistently across all services.
Wider, more spacious
and comfortable seats with extensive legroom and many with armrests
Longer trains using
selective door controls
Park and ride stations
providing car parking capacity all day
capacity to deal with spikes in demand during events on the route (Headingley/Harrogate/York)
Shorter station dwell
12% journey time
improvement or up to around 7 additional stations possible without
increasing current end-to-end journeys
Potentially lower cost
modern 750 DC electrification system using tried and tested under-running
We expect to use
good/best practice already in place across the UK to achieve the best
possible outcome for the Harrogate Line.
3.1 Is a low level
DC electrification scheme not difficult to install and use on an existing
The suggested type of electrification using
a low level 3rd rail system is already used successfully,
fastened to sleeper ends of varying types in Copenhagen, the Docklands Light
Railway in London and on several other modern systems overseas. There is
nothing fundamentally different with the UK rail infrastructure that means
it can’t be used successfully. We do not suggest that it is inexpensive, but
it should be deliverable at a more affordable cost, substantially lower than
the typical railway overhead line infrastructure used on the main lines.
That is the point of this proposal, i.e. lower cost, improved services and
value for money using available redundant rolling stock. Other rail systems
have managed perfectly well in delivering similar projects and Network Rail
has thus far found no cause to suggest any major issues. There is also
plenty of redundant railway land adjacent to the route for the electrical
feeder stations (which incidentally are small and unobtrusive). The
suppliers of the equipment have also stated that it can be installed with
minimal disruption to existing services.
3.2 The proposal
won’t work because there is no spare peak-time capacity at Leeds station and
because of the two single-track sections between Knaresborough and York.
There is no initial proposal to increase
peak frequencies into Leeds or York, so platform capacity is not envisaged
to be a problem. A half-hourly frequency of trains between Knaresborough
and York could be accommodated over the single track sections but would
require the re-routing of trains away from the East Coast Main Line into a
new pair of platforms at the west side of York station. This is to avoid
conflict with main line services at the busy bottleneck at Skelton Junction
(York) and where many trains have 5-7 minutes of additional time in their
schedules because of the bottleneck. Resolution is already a part of Network
Rail’s and York City Council’s master plan for the York teardrop and station
development. This proposal is therefore entirely consistent with that master
live next to the railway and I am concerned that more trains means more
Electric trains are much quieter than diesel
trains. Therefore we are confident that they will be less intrusive that the
current ones, even if there are more services. Where residents may have
chosen to live next to the line or a level crossing, we are confident that
Network Rail will listen and respond to any issues they may have about
audible warning signals to road users. The more people that use the trains,
the fewer cars that will be on the roads, and that means less of the
continuous background road noise created by road vehicles that we all take
it be better to spend any funding on reinstating double track between
Knaresborough and York?
Not initially, because the main bottleneck
is between Skelton Junction and York, where Harrogate trains conflict with
the main line services. When/if this is resolved a
30 minute regular interval service could be comfortably accommodated between
Knaresborough and York over the two existing single line sections. If a
park and ride facility is developed where the railway intersects with the
A1M near Goldsborough (along with resolution of the York bottleneck noted in
paragraph 10), it is envisaged that double track would need to be reinstated
at least between Knaresborough and Cattal so as to avoid any stations on a
single track section, which would exacerbate any delay/disruption. This
would be relatively straightforward in signalling terms as it would remove
the need for any switches to/from the single line at Knaresborough and
Cattal itself, simplifying the track layout with plain line and avoiding
future costly renewals of switches (points).
To achieve a 15 minute service interval
between Harrogate and York, it is expected that the single line section
between Hammerton and Poppleton would also either have to be “re-doubled” or
In the current economic climate, aren’t these proposals doomed to
failure from the outset?
