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Well placed for business
12:00am Tuesday 19th February 2013 in The York Report
A rail resurgence
York has always been a hub for the railways.
The city, midway between London and Edinburgh, is on the East Coast Main Line and its station already receives more than 600 million passengers per year.
The city was made famous for the railways through pioneers such as George Hudson, whose work resulted in the first train travelling from York to London in 1840.
It currently takes only one hour 50 minutes to travel to London. But further developments in the railway look to reduce the journey time even further.
York was recently included in the Government’s announcements for high-speed rail.
A spur of the HS2 route will run from Leeds, past Barkston Ash and Church Fenton, to connect up with the existing East Coast main line at Ulleskelf.
The link will reduce the York to London journey time to as little as one hour, 23 minutes, for trains using the high-speed line, while the York to Birmingham journey will be reduced from 130 minutes to 63 minutes.
It will also release capacity on the East Coast Main Line, which will continue to run trains from York to London, and will itself be upgraded with £240 million to be spent by Network Rail on addressing key bottlenecks on the East Coast Main Line to improve both capacity and journey times.
In its strategic business plan for 2014 to 2019, Network Rail has proposed investing £1 billion in new infrastructure, and another £3 billion on operating, renewing and maintaining existing infrastructure on the London North East (LNE) route from London to Scotland through Yorkshire.
This includes £2.1 billion investment in the renewal of existing track and signalling and spending £179 million on the electrification of transpennine routes between York and Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool to cut carbon emissions and congestion, as well as electrifying the line between Selby and Micklefield to join up with the East Coast Main Line.
The renewed investment in the railways spells positive news for York, which established itself as a major rail centre in the 1840s.
British Rail Engineering, one of the city’s five major manufacturing employers, closed its carriage works in the mid-1990s, and further jobs have been lost to automated processes.
The scale of rail employment previously seen in York - at its height in the 1880s, the sector employed about 5,500 people – has been and gone.
But its legacy and the city’s reputation in the field and prime location continue to make it a key base for the rail industry.
It is home to operators East Coast and Grand Central, as well as a number of engineering companies that plan to increase recruitment as investment works get going.
York’s knowledge-based economy nurtures high-tech businesses that are playing a part in revolutionising the rail industry through technology, such Omnicom, which won a raft of awards in 2012 for its technology that helps automate processes within the industry and reduce companies’ operating costs, and manpower.
New technology introduced into the railways to overhaul signalling on the LNE route will also enable 238 control points, such as level crossings, to be controlled from a new Route Operating Centre (ROC) in York.
Network Rail will move about 475 jobs to the new centre, to be completed in March, over the next 30 years.
The York centre, to be built on a 7,300 sq m site between York Station and Holgate Bridge, is one of 14 across the UK and is expected eventually to control the entire East Coast Main Line, as well as other routes in Humberside, West Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
The city is also a centre for skills and Vital Rail, a contracting specialist which carries out track, safety, signalling and telecommunications work as well as overhead line electrification, has recently embarked on a project to train 100 apprentices in York in preparation for upcoming work.
Vital Rail, which had an office in York five years ago but closed it when workload reduced, has moved back into the city after it won Network Rail contracts to work on the East Coast Main Line.
In August, the group announced that its success in the region created the need for a dedicated training programme and launched a partnership with York College at the Yorkshire Rail Academy based at the National Railway Museum.
York is just off the A1(M1) and its Outer Ring Road is expected to be turned into a dual carriageway, following a £183 million windfall from Government for Yorkshire transport projects.
A new Local Transport Body (LTB) covering West Yorkshire and York is expected to receive £60 million between 2015/16 and 2018/19 and £123 million more over a ten-year period under the City Deal scheme, which gives local councils more funding and decision-making powers.
Other potential projects include better transport links between York and LeedsBradford Airport, upgrading the York-Harrrogate railway line and developing a bus station in the city.
City of York Council is investing £4.65 million in its two-year i-Travel York programme to tackle congestion in the city.
The plans include a network of new cycle and pedestrian routes being introduced, and improving the city’s buses, fitting them with realtime information displays, installing machines which allow passengers to buy tickets before they board and bringing in measures which will give buses priority over other vehicles to cut down on delays.
The council is also working with consultants Arup on a roadmap to investigate how electric buses could help it make 80 per cent of bus traffic emissions-free by 2017.
York is within easy reach of Yorkshire’s gateway airport, LeedsBradford International Airport, which is 45 minutes away by car.
Leeds Bradford Airport has recently launched flights to Heathrow with BA, which connect to long-haul flights at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5. The three flights a day are scheduled to connect with flights to India, the Far East and North America.
KLM also flies from LeedsBradford to hub airport Amsterdam and bmi flies to Brussels, where further longhaul connections can be made.
The airport has attracted new operators and routes since it completed an £11 million new terminal, which is expected to increase the airport’s activity to dealing with 4.4 million passengers and potentially deliver more than £130 million in growth in the economy, creating more than 3,000 jobs.
The development has provided a 65 per cent increase in airside space over two floors, with a new larger departure lounge, a range of new food and beverage units, a walk-through tax-and duty-free store and additional retail brands.
The security search zone has also been extended by about 250 sq metres, an increase of 40 per cent.