West Yorkshire’s “isolated” airport is losing plane loads of passengers to its rival in Manchester because of dire transport links and clogged roads, it was claimed today.
Business chiefs and politicians in Leeds warned ministers that it is vital money is found to improve the creaking transport connections to Leeds-Bradford International Airport.
The Yeadon airport, which employs 2,500 people and generates business of £100m a year, is to undergo a £28m expansion of its terminal and facilities and passenger numbers are expected to continue to increase.
But Pudsey Tory MP Stuart Andrew said it remains the only airport in the country where access to it is along single carriageway roads.
He has thrown his support behind a plan to build a so-called “tram-train” light rail link between the airport and Leeds – although he admits the huge sums needed to fund such a project will not be available in the next few years.
Speaking to the YEP, he said passengers in West Yorkshire are already opting to travel over the Pennines and fly from Manchester rather than risk getting stuck in heavy traffic on the congested roads which connect to LBIA.
He said: “We have got to have a debate – do we want it to be the regional airport and if we do, how are we going to get people there?
“At the moment the transport links are too poor.
“Manchester has a railway to it and significant road links. That means people are travelling across the Pennines to go there from here.”
Bosses at the airport have set aside land for a light-rail station, which they hope would be served by tram-trains.
Popular in Europe, tram-trains operate on conventional rail tracks but can also run on tram lines built into the road.
The proposed tram-train connection would run from the Harrogate (Leeds-Headingley-Harrogate-York) railway line to the airport and would, for the first time, allow a single circular rail route linking Leeds, the airport, Bradford, York and Harrogate.
Mr Andrew recently raised the issue during a high profile Parliamentary debate, saying: “It is an isolated airport, and there is an opportunity for us to look at providing a tram-train link from the Harrogate line up to the airport and down on to the Guiseley line, which would then, for the first time, connect Bradford with Harrogate and offer options for passengers.”
Ian Williams, director of policy at the Leeds Chamber of Commerce said such a rail link would bring “significant benefits” to the Leeds economy.
“The airport is a key economic driver and plays an important role in connecting businesses and tourists to London and other European cities. Improved connectivity would help drive growth and inward investment, as well as enhance the city region’s position as a leading business hub,” he said.
LBIA’s chief executive John Parkin admitted the full price tag of the tram-train proposal was not yet known but that it would cost “tens of millions”.
He said such a transport project is “highly desirable” and would bring “benefits for the wider region”.
However, he also questioned the impact of the airport on traffic congestion and contested one of Mr Andrew’s claims, saying Bristol also has single carriageway access.