Some people have commented about the
potential cost of the proposal in the current economic environment. The
government have identified that rail infrastructure/service improvement
schemes are a vital ingredient in stimulating local economies which also
stack up on a benefit cost ratio analysis. Capital funding is therefore
being protected for such schemes. Over £24bn is being spent on Network Rail
nationally in the current regulatory control period 2009-2014. Therefore it
is right and proper that the chamber and politicians unite to bid for some
of the investment because nobody else is doing it on our behalf. Harrogate
is currently left out of all the UK rail improvements yet desperately needs
a value for money improvement. There is no doubt that improved rail services
will make Harrogate and other places along the route more attractive for
employers and as venues for events. Without this bid, we can be certain of
one thing, that there will be no material improvement in the rail services
over the route for some time to come and that the full potential of the
route to contribute to the local economy and social well being remains
The proposals won’t work they use an old fashioned third rail
electrification system that is not allowed under health and safety
Firstly, we are not proposing an old
fashioned system. We are proposing a very modern system elevated
approximately 0.5 metre from sleeper level, where the conductor rail is
insulated with a protective sheath on all sides except the underside
(bottom) of the rail, where current collection takes place. Third rail
schemes are permitted under current health and safety legislation and the
modern system has some benefits over other types.
3.7 Why aren’t
better top speeds being examined for the line?
The current maximum line speed between Leeds
and Harrogate is 60 mph primarily on account of curve radii. Even if
marginal higher top line speeds could be achieved in theory, they would not
realise meaningful passenger benefits, yet could be very expensive to
achieve. There is very small material value in a higher speed railway –
trains would barely reach the higher speeds before having to slow down for
the next stop or other lower speed restriction (e.g. the 20 mph speed
restriction around the tight curve at Crimple) on the route. More journey
time benefit is returned through having rolling stock which accelerates and
brakes effectively, which is why it’s called Light Rapid Transit.
Furthermore, more significant time saving
benefits can be achieved through improved segregation of Harrogate Line
local trains over the short stretches approaching Leeds and York.
3.8 Why isn’t
25kv overhead electrification being promoted?
Standard 25kV overhead electrification was
our preferred first option if funding were not a constraint. However, in
examining the viability of such a proposal, we identified that:-
(a) No cascaded rolling stock is likely
to be available this decade. New rolling stock appears out of the question
on grounds of cost.
(b) Rolling stock that might become
available at the end of the decade was both older and less suitable/agile
than proper Metro rolling stock
(c) The expected costs of providing the
electrification infrastructure is prohibitive because of the large number of
original 1850’s overbridge structures on the route that would require
reconstruction. Furthermore it is also envisaged that costs would be
disproportionately high through the route’s tunnels, including Bramhope
tunnel (3.4km in length) and across four major viaducts (Kirkstall,
Arthington, Crimple and Knaresborough) – all of which are Grade II Listed
Recently published performance statistics
also suggest that overhead line electrification imports an increased risk of
disruption following incidents/component failure. National statistics show
that 5% of all delays originating from rail infrastructure arise from
overhead electrification components.
Against this background, we could wait
another ten years for a 25kV overhead system with trains and still probably
receive no improvement..... or act now and influence the future of the route
for the better, as we are doing.
3.9 Won’t ugly
fencing be required?
The line is already well fenced (with
so-called ugly fencing) all the way between Leeds and Horsforth.
It is increasingly needed to stop trespass
whether a line is electrified or not.
The trouble is, you have to look hard to see
it – it is so well disguised after a few years vegetation growth and
weathering. London Underground has very discrete but effective fencing on
Aldgate and Amersham/Chesham through Buckinghamshire. Effective fencing does
not have to be ugly!
4. Rolling Stock
Wouldn’t it be better to seek new rolling stock rather than redeployment of
retired tube vehicles from elsewhere?
