A POTENTIAL site for a long-awaited new commuter rail link on the edge of York has been marked out – but it could still be four years before the first trains call there.

The scheme to build a new station at Haxby has moved a step closer to becoming a reality after leading councillors picked out a recommended option for its location.

This will now be put forward into City of York Council’s capital funding programme for the year ahead, with more than £237,000 expected to be needed to take the station to the next stage, while further talks will now be held with track operator Network Rail.

Two choices for the station site were identified at the end of last year, and a meeting of the council’s city strategy panel has singled out a favoured option of building it on land just south of the Towthorpe Road/Station Road level crossing, which is seen as best in terms of safety.

But the authority’s city strategy chief Coun Steve Galloway said that, despite the progress, it is likely to be 2013 before the station – which would serve passengers travelling between York and Scarborough – is ready.

And he also said it will be at least 2014 before any possibility of a light rail – or ‘tram-train’ – system on the same rail route, which could include extra halts at York Hospital and Strensall, can come to fruition.

The current favoured site would cost £4.954 million, plus additional costs of building a car park, buying up land and other works, while Network Rail could bring forward £1.5 million of track renewal work to hasten the scheme’s development.

However, final planning permission for the project is not expected until July 2011. “I am pleased the decision to proceed to the next stage in opening a railway station at Haxby has received all-party support,” said Coun Galloway.

“A potential site for the station has now been identified and this will allow planning and public consultation to proceed when the remaining technical hurdles have been overcome.

“There is considerable interest, not just in stopping the hourly TransPennine trains at any new station, but also in having some additional loop service operating from York Station to Haxby and, later, Strensall.

“However, it will be at least five years before any tram/train or light rail systems could share this track.

“The Haxby station project, utilising existing services, is therefore very much the first step in re-establishing a local rail network on the east of York.

“One side benefit will be that the track works which Network Rail will undertake will allow faster speeds to be achieved on the line, so there will be no increase in journey time as a result of the additional stop.”

Conservative group leader Coun Ian Gillies, chair of the city strategy panel, said: “We will now hear what people living in the area think before making a final decision on the chosen site.

“My feeling is that it would be far more simple to have low-level entry to a light rail system at several points along this line than simply having one train an hour using the route, but we would have to eventually look at trialling this and see if the track could be adapted.”