As the authorities look at ways of reducing waiting times at Harrogate’s worst level crossing, a leading campaigner says the situation is actually getting worse.
North Yorkshire County Council says it is in the middle of identified signalling improvements with Network Rail at Starbeck rail level crossing which leads to traffic gridlock and a build-up of exhaust fumes three to four times per hour at this busy part of Knaresborough Road.
Starbeck crossing: Are signalling improvements on the way?
North Yorkshire County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access, said: “We recognise the concerns about traffic queues and the effects on air quality and are continuing to work with Network Rail to try to reduce the length of time the level crossing is closed for each train passing through.”
Starbeck crossing: Doubts expressed
But lone campaign of Trevor Dale, a spokesperson of Harrogate Line Supporters Group, who has spent years fighting to reduce the amount of time the Starbeck barrier is down, said he was not convinced.
He said: “Both Network Rail and the county council have had years to sort this out and they have failed to do so.
“As recently as January, I received a letter from Network Rail’s public affairs manager saying there were no plans to upgrade the signalling on the railway at Starbeck Station.
“Since the new York-Harrogate-Leeds timetable was introduced just over two weeks ago, the barrier seems to be down for even longer at certain times of the day."
Starbeck crossing: Local trader complains of fumes
Mr Dales views were supported by Howard Yeadon of Starbeck Motorcycles who has worked in the same spot at Camwal Road near the level crossing for 40 years.
He said: “If I try to drive home when the 5.50pm train is coming, you can wait for three to four minutes.
"But if it’s the 6.10pm, you end up getting stuck for eight to ten minutes. It had got better a couple of years ago but it seems to have slipped back since the new train timetable came in.
“I was talking to a lady who tends the Britain in Bloom concrete plant pots and she thanked me for turning my engine off while I was waiting.
"A lot of people leave their cars running while they wait for the barrier to go back up. She says the fumes are terrible.
"The problem is when the timetable has the train from Leeds and the train from York crossing Starbeck at around the same time.
"Until the new timetable came in, the barrier would sometimes go up quickly once one of the trains had left.
"Now they seem to be keeping the barrier down the whole time.
"Some of those trains are virtually empty, too. And there's more traffic on the road these days.
"I think the signalling is out of date in Starbeck and needs updating."
Starbeck crossing: Investigations going on
But Coun Mackenzie said he was hopeful of progress being made on Starbeck level crossing.
Coun Mackenzie said: “With Network Rail, we have recently identified signalling improvements that could allow a reduction in the level crossing closure times.
"Investigations are currently ongoing and we expect to have a better understanding of the potential of this improvement by this autumn.
“If the proposal is feasible and cost-effective, we will seek to source sufficient funding to enable the proposal to be put in place within the next two years.”
Starbeck crossing: Clean Air Day
A family fun Clean Air Day is to be held at Starbeck junction on Thursday, June 20 by local pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate as part of its own ‘anti-idling’ campaign.