GALLERY: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Harrogate
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Last updated Feb 12, 2024
Mr Sunak poses for a selfie.

There was a slightly surreal start to the day in the Starbeck area of Harrogate when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dropped by.

Mr Sunak, on his first engagement of the week, visited the Harrogate Bus Company ‘s depot to show support for Conservative MP Andrew Jones, who will attempt to win the  Harrogate and Knaresborough seat for a fifth time at the next general election.

The Stray Ferret joined the media melee at the depot this morning for the hour-long visit, which got underway shortly before 9am.

Journalists waited in an upstairs meeting room for a brief round of questions after the PM and former transport minister Mr Jones had finished touring the site and speaking to engineering apprentices and trainee drivers.

The Harrogate Bus Company, a subsidiary of Transdev, is getting 39 new all-electric buses at a cost of £21 million, part funded by £7.8 million from the government.

Transdev’s managing director Henri Rohard and operations director Vitto Pizzuti showed Mr Sunak and Mr Jones around the depot before Mr Sunak and Mr Jones cheerfully breezed in to greet the media, saying:

“Sorry we are in a rush. We will just whizz round — one each.”

After answering questions on whether to dual the A64, local government finance, bus franchising and the economic forecast, the Stray Ferret asked Mr Sunak and Mr Jones when was the last time they had caught a bus.

Mr Sunak replied that “with my job it’s taken out of my hands these days” and went on to talk about HS2 money being reinvested on bus services and £2 fare caps. When we asked if that meant he couldn’t remember when, he said:

“I’ve had this job for the last year which obviously makes my transport slightly different but before that I took buses in my constituency in particular to focus on provision of buses in rural areas. It’s not about me it’s about everyone across communities using buses.”

Former transport minister Mr Jones said:

“I can answer that question very clearly. I catch the bus quite regularly here and when down in Westminster. The last time I caught the bus here was the 36 into Leeds and I catch the 24 between where I stay during the week and Parliament. So I am on the bus every week.”

As Mr Sunak left the room, he turned back to say he used to catch the 45 and 45 blue line services in Southampton, where he grew up.

Speaking after the PM’s visit, Mr Rohard said government investment was helping “us to deliver a revolution in the quality and sustainability of public transport in Harrogate and North Yorkshire”.

He added:

“In combination with our existing eight Harrogate Electrics-branded Volvo 7900E electric buses, the first of their kind in Britain, 47 fully-electric vehicles will be in service when our project is complete by this summer. All our bus fleet will be renewed, giving the Harrogate Bus Company the most modern and passenger oriented network in Britain.

The 20 new Mercedes-Benz E-Citaro all-electric single deck buses will be used on route 1 between Harrogate and Knaresborough, route 7 linking Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds, and route 24 between Harrogate and Pateley Bridge.

A further 19 new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400EV fully electric double deck buses will relaunch the company’s flagship route, the 36 linking Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds.

Here are some images from today’s visit.


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Shaking hands with Mr Jones.

 

Managing director Henri Rohard and operations director Vitto Pizzuti show Mr Sunak and Mr Jones round.

 

Meeting drivers and engineers.

 

 

 

Aboard one of the new buses.