A new parkway station connecting Harrogate, Leeds Bradford Airport and London is a “game changer”, according to Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel.
Following successful talks chaired by Sobel with key heads of Leeds Bradford Airport, Network Rail, LNER (formerly Virgin Trains East Coast), Northern Rail and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the £23 million project has been given the go-ahead. The station will be placed on the national rail line, running 6 trains a day between Harrogate and London, as well as offering a quick and easy connection to Leeds Bradford Airport.
The station, earmarked for 2023, would be built in Horsforth and is intended to optimise taxpayer funds by extending existing mainline services. It is proposed to consist of 300 parking spaces and would provide dedicated airport car park bus services, in addition to the hourly and bi-hourly buses to Bradford Interchange and Leeds Station respectively. Once completed, the parkway would see huge benefits for locals and is hoped to bring substantial economic growth to the area. Improved transport links, particularly to the airport, is anticipated to stimulate job creation and investment, as well as shortening commute times significantly. Those travelling from Harrogate to Leeds would see their journey time cut from 35 minutes to just 12, which in turn is hoped to reduce traffic on the A660.
“The obstacles to delivery are few” and “Construction…needs to happen quicker”.
However, Sobel’s statements about the station are part of much longer discussions on transport links to Leeds Bradford Airport. The rail line is part of a 15-year growth strategy by the airport dubbed ‘Road to 2030’ which outlines, among other things, a “commercial hub”, a hotel, and a parkway which was originally planned to have tram-train and light rail options. Early proposals to build a station at the airport itself were scrapped “due to the challenging topography”. Airport bosses, however, have become frustrated over the project’s timescale. According to a spokesman, “the obstacles to delivery are few” and “construction…needs to happen quicker”.
The station will be funded using a portion of £173.5 million granted to Leeds by the government, money previously allocated to the New Generation Transport trolleybus scheme in 2015. The trolleybus scheme was a proposed 14.8km electric bus network through the city centre powered by overhead cables. It was subsequently scrapped, with the money needing to be allocated elsewhere. Two further stations have been proposed using this ring-fenced money: one at the White Rose Shopping Centre, and one in the Thorpe Park business area on the outskirts of Leeds.
Sobel’s recent meetings have had extremely positive outcomes, with LNER commercial manager Paul Smith expressing the company are “very excited to be involved”. Despite this, the scheme has a way to go, with Leeds City Council’s plans to go out for further public consultation in the new year.