WSP was commissioned in February 2013 by Metro, North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council and Harrogate Borough Council to demonstrate the business case for the investment. It was supported by Tata, which provided outline electrification costs.
The engineering consultant said that it concluded that electrification of the line, including new modern trains and more frequent services, would provide £400m of benefits for the economy and significantly reduced operating costs. It also forecast that the project would remove more than three million vehicle kilometres from the roads, thereby improving road congestion, safety and carbon emissions.
The scheme also fits with existing plans for rail in Yorkshire and the North of England, including investment in the East Coast Main Line and Trans Pennine electrification, along with signalling investment on the Harrogate Line itself. By combining elements of these projects WSP reckoned there could be significant project cost savings.
WSP’s study will be sent to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin this week with a plea for the government to provide the required £100m investment.
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 £3.4m from its own resources for improvements on the line.
WSP project manager Mike Holmes said: “The business case for this upgrade supports current national policy objectives for a modern low cost, value for money railway and will deliver significant benefits to passengers, the client and the wider communities. It was a challenging project from the offset with many competing priorities to be considered and the need to demonstrate a strong enough business case to justify the level of investment needed. The appraisal we conducted was in line with standard industry and government guidelines for transport investment to ensure stakeholder support.”
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 for 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.”