Leeds station 'needs massive redevelopment for Integrated Rail Plan to work'
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Huw Merriman made the observation during an evidence session on Wednesday with Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson after the committee had been told of the existing capacity problems at the station.
The station is currently running at 105 per cent capacity, meaning it is dealing with more train services than it can technically cope with - resulting in frequent delays.
It had been planned that a new T-shaped station would be developed as part of the arrival of HS2 and keep high-speed trains separate from local services but in November, the Integrated Rail