A PASSENGER support group is calling for major rail improvements in Harrogate and Wharfedale.

Re-opening Otley rail station and its local network is just one of the measures the Harrogate Line Rail User Group would like to see considered.

It also wants to see parking at Horsforth station expanded, more evening trains in operation and the Woodside train station* plan resurrected.

The group accepts that the costs would be significant - and estimates that reopening the Otley branch would cost 'less than £100 million'.

But Secretary John Holmes believes the necessary works could be part-funded by proceeds from the proposed Leeds Clean Air Zone.

He said: "Monies gained by the proposed charges - under the Clean Air Zone - for non-compliant lorries, buses, and taxis should be used to improve public transport in Leeds.

"Strong consideration should be given to re-opening the Otley branch with stations at Pool-in-Wharfedale and Otley; this would take the pressure and parking problems off Horsforth and Menston stations.

"It would also give new travel opportunities including a direct Harrogate, Otley to Bradford service, taking pressure off the A658, and an Ilkley, Otley, Horsforth to Leeds service, taking pressure off the A660.

"If the Leeds Bradford Airport Parkway Station is built we could have a Bradford, Otley, LBA Parkway Station to Leeds service too.

"The station at Otley would be useful for tourists and other visitors to reach Otley without clogging up Otley car parks, whilst being available for Otley residents to make quicker journeys to Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate, York and beyond.

"For Pool it would provide better journey opportunities, hopefully removing traffic off the A658 and A659 through the village."

At Horsforth the group would like to see all of the six bus stops beside the rail station given shelters, to protect waiting passengers from the elements.

It also believes drastic action is needed to increase parking capacity, as the number of passengers using the station rose by 53,000 in the last year.

Horsforth resident Mr Holmes said: "The only answer to this is to extend the station car park by buying back the lease of 'Woodlands Building Yard' and building at least another 250 parking places - or by running circular bus services in Cookridge, Tinshill, and Horsforth connecting with all train services."

*The Woodside train station - with car park - was set to be built on the Leeds Outer Ring Road, A6120, to take some pressure off Horsforth station.

The scheme, however, was cancelled when the park and ride car park at Boddington and the Otley Road 'trolley bus' scheme (itself then cancelled) came to light.