Council calls for more clarity from Government as it warns Leeds Station must be expanded to meet demand

The leader of Leeds City Council will use a meeting next week to warn that plans to revamp the city’s public transport will grind to a halt if Government policymakers can’t find a way to expand Leeds Rail Station.

By Richard Beecham
Friday, 7th January 2022, 11:45 am

Regional transport chiefs have repeatedly said the station needs some form of expansion over the coming years, due to a lack of capacity for trains and an increase in passengers.

But the station, thought to be the second busiest in the country, is awkwardly situated between the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal, with any expansion likely to require difficult feats of engineering.

It follows the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, published in November 2021, which sensationally scrapped both the east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail line, and north-south HS2 eastern leg – both of which would have stopped at Leeds and brought with them investment for further station capacity.

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Regional transport chiefs have repeatedly said the station needs some form of expansion over the coming years.

Instead, the Government pledged to electrify some existing lines in the region, and fund a study into how new high-speed trains could get to and from Leeds in the future.

A motion, known as a white paper, is set to be presented to a full Leeds City Council meeting next week by council leader James Lewis (Lab). He will call on the Government to provide more clarity on these plans.

The motion reads: “This council believes the Integrated Rail Plan does not deliver the current Government’s promises to improve rail services for the people of Leeds and Yorkshire and follows decades of underinvestment from successive governments.

“Council is concerned that the plan does not address the shortage of capacity at Leeds Station or the network around Leeds that we know impacts existing local and national rail services today and will affect future growth until it is resolved.

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“Council resolves to work with local leaders across the north and midlands on rail improvements; supports the Executive Board’s response to the plan; and calls on ministers to provide clarity for Leeds residents and businesses on how and when it will finally deliver the promised rail and mass transit improvements our city desperately needs and deserves.”

According to the Government’s plans £200m will go towards public transport improvements in Leeds, with half going towards a future mass transit system, and the remaining £100m to go towards a study into how to link HS2 trains to Leeds Station.

The issue of Leeds Station’s capacity goes back a number of years.

Speaking in June 2020, the chairwoman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) transport committee Coun Kim Groves warned that Leeds Station could become busier than London Kings Cross in just a few years.

She told the meeting work needed to take place sooner rather than later, adding: “The station will be busier than London Kings Cross by 2023. Leeds Station needs to be a world class gateway for West Yorkshire.

“A big problem has also been capacity. I get correspondence from passengers saying things like they have not been able to get from one side of the station to the other due to the overcrowding.”

Councillors will have a chance to vote on whether to adopt Coun Lewis’s motion as policy, at a full Leeds City Council meeting on Wednesday, January 12.

Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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