TRAINS could be running regularly between Harrogate and London in less than two years.

Currently there is no direct service from Harrogate to the capital; travellers must first catch a service to either York or Leeds.

But all that could change with the decision by the rail regulator that the East Coast Main Line has the capacity to handle more services.

National Express East Coast and Hull trains have now asked the regulator for permission to run a service every two hours from Harrogate to London.

The National Express service would begin at Harrogate, stopping at Knaresborough, York, Doncaster, Retford, Newark, Grantham and Peterborough before arriving at King's Cross.

The Hull Trains scheme would provide three or four services in each direction each day and is intended to include the creation of park and ride access at Starbeck and Cattal. There is also the possibility of a dedicated bus link between Cattal train station and Wetherby to put Wetherby back on to the rail map.

National Express East Coast spokesman John Gelson said: "We believe Harrogate and Knaresborough present significant potential to grow the market for rail travel, at a time when more and more people are making the switch from car or air to rail for longer journeys.

"Our proposal is to operate a service every two hours from London through to York and then on to Harrogate, starting from December 2009. We could route some Harrogate services via Leeds if further investigation shows these would give a better overall frequency or reliability of service.

"The rail regulator will shortly confirm what space there is to accommodate extra trains. We would then look to submit a formal application for track access, as the next stage in the process leading to getting these trains up and running."

The rail regulator will now consider the two applications, although no decision date has been set.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Phil Willis said he supports the move. He has written to the rail regulator backing the proposals.

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