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Why Harrogate Station Gateway Must Go Ahead

Harrogate Station Gateway
Harrogate Station Gateway

I shouldn’t have to write this article. We shouldn’t have to fight this battle again.

But in the last couple of days an article appeared in the Stray Ferret, which suggests that after the local elections, the Harrogate Station Gateway project is up the air again. There are quotes from Karl Battersby, who says that more traffic modelling is required before a decision is taken on whether to go ahead.

Harrogate Station Gateway has already been approved by the Executive of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). A final business case was supposed to be submitted to West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) in May this year.

It represents an £11 million investment in Harrogate town centre. It will enable people to choose sustainable transport instead of the motor car. There are a million reasons why that is incredibly important, and it is astonishing if a minority still cannot see this.

Prioritising “traffic flow” over the last 7 decades has been a disaster for our towns and cities. It has got to stop.

I have no idea if the Stray Ferret has hard information about a change in the local political attitude to this project, or if it is just speculation on the part of the paper.

What I do know is that there are at least 7 reasons why Harrogate Station Gateway must go ahead.

1) It is a Brilliant Project that Will Benefit Harrogate

Visual showing Harrogate Station Gateway project
Visual showing Harrogate Station Gateway project

Harrogate Station Gateway is a brilliant project to improve the centre of town. It is a big step forward in making the area around the station a place for people, where we want to spend time, not just a dreadful traffic-dominated dual carriageway.

Who wants to linger and spend money where there’s noise, pollution and traffic danger?

2) It Would Be 3 Years of Work and a Huge Sum of Money Down the Drain

The team working on this project have done an excellent job over 3 years. Money has been spent on their wages, plus designs and consultations. It almost certainly runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions.

Would it be acceptable to throw all that work and money down the drain at the Eleventh Hour?

It would show contempt for all the hard work that has gone into this project, and for the time freely given by associations like Zero Carbon Harrogate and HDCA in contributing to the consultations; as well as all the individuals who gave their time to respond to the consultations.

What’s more, this funding comes through WYCA. Would WYCA ever trust NYCC with funding again?

3) Station Gateway Will Be Good for Business

TfL graphic on the benefits of active travel infrastructure
TfL graphic on the benefits of active travel infrastructure

The businesses that object to the Station Gateway project fear that it will be bad for business. They can’t imagine customers arriving by any other means than by car. They are Doubting Thomases.

Once Harrogate Station Gateway has been delivered they will see the benefits, and be happy and grateful that it happened.

Evidence consistently shows that providing for active travel benefits local businesses, not the reverse. Some people just need to see it to believe it.

4) It is Only Fair to Give People Safe Cycle Tracks

It's too dangerous for me to cycle
It’s too dangerous for me to cycle

As Summary Principle 1 of Cycle Infrastructure Design says, the opportunity to cycle in our towns and cities should be universal – available to everyone from 8 to 80 and beyond. But currently, most people don’t feel safe.

One main reason why there is so much traffic in Harrogate is because the alternatives aren’t safe. Harrogate Station Gateway is a major opportunity to change that.

5) As the Planet Heats Up, We Need to Change the Way We Travel

Global heating is rapidly spiralling out of control, and the most extreme predictions of climate models are coming true faster than anyone imagined.

In Spring 2022, there was an extended heatwave in India and Pakistan adversely affecting millions of people. There are record-breaking temperatures and forest fires in France and Spain right now. The Bering Sea is heating up, affecting the weather hundreds of miles away.

Transport emissions account for 49% of the total of greenhouse gases in Harrogate District. It follows that anyone who is serious about avoiding catastrophic global heating must tackle transport emissions. That means reducing miles travelled by car.

There is therefore no point in doing traffic modelling based on the existing volume of traffic on Station Parade. We need less traffic, and the best way to achieve that is to provide less capacity for motor vehicles, but far better facilities for the alternatives.

6) Binning Station Gateway Would Be a Disaster for North Yorkshire’s Reputation with Active Travel England

Active Travel England is being set up in York this year. It will hold the budget for active travel projects, and judge local authorities’ plans.

If councils don’t perform on active travel, they will have their overall transport budgets reduced.

After all the work done and all the money spent, binning Harrogate Station Gateway at the Eleventh Hour would destroy whatever is left of NYCC’s reputation – with the DfT and Active Travel England as well as everyone else.

If no one trusts you to follow through on your commitments, there’s probably no point in putting in future active travel bids.

7) The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion

The fundamental law of road congestion shows that you cannot build your way out of congestion.

“[A]dding 10 percent more lane miles to a city increases vehicle miles traveled by 10 percent. That is, in less than 10 years, new roads cause traffic increases directly proportional to the increase in capacity”

fundamental law of road congestion

Traffic is not a force of nature, it is a product of human choices.

To reiterate, there’s little point to traffic modelling based on the assumption that traffic levels will stay the same. We know it is vital that car miles are reduced, and reducing capacity is the best way to achieve this.

People won’t stop visiting the town centre, which for most people is a very short distance anyway. They will still come.

Some will continue to come by car: no one is suggesting banning driving.

Others will come on foot, by bike or by bus. That is better for everyone.

Further, people sometimes have a vague idea that trips by car are somehow much more serious and vital than those made by other means, but that’s not true.

Purpose of car trips
Purpose of car trips

The top two purposes of car trips are:

  • Leisure – 30% and
  • Shopping – 20%

These absolutely are trips that can be made by a different mode or at a different time, so that the people making them do not contribute to town centre congestion.

Those are seven reasons why Harrogate Station Gateway must go ahead, and there are many more.

We shouldn’t have to fight this battle all over again, but if we do we’re up for the fight.

Why Harrogate Station Gateway Must Go Ahead

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