Transportation Elements of the Proposed

 Great Hammerton Settlement - Comments

28th July 2017

In considering Green Hammerton as a possible development site, current and previous consultation documents prepared by Harrogate Borough Council have emphasised the importance of the presence of a public transport corridor adjacent to the village and, in particular, proximity to stations on the York to Harrogate railway. The significance of the train service was reinforced by the impression - given by HBC representatives at the recent (25th July) consultation meeting at Green Hammerton to numerous members of the public - that access to the railway forms a key element in the choice of "Great Hammerton" as a suitable location for development.

There are acknowledged deficiencies in the current train service: -
  • trains run to a basic frequency of only one per hour with isolated additional services at rush hours, and the service finishes at 22:00, 
  • whilst off-peak services are normally formed of four carriages, rush-hour trains usually comprise two carriages, with consequent overcrowding, 
  • both stations within the limits of the projected development (Hammerton and Cattal) have very limited car-parking space, and neither is compliant with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act in terms of access to the platforms, 
  • whilst journey times to Harrogate and York are competitive with other modes of transport, regular travel to Leeds by train (which is a commuting destination for many local residents) is unattractive, because of the indirect route and duration of the journey, 
  • a consequence of the train service is the obstruction to road traffic represented by the three level crossings within the site: at the two principal crossings (Cattal and Hammerton), the road is closed for approximately 6 minutes to allow the passage of a single train and 9-12 if two trains pass in the vicinity of the station. 

The "Infrastructure Capacity Study - Development Options, Stage 2 Report - July 2016" prepared for HBC suggests that the following rail works are planned: -
  • reinstatement of double line on those sections which are currently single (Poppleton to Hammerton, and Cattal to Knaresborough), 
  • electrification, 
  • provision of a new platform at York to accommodate Harrogate trains together with associated work to eliminate delays in the vicinity of York station. 

The first two items are to form part of a £170 million long-term plan for the Leeds - Harrogate - York, whilst the third is apparently an element of a City of York Council initiative. The objective would be a more frequent and more reliable train service - meeting, in general terms, ambitions recorded in North Yorkshire County Council's "Local Transport Plan 4 - 2016-2045", and "Harrogate Line Objectives - Issue 7b, Jan 2015" prepared by Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce. The latter document also includes an aspiration for a new station at Flaxby Moor, adjacent to Junction 47 of the A1(M).

In the present climate electrification is now a very remote possibility, but the works necessary to permit an enhanced service would almost certainly include resignalling (the line is currently operated by obsolete token apparatus and semaphore signalling), modernisation of the level crossings (there are 8 manually worked level crossings between Poppleton and Knaresborough, and numerous un-manned field crossings) and extensive earth and bridgeworks to support double track.

Apart from the overall £170 million budget referred to in the Infrastructure Capacity Study, however, no information has been published to date on costs or likely timescales to completion, (except that the Infrastructure Capacity Study suggests that the first phase of double tracking would be funded by NYCC, to be completed in 2018/9) and who will sponsor the overall project. It can safely be assumed, however, that it would require a multi-million pound budget and an overall timescale measured in years rather than months.

For these reasons, an enhanced train service is very unlikely to be available until well into the life of the Great Hammerton site, by which time most of the residents would probably have found alternative means of transport. It should also be acknowledged that Cattal and Hammerton stations are not particularly well used at present, and there is no real reason to suppose that anything but a small proportion of the residents of the new township would favour rail transport.

Although not directly related to the quality of the train service, the presence of three level crossings on the southern fringe of the development site is a matter of concern. As well as impeding road traffic, level crossings represent an acknowledged hazard to road and rail users, and incidents on the York to Harrogate line are not uncommon. Increased road traffic and more frequent trains would increase the risks .

In the absence of any local sources of employment most residents of the new settlement will undoubtedly have to access the A59 road for daily commuting. The A59 is already a very busy road and will become even busier when the Allerton Park Waste Recovery Plant becomes operational next year and road-borne waste from York and large parts of North Yorkshire starts to use the route - and even more so if the projected sugar beet refinery at Allerton is constructed.

To date, no comprehensive modelling of the traffic implications of the new settlement on the road have been undertaken, and there are no proposals for an updated road layout, other than those presented by the developer of the site, CEG, which shows a diverted A59 positioned along the southern boundary of the site terminating in roundabouts at the East and West ends of the diversion. From discussion with representatives of CEG at the Consultation meeting on July 25th, these proposals are purely conjectural and it is not clear at what stage of the development that the road might be diverted.

Whilst diversion of the A59 to the southern limit of the site would have the effect of uniting the new settlement (and housing development south of the A59 on its current alignment would seem totally inappropriate) it would cause increased noise and pollution as a result of braking and acceleration in the vicinities of the roundabouts, and would also adversely affect the flow of through traffic.

The CEG proposals also indicate a new railway station sited approximately midway between the existing Hammerton and Cattal stations with provision for car parking. It appears that these proposals are also purely conjectural, without any prior investigation of feasibility, costs or timescale.

The volume of rail and road works necessary to accommodate and serve the new settlement would undoubtedly be substantial. In the absence of even outline cost estimates and timescales - and some confidence in how these works might be financed - there is no rational basis for comparing the relative merits of Great Hammerton option against the others which have been offered as development sites.

Upgrading of the York - Harrogate railway is not dependent on the Great Hammerton scheme, but Great Hammerton has been promoted on the basis of an enhanced train service for which positive proposals have yet to emerge. If the principal features of the CEG proposals are to progress -including a new station and a road diversion - there is an unfavourable comparison with the alternative scheme at Flaxby, where there would no need for expensive and disruptive alterations to the A59 and a new station might be constructed adjacent to the recently approved Industrial Park: on the basis of very approximate estimates a new station and car park on the existing single line at Flaxby might cost £2 million (using Newcourt Exeter, 2015, for comparison), whereas a new station on the double line at Hammerton/Cattal would probably cost £5 to £7 million (Kirkstall new station 2016).