Three new stations for Leeds in £270m transport investment

Landmark plans to build a new station serving Leeds Bradford Airport have been revealed as part of a £270m transport investment by Leeds City Council leaders. The proposed upgrades by the council also include new railway stations to be built at the city’s White Rose Shopping Centre and Thorpe Park areas.

The transport improvements have been long awaited ever since Leeds’s Next Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus scheme - allocated £173.5m government funding to be spent by 2021 - was abandoned after being rejected by the Department for Transport in May. 

Money from the failed trolleybus scheme will now be used by council transport chiefs partly to fund the latest improvements. Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland gave a cautious welcome to the plans but said that the council needed to deliver. “Leeds was given £173.5 million for a mass transit system, a one off opportunity to finally catch up with other cities,” he said.

“If we are serious about Leeds being a top UK city, which we know it is, we need a transport system to match, but if we don’t take this opportunity now it won’t come round again. So if Leeds City Council waste this money now, Leeds won’t ever get a light rail system and that will hold back Leeds and the current council leaders won’t be forgiven for that by local people,” said Mulholland.

The new Airport Parkway station would be built on the existing Leeds to Harrogate line and also act as a park and ride for commuters. The announcement by Leeds City Council comes ahead of the release of the full transport strategy for the city, which the authority’s executive board will then consider for approval next week.

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “These plans and the full proposals and strategy represent a transformational step change for public transport in Leeds. Providing a connection by rail to the airport has long been an ambition for the city and this plan will deliver it in a cost-effective way, along with two other new stations at the White Rose Shopping Centre and Thorpe Park to help drive forward job creation, productivity and economic growth.” 

The latest improvements will be paid for partly by Department for Transport funding, as well as £100m from West Yorkshire Combined Authority and private stakeholders. It follows an extensive public consultation on transport in Leeds.

Blake said the council was continuing to consider options for a mass transit scheme for Leeds, but that it would not have been deliverable by 2021. Leeds and Bradford Airport is used by 3.5 million passengers every year and contributes an estimated £100m annually to the region’s economy.

Other improvements proposed for the rail network in Leeds would see improved access at Cross Gates, Morley and Horsforth stations and car park expansion at New Pudsey to increase its park and ride capacity.

These upgrades will be made alongside improved rail services to Leeds which will see increases in capacity through longer trains and more frequent services, especially at peak times. The outdated pacer trains will also be withdrawn by 2020.

Steve Gillingham, director of the north for Mace, said: “The Leeds City Region is the financial capital of the north and needs better transport infrastructure to better connect its more than three million residents and more than 100,000 businesses to national and international markets. The improvements to the rail links to Leeds Bradford Airport and to the White Rose Centre and Thorp Park are a significant step in the right direction as they will help to improve the economic development of the city.  

“Better connectivity and capacity means we will have improved access to markets and talent which is essential for growth. In Leeds, as well as elsewhere, we need to see a full modal shift. This means making major improvements to the busiest of road routes whilst at the same time, also encouraging people to leave their cars and take the train or bus. To capitalise on this new strategy the Leeds City Region now needs to receive assurances that it will have access to the funding required to make its strategy a reality.”

Despite the ambitious announcements, some critics say Leeds still risks lagging behind other major cities as the plans mean it will continue to be the largest city in western Europe without a rapid transit system.

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