Network Rail is set to invest millions of pounds improving stations and services for Leeds commuters under new plans unveiled today.
The plan includes £13.6m to spend on new platforms at Leeds and £10m to expand capacity at Harrogate as well as improvements at Halifax and Huddersfield and new track at Micklefield allowing trains to be turned around.
Network Rail is looking to spend £240m on reducing bottlenecks on the East Coast Main Line linking Leeds to London and £77m making the route ready for the next generation of high speed trains.
The Government has already promised to electrify the trans-Pennine route to Manchester and deliver the £560m ‘Northern Hub’ improvement project, adding an extra 700 services daily across the North.
Mark Goldstone, from Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The turn back at Micklefield will make significant improvements to overcrowding in the Leeds area, likewise planned investment at Harrogate and Leeds stations are much needed if we are to make the rail experience in the region more satisfactory.
“In particular, the chamber has been a long standing campaigner for improvements to Leeds station, which is one of the busiest in the country; it is plagued by capacity issues and needs a significant facelift if it is to provide the welcome to visitors, commuters and investors that a city like Leeds deserves.”
However the new spending plans were accompanied by a warning that tough choices lie ahead over where money is spent.
Phil Verster, Network Rail’s managing director for the route, said: “Increasingly we have to balance the need to build more infrastructure, run trains on time and manage costs, and in many areas choices will need to be made.”
While the fresh spending by Network Rail was widely welcomed, it comes just days after commuters in the region faced above inflation New Year fare rises.
Richard Hebditch, campaigns director for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Government says fare rises are to pay for new investment and there is new investment going into the railways but the big problem for many is that by increasing the cost of buying tickets fewer people will actually be able to benefit from the investments that have been outlined.
“We think it is time to recognise that, as with roads, there is a role for public spending to maintain and improve infrastructure.”