A new rail link for Leeds Bradford Airport could get the provisional go-ahead as soon as spring next year, the YEP can reveal.
Harrogate Chamber of Commerce has asked Transport Secretary Teresa Villiers for a decision, in principle, on a proposed new rail system connecting Leeds, Harrogate and York.
The plans include a new station – Leeds International Airport Parkway – based near the Bramhope Tunnel, between Horsforth and Weeton, which would connect to the airport by a park and ride scheme. New stations with park and ride schemes are also being put forward for Pool, Butterskye Bar and Arthington.
If Ms Villiers agrees in principle, it is hoped detailed costings and other design work could begin in earnest.
Brian Dunsby, chief executive at the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce, told the Yorkshire Evening Post the new system would bring massive benefits to the region.
He said: “It has massive economic consequences for the region.”
Mr Dunsby added: “The airport is poorly served by rail and we need to improve connections from towns like Harrogate and Leeds.”
The Chamber’s plan also involves electrifying the line – putting in a ‘third rail’ – and increasing the speed of the trains so that extra stations are possible without extending journey times.
The rail line would be serviced by reconditioned former London Underground trains when they are decommissioned in 2014.
However, the current plans fall short of those outlined in the airport’s own ‘masterplan’ which had envisaged the construction of a railway line north of the airport from the west, at Guiseley on the Wharfedale line, to the East, the Harrogate line between Horsforth and Weeton.
Leeds city councillor, Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) said: “The station would undoubtedly help the residents of Yeadon. There’s road congestion and many visitors park up and leave cars for weeks-on-end to avoid car parking charges at the airport. But we need to consider all options, the scheme proposes an electric third rail system and there may be problems getting other types of trains to run on it.“
Simon Bowen of Friends of the Earth gave the proposals a cautious welcome. He said: “We welcome the plans but the airport will remain a major traffic generator because it plans to increase passenger numbers to five million over the next five years.”
Harrogate Chamber of Commerce expects a decision on its outline proposal from the Department for Transport by Spring 2012.