The Anonymous Widower

North Yorkshire Proposes Rail Expansion

It surprised me when I read that North Yorkshire was the largest county in England. But thinking about it, there can’t be many others of a similar size.

This document on the coumty’s web site is entitled North Yorkshire County Council Local Transport Plan 2016 – 2045 and it lays out, what it says on the fitrst page.

It has these two sections about rail.

Rail Line Re-openings

The County Council supports, in principle, proposals for rail reopening in the County, on identified routes such as Skipton to Colne and Harrogate to Ripon / Northallerton.

In the past many of the line re-openings were considered to be “local schemes” and therefore required local funding. The Council will only actively support opportunities for line re-openings where these are demonstrated as of National or pan North of England importance. National or pan North strategic importance will be assessed on the basis of the contribution to network resilience, improved strategic connectivity, the delivery of greater capacity or improved rail freight opportunities.

In all cases North Yorkshire County Council will only work with railway industry and local stakeholders where there is common agreement to develop a proposal.

Future of Rail

On the East Coast Main Line, over £240m is being spent by Network Rail on infrastructure, increasing capacity, reducing journey times and improving reliability. With investment in new InterCity Express trains and the franchise holder’s commitment to further investment, including a new timetable with 6 direct services between Harrogate and London, the route is set to be transformed by 2020.

The re-franchising for both the Northern and TransPennine services has produced invitations to tender that are transformational. In North Yorkshire this will result in many routes having increased frequencies, additional Sunday services, new or modernised trains and better customer focus. With greater local input into the management and development of the franchises through Rail North it is felt that we can achieve the rail services that are needed for the North.

High Speed connectivity with proposals for HS2 network linking London –Midlands– Sheffield-Leeds–York and the North East in the early 2030s and the work of Transport for the North on HS3, providing fast frequent and reliable links between Northern Cities provides opportunities now for the Council to develop its plans for good connectivity for North Yorkshire to and within these networks.

Private investment such as the Potash Mine near Whitby (improvements planned for the rail service on the Esk Valley) along with other planned housing and economic growth in North Yorkshire all combine to facilitate growth in rail.

The County Council remains committed to ensuring North Yorkshire benefits from the growth and investment in our railways and will continue to influence decisions to achieve the best outcome for the County

The Council is recommending re-opening these two lines.

Skipton to Colne

Skipton station is a station at the western end of the electrified lines to and through Leeds. There are several plans for the future, involving direct trains to London and more frequent services to and from Leeds. There is also an aspiration of the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway to extend into Skipton.

Colne station is at the eastern end of the partly single-track East Lancashire Line, with services all the way to Blackpool South station via Burnley, Blackburn and Preston.

The two stations used to be connected until 1970, when it was closed, despite not being recommended for such by Beeching.

An organisation called Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership is pressing for the line to be reopened. This map shows the rail lines in the area.

Skipton To Colne

Skipton To Colne

Reopening this just under twelve miles length of track could bring a lot of benefits.

Most of the trackbed hasn’t been built on, but look at this Google Map of Colne station.

Colne Station

Colne Station

Note how the  dual-carriageway, A6068  and a football pitch have been built, where any link from Colne would probably go.

So there would be a need for an expensive bridge. But as the line to Colne is only single-track, I suspect that the bridge could get away with one track, providing there was a passing loop at Colne station.

Having seen tram-trains in Germany, I know what the Germans would do and that is run tram-trains from the Blackpool tramway across Lancashire as trains and then over a tramway to Skipton. The advantage would be simpler infrastructure and lower costs.

But we have our own solution in the shape of the IPEMU, which could charge its batteries at Skipton and Preston and use bateries on any unelectrified line in between. The advantage would be no wires and possibly only a single track across the Pennines.

But if it is decided to create a link between Skipton and Colne, the railway technology developments of the last few years, could make the link more affordable.

Harrogate to Northallerton

Harrogate station has local services on the Harrogate Line to Leeds and York and some long-distance services to London and the South. The lines through the station are not electrified.

Northallerton station is on the East Coast Main Line

The plans would reopen the section north of Harrogate of the Leeds and Northallerton Railway. This would reconnect the cathedral city of Ripon to the rail network.

Under the Wikipedia entry for the former Ripon station, this is said.

Today much of the route of the line through the city is now a relief road and although the former station still stands, it is now surrounded by a new housing development. The issue remains a significant one in local politics and there are movements wanting to restore the line. Reports suggest the reopening of a line between Ripon and Harrogate railway station would be economically viable, costing £40 million and could initially attract 1,200 passengers a day, rising to 2,700. Campaigners call on MPs to restore Ripon railway link.

On the face of it, it might appear a good plan, but there are still questions to be answered.

  • Ripon would need a new route and probably a parkway station.
  • Leeds to Northallerton is under sixty miles and is electrified at both ends, so a passenger service could be run by IPEMUs.
  • Would the line be double-track and electrified?
  • Would the line be capable of being used as a diversion route for the East Coast Main Line?
  • Would freight trains be encouraged to use the line to relieve pressure on the busy East Coast Main Line?

I’ll repeat what the report says about the East Coast Main Line..

On the East Coast Main Line, over £240m is being spent by Network Rail on infrastructure, increasing capacity, reducing journey times and improving reliability. With investment in new InterCity Express trains and the franchise holder’s commitment to further investment, including a new timetable with 6 direct services between Harrogate and London, the route is set to be transformed by 2020.

It is probably true to say, that what happens on the East Coast Main Line is going to determine, whether the Harrogate to Northallerton Line gets reopened.

This article in the Northern Echo is entitled £230m plan to reinstate key North railway line receives major boost details a lot more about the project and the Council’s enthusiasm.

Improved Connectivity

This is always an aim of Councils and reports like that commissioned by North Yorkshire County Council. These come to mind.

Esk Valley Line

The only specific mentioned is that York Potash might be funding improvements to the Esk Valley Line.

In An Alternative Approach To Provide A Local Metro Network, I put forward the concept of using IPEMU trains with minimal electrification to dvelop a Tees Valley Metro.

I believe with some small amount of electrification at Middlesbrough, the Tees Valley would get its Metro and Whitby an improved service of new electric trains.

Leeds to Sunderland

Reopening an electrified Harrogate to Northallerton line, with additional electrification from Leeds to York on the Harrogate Line and Northallerton to Middlesborough on the Northallerton to Eaglescliffe Line, would open up the possibility of extending services between London and Leeds to Harrogate, Ripon, Northallerton, Middlesbrough and Sunderland without using the East Coast Main Line north of Doncaster.

Again with minimal electrification, the service could be run by 110 mph IPEMUs.

Sorting Northallerton

Northallerton station is in a nest of level crossings. Removing these is probably high up Network Rail’s list of must-do projects, but it strokes me that in the future, if all plans for the East Coast Main Line, the Northallerton to Harrogate Line and the various electrification schemes in the area come to pass, then Northallerton station and the tracks leading away from it, need a very strong sorting out.


To me, the most important thing about this report from North Yorkshire is that the council is looking seriously at transport options for the future.

November 11, 2015 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Ripon via Harrogate – I wrote about this in North Yorkshire Proposes Rail Expansion […]

    Pingback by The Future Of The Calder Valley Line « The Anonymous Widower | January 5, 2016 | Reply

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