THE Tour de France put local transport links under strain today, with long delays on rail routes and crowds at train stations.
At one point this afternoon cycling fans and other passengers were warned of delays of at least two to three hours for services from York and Leeds to Harrogate, where the first stage of the race finishes.
Images showed large crowds in the forecourt at Leeds station with long queues outside.
Rail operator Northern Rail said around 60,000 people had been through the station by 1pm.
Taras Melnyk wrote on Twitter: “At the Tour de France in Leeds in the biggest queue in the world.”
One commuter described Leeds station as a “vision from hell” while cycling fans said they had abandoned plans to travel to Harrogate after seeing the queues.
The Rev Danny Walker, vicar of St Paul’s Church in Birkenshaw, Bradford, tweeted: “Queue at Leeds station for Harrogate train literally a mile long. Gave up and came home to watch race on Eurosport.”
Matt Walkley, from Leeds, told the BBC: “We wish we were there but have been so badly let down by the public transport. Particularly the trains. An absolute disgrace.”
There were similar scenes in York. Doug Winter said: “York station is absolute carnage. TdF far more popular than expected.”
David Brown tweeted: “Northern Rail has had two years to plan for the #2014TDF Grand Depart and they have mucked it up. Not a great advert for future tourists.”
Emma Glaseby wrote: “Passengers left on platforms at Headingley & Burley Park as trains full.Northern rail staff just told me it’s busier than expected.”
Kitti Watson tweeted: “A northern rail train on time.... Next joke.”
Northern Rail, which operates the route, said an “awful lot of people” were trying to travel to Harrogate.
A spokeswoman said they had worked alongside rail organisers ahead of the event to prepare for an increase in the number of travellers.
“Everything we have got is out there. We are running extra trains, we are running longer trains and we have hired extra trains.
“We are operating as much as we can. There is an awful lot of people waiting to get there and we are trying to do that as quickly as we can.”
She said the bulk of the queues eased by around 2pm.
Rail bosses later apologised to spectators and thanked them for their patience and for “entering into the spirit of the weekend”.
A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “By 2pm today we had already seen 60,000 more passengers pass through Leeds station than on a normal Saturday.
“Additional trains and longer trains are running to all locations to help meet the increased demand.
“We apologise that there have been delays which have been caused by the sheer volume of passengers wishing to travel.
“We have volunteers and additional staff talking to passengers, advising them of the wait and helping them to weigh up their options and we have successfully moved many thousands of passengers. Skipton station cleared in an hour and Ilkley station also cleared quickly after the race passed through.
“Extra services are running into the night to get spectators home from Harrogate and other Hub locations. We are asking people to plan ahead and not to rush for the last train. These services will be very busy and we thank passengers in advance for their patience.”