The rolling stock we
propose to use is not retired “Tube” underground trains. They are in fact
surface line trains from the early 1980’s which already use the same tracks
and stations as main line trains in the outer London area serving Richmond
(Surrey), Wimbledon, and Upminster (Essex). They are being replaced to
allow London Underground to standardise all of its rolling stock on each of
its surface routes (Metropolitan Line, district Line, Hammersmith & City
Line and Circle Line). Therefore there are no insurmountable issues such as
with platform heights as some people have assumed would be the case. The
trains all received an extensive £1m (per train) refit and refurbishment as
recently as 2007. The bogies that carry the vehicles were replaced with a
new design in 2000/2001 – so in many respects they are less than 10 years
old and very modern looking. They have at least 20 years life ahead and
experience elsewhere demonstrates that electric rolling
stock of this type can operate very
reliably for over 70 years (though we are not proposing such a period of
operation!) This type of train can be moved up to Yorkshire over the main
lines hauled by a diesel locomotive as is already the case when London
Underground send their trains to Doncaster or Derby for refit and repairs.
This type of rolling stock has been suggested because it can share the
tracks with the existing direct services to and from London, and for which
the Chamber of Commerce is continuing to seek further improvements in
journey times and frequency.
The D78 trains would have
a number of modifications made, including inter-vehicle gangway connections
and an option for a toilet facility. A small First Class area is also under
consideration in view of the significant number of business/conference
visitors using the route already purchasing
premium fares. D78 trains are the same size as main line vehicles, and on
the Harrogate Line could on average carry around 40% more seated passengers
in greater comfort than the existing trains because of their lower density
and wider seating (with significantly greater legroom) spread across more
It should also be remembered that most recent electrification
schemes outside London have relied upon second hand cascaded rolling stock.
The Leeds North Western electrification (Airedale & Wharfedale lines) in the
early 1990’s relied upon the use of re-deployed class 307 trains initially.
These were built in 1956 and were already 40 years old when transferred to
West Yorkshire. Despite this they brought an immediate step-change and
significant improvement on the services where they replaced diesel trains.
They were replaced by the slightly younger class 308 trains (built 1961)
before the new class 333 trains were introduced in 2000/2001. So the notion
of using second hand rolling stock to make long-term progress is not new.
For the future, the new Metropolitan Line “S” trains are superior to the
main line equivalents in many respects.
Wouldn’t it be better to use standard main line rolling stock so it can be
maintained at Neville Hill depot at Leeds?
Such rolling stock isn’t
available for the foreseeable future and in any event it is less suitable
for the Harrogate line. Part of our proposal also includes a purpose- built
maintenance facility located somewhere along the route. This is primarily
because the existing facility at Leeds Neville Hill is already working at
full capacity and has to accept additional trains for the Airedale and
Wharfedale Lines in December 2011. It also has to maintain the proposed new
fleet of Intercity Express trains for the East Coast Main Lines, so a new
depot is both essential and advantageous. It would bring much needed real
employment to the area and a number of potential locations have already been
identified. New depots have recently been built for several services across
the UK because they can be purpose built to work efficiently with dedicated
types of train
Why not just get more diesel trains?
We have considered
seeking to lobby for more diesel vehicles. There are three significant
downsides to this. Firstly they will remain expensive to maintain and
relatively unreliable in comparison with an electric train. Secondly, they
simply cannot match the agility of a modern electric metro vehicle in terms
of acceleration and braking, and so will never be able to unlock development
of the route with more stations better serving the community without adding
in significant extra journey time. Thirdly, there just aren’t any suitable
trains available (apart from new build) for the foreseeable future. Those
than are likely to become available in around four years are either already
earmarked for other routes or they are simply a few more 142 type Pacer
trains which everyone complains about now! Trains of the type used on the
Trans-Pennine route would represent a very costly over -specification. The
maximum speed over the route between Leeds and Knaresborough is 60 mph,
rising only to 65 mph over the two single line sections. Expensive to buy,
maintain and operate 100mph diesel trains would be inappropriate and very
costly to run.
Why is this being proposed when Tram-Trains are being developed?
