THE number of trains running between York and Harrogate looks set to double - but devolution may be needed before the line gets a proper upgrade.

There were fears the project - which would see two trains an hour in each direction rolled out - could be shelved.

More than £9m of funding had been secured for the plans in 2013.

But a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee heard Network Rail, train operator Northern and the authority had found a solution that allows the trains to pass and not to conflict with other trains arriving at York, particularly ones from the East Coast Mainline.

The council’s corporate director David Bowe told members: “When you introduce the Harrogate line to all the lines coming in to York it is literally like trying to fire an arrow through the spinning blade of a fan.

“The two trains have got to meet on the line at Poppleton because there will be one place to pass. All the timings are absolutely critical. To get this to work we have had to amend safety arrangements at the level crossings to adjust the speed the train can travel up to those otherwise it can’t meet these timeframes.”

He said the introduction of the trains on the line was being consulted upon, but he was optimistic by the end of February firm decisions on the scheme would be taken.

Mr Bowe said: “Everybody’s talking a good game and everything’s lined up. Even if there is an objection or challenge it doesn’t mean that’s a negative outcome it just means that they will consider that in an appropriate way.”

Members asked if the two trains an hour scheme went ahead if that would end hopes for a new Harrogate to York line.

Mr Bowe said the scheme nearing completion represented “mitigation initiatives to enhance the best we can with the resources we have got” and the logical long-term aspiration would be to electrify the whole line and link it to Leeds-Bradford Airport.

He added: “We should be pressing as a broader community for a significant upgrade of the Harrogate line.”

The meeting heard several councillors highlight the disparity between funding for transport in the South and the North and claims that devolution would lead to gains in funding for the region’s transport infrastructure.

While members highlighted the importance of being able to demonstrate to the government how rail improvements would add value to an area, Mr Bowe said it was much easier to do so in the South.

Cllr Don McKay said: “Money is no object in the South. Spend it in the North? End of story.”

Cllr Robert Heseltine said while the Government appeared set to roll back on HS2 railway plans for northern England, community lines across the north of England had been neglected for decades, and called on the council to highlight its support for HS2 and the upgrading of commuter lines to modern standards.