Proposals to improve road links between Leeds and the region’s airport have been dismissed as “completely inadequate” by one of the city’s MPs.
Stuart Andrew, the Conservative MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough, believes the options presented in a public consultation which ends tomorrow amount to a “piecemeal approach” to improving access to Leeds Bradford Airport.
Far better, he said, is for long-mooted plans to be revived for a new rail link, using the existing Leeds-Harrogate line, which could allow passengers to travel between the airport and the city centre in just nine minutes.
New government investment in infrastructure in the North provides the perfect opportunity to bid for funding such a scheme, Mr Andrew said.
Leeds Council’s transport chief, Richard Lewis, believes improved road connections offer better value for money however and are much more achievable in the short term.
The airport contributes £100m a year to the Leeds City Region economy and is one of the fastest growing in the UK - passenger numbers are predicted to rise from 3.3m to 9m a year by 2050.
Only providing a link road to the airport would be a real shame.Stuart Andrew, the Conservative MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough.
The public consultation on improved road links presents two options for building new roads. Both would connect the A65 with the A658 but from different directions and would varying in cost between up to £50m and £75m.
Alternatively, both existing roads could be improved using up to £15m and involving junctions being upgraded and some road widening.
In his response to the consultation, Mr Andrew said: “With Government investment in northern infrastructure, now is the time to support a rail, rather than road, link. A rail service from LBIA to the existing Leeds, Horsforth and Harrogate line would mean a journey time of as little as nine minutes would be possible from the city centre. This can form part of a more joined-up approach to rail travel across Leeds, making use of the benefits of the upcoming HS2 line and the redevelopment of Leeds station. For this opportunity to be missed, by only providing a link road to the airport, would be a real shame.
He added: “My constituents who have contacted me about this have overwhelmingly agreed that a rail link is the way forward to support the airport in its plans for growth. I would urge the Council to rethink these plans, and liaise with groups like Transport for the North, who have a duty to ensure the very best infrastructure in the north.”
Councillor Lewis, Leeds Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, questioned the economic viability of a rail link but did not rule one out in the long term. He said the road schemes could improve traffic congestion in a way that a rail link would not.
He said: “I don’t think the reality has ever changed in terms of rail links to the airport; around an economic case for it. If you look at Manchester Airport, only 10 per cent of people travel to the airport by rail and obviously Manchester is a more complex airport than Leeds-Bradford.
“But we have always been clear that it’s not a view from our side that we want a road link, not a rail link. A road link is more do-able in the short term. The advice we have had is that a rail link is relatively expensive but if Mr Andrew wants to come to us with a proposal for how it can be done more cheaply then great, come and see me.”