Firstly, we understand
that Tram-Train is only in the first stages of feasibility development for
testing and there remain many unanswered questions about its suitability and
cost-effectiveness. It is therefore a considerable way off and we are
looking for something both deliverable and more appropriate/adequate in our
However, irrespective of that, we believe
that that street running is inappropriate for passengers travelling longer
distances from places like Harrogate and Knaresborough because of the
additional journey time and performance risk it would cause to the
passengers who generate the majority of the route’s revenue and journeys. A
very significant part of the route’s revenue earning capability is vested in
long-distance journeys particularly from and to places like London and
Manchester, so it is vital that the significant numbers of passengers using
the route and changing into other services at Leeds and York are not
disadvantaged as this would reduce the attractiveness of the region to
visitors who are essential to the local economies.
It also appears the tram vehicles would cost
more money to build, yet carry significantly fewer passengers than
conventional electric trains and could also require improved track quality.
This is why we want to encourage a more appropriate, conventional tried and
tested yet innovative but value for money approach as per our proposal. The
Harrogate line already carries more passengers than the Leeds-Ilkley line
and desperately needs both more capacity and reliable trains that can meet
the needs of the whole route, not just one or two short sections.
The proposed West Yorkshire Tram-Train
services would also make it impossible to make some journeys that are
increasingly popular and very well patronised e.g. Burley Park to Harrogate
Aren’t ex-underground trains unsuitable for the Harrogate Line?
Many people have asked this question because
they immediately perceive small deep level “tube” trains. This is perhaps
the most important part of the proposal because the trains are in fact full
size surface vehicles providing on average 40% more seats, with plenty of
room for bikes, pushchairs and luggage. The seats on the trains are also
wider and more comfortable than currently enjoyed on the route, most with
armrests and with virtually unlimited legroom. One comment we saw on an
underground web forum quotes “The leg room on the District line can be
compared with that of a first class airline and you can listen to your iPod
in utmost comfort”!
electric trains be less reliable in bad weather and the winter?
Bad weather is always a challenge for all
forms of transport and does need to be managed carefully to ensure both
infrastructure and rolling stock are resilient. In very deep snow for
example, and for the greater good, Network Rail’s strategy is to avoid
operating risky junctions like the one at Skelton outside York, meaning that
the Harrogate line sometimes can’t be accessed at all. Our proposal to
provide segregated operation via an alternative route would alleviate this
scenario however occasionally it might arise.
On future performance – with every train a
reliable electric vehicle of the same type, locally maintained and managed
and with a much improved managerial focus on the infrastructure as well, we
envisage a step change in overall performance of the route.
During the last winter (2010-11) for the
current diesel services from November to January, the public performance
measure for the route between Leeds and Knaresborough was reduced to around
84-86%, whereas it regularly achieves over 95% in most other months,
demonstrating that diesel operated services also suffer from reduced
reliability in bad weather.
The suggested form of electrification
operates very well in the very cold and icy winters experienced in Denmark
because it is the underside rather than the top of the rail where current
collection takes place. It is also immune from problems in high winds
(unlike overhead electrification systems) and being elevated from the ground
by around 1m, unlikely to be affected by flooding.
opening new stations a bad idea because journey time will be increased?
We are aware that some people believe that
increased journey times would arise if new stations are built. This is not
the case. The proposed trains have been modelled over the Harrogate line’s
geography to show a 12% reduction in the current journey times or allow up
to 7-8 additional stations to be built without extending the current overall
journey times because of their vastly superior acceleration and deceleration
capabilities. They are also considerably more nimble at stations because of
the larger number of conveniently located sliding doors available for
entry/egress – which can be operated by the driver. This is why light rapid
transit vehicles (LRT) like the ones we propose are vastly superior for a
route like the Harrogate line.
Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on other proposals like re-opening the
line to Ripon or Otley?
We know that strong aspirations exist for
the reinstatement of routes like the ones noted above. Without prejudice to
any revised business case and funding for such possibilities, our proposal
will significantly help the case for re-instatement because it has the
potential to make available sufficient additional rolling stock for such new
services at a marginal additional cost. This alone would remove a
significant barrier to any possible future reinstatement of e.g. the Ripon
Line, which does form a part of our future strategic options along with
several other possibilities. It is therefore vital at this juncture to focus
on securing the proposition of unlocking the potential of the core route
first, before moving on to consider other options.
Are additional stations necessary? Surely if they were needed they would
have been built by now?
With the current very limited diesel train
resource available and the consequent additional journey time caused by the
additional stops, no further stations can be accommodated on the route. In
plain English this means that the trains would not get to Leeds in time to
turn round and go back towards Harrogate. This is a serious constraint on
the development of the route and accessibility to it by people living along
it or visiting the region.
On additional stations, we have assembled
all known aspirations of various bodies along the route, none of which have
ever been considered as a whole previously. It appears that hitherto they
have only been examined in isolation without full consideration of the
impact/benefit for the whole route.
All are potentially feasible and would be
subject to individual business case analyses before being developed
further. In several cases they are at or close to the site of existing
stations e.g. Goldsborough (A1M Park and ride) and Pool (Arthington). The
two new stations that have been opened in recent years on the Harrogate Line
(Burley Park and Hornbeam Park) have proved to be within the top ten the top
performing new stations in Yorkshire in terms of passenger usage. Leeds &
Bradford Airport is little over one mile from the line at the southern end
of Bramhope tunnel for example and could easily be linked in with the
Airports existing car park shuttle buses which operate all day at regular
intervals and already come within half a mile of the line. It would also
serve as an excellent park and ride facility for both Bramhope and Yeadon,
whilst linking Leeds, Harrogate and York to the Airport. The successful
Liverpool South Parkway station serving John Lennon airport is more than
three miles from the airport, and yet we have our regional airport just over
a mile away from the tracks but still no station.
Recent experience elsewhere suggests that building new stations will be
On stations, we do not believe recent cost
estimates of between £4m and £7m to represent acceptable value. Much lower
cost solutions need to be used and are available. Network Rail themselves
have recently completed a new 190m platform with access and
lighting for under £0.5m in 2010.
Isn’t it a waste to increase frequencies to 15 minutes between Leeds and
In terms of value for money, walk up
frequency has been consistently shown elsewhere to increase usage by up to
400% (when increased from 30min to 15min) because it is immediately much
more attractive as a turn-up-and-go service. It is essential to make public
transport more attractive to motorists by improved frequency and
accessibility. It is highly cost effective given the electric trains are
25-30% more efficient to operate and low cost to acquire and maintain.
Government targets demand a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and
growth in the use of public transport is a vital ingredient in achieving
The proposals won’t work because there is not enough capacity between
Harrogate and Leeds
It is envisaged that for
operational flexibility, Platforms 1-6 at Leeds and 8-11 at York would be
electrified for Harrogate line trains. The signalling system between Leeds
and Harrogate is being renewed in 2012 by Network Rail. This will
comfortably allow trains between Leeds and Harrogate to operate at 10-15"
intervals and removing a long standing operational constraint on the route.
What research has been undertaken to verify what passengers want?
avoid incurring unnecessary costs, we have used existing verified public
opinion already in the public domain through the bi-annual National
Passenger Survey (conducted by Passenger Focus) to inform these proposals.
The proposals address the top five issues repeatedly stated by passengers to
be of importance, including value for money (these proposals would enable a
far more efficient operation of the route with more seats/services),
punctuality/reliability (electric trains are significantly more reliable
than diesels), ability to get a seat (on average the trains provide 40% more
seats than currently on offer) and more trains when people want to travel
(increased frequency). Passenger Focus research also includes passenger
expectations from new rolling stock, which indicates a preference for more
comfortable seats, improved ability to get a seat and proper provision for
standing passengers. The rolling stock proposed addresses all three of these
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