Dear Reader - Bubbly start for new Azuma trains + oh for Harrogate Parkrun!

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 13th December 2019, 2:50 pm
Updated Friday, 13th December 2019, 2:59 pm
David Horne, managing director of GNER, presses the start button in the driving seat of a new Azuma train in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)

The large marquee stood in an area normally full of cars dropping off or picking up passengers.

Inside the giant white gazebo in the Harrogate railway station car park, the fizz flowed and bacon butties were scoffed in a hearty fashion.

It was almost as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.

The smiles on the faces of the assembled VIP guests also told a story.

They weren’t the result of the free hospitality, however, but of a genuine piece of good news in an era of troubled headlines for the railways.

Yes, the introduction by LNER of new, regular direct services to London for Harrogate passenger is that important, if you’re going to London, that is, or more importantly for Harrogate's economy, if you’re a visitor heading our way from down south.

But, as I chatted to Brian Dunsby, the public face of Harrogate’s long battle for this day, I also noticed that the most jolly people seemed to be anyone involved in the town’s conference trade.

Such was the occasion, the managing director of the entire LNER group was there to wave off a dummy run by one of the much-trumpeted slick Azuma trains boasting “the best in technology, style and comfort.”

I didn’t wish to puncture anyone’s balloon but I asked him if he had any concerns about the new services being hit by possible ‘knock on effects’ of delays on the Harrogate-Leeds line of trains run by the much-criticised Northern Rail.

Without missing a beat, the LNER MD replied he had and, what’s more, plans were in place to cope with this.

I had no reason to doubt him but I also know Harrogate passengers are tired of extravagant promises and glittering palaces.

What they want are reliable services and a guarantee of a seat.

Here’s hoping the clinking of fizz glasses is heard again soon for other railway improvements in Harrogate.

The field in the shadow of the River Ouse was full of runners dressed in fancy dress outfits on Saturday.

Not that all the jollity in the air in before the start of the York Yuletide Trail made me feel Christmassy.

I was dressed in sombre blue ready for the slog to come round woodland, fields and riverside.

The two laps of the five-mile trail race event turned out to be just as bad as I had feared.

The course was clogged in mud. My legs had all the energy of a dead battery.

I ploughed on regardless like one of Santa’s slower elves and managed to finish, though my performance was nothing to write home about.

At times I found myself wishing I was taking part in the gentler and drier terrain of Parkrun on the Stray back in Harrogate.

The latter may still be an unholy mess at West Park but at York Place it’s in good condition despite the wet winter.

I do realise the state of the Stray is an issue which has divided the town like few other local issues this year.

Personally speaking, I think it’s painful to see the grass land at West Park looking like a giant mud bath.

Almost as painful as watching the runner in front of me during Saturday’s trail race ease their way into the distance dressed in a large glittery tutu and a furry red and white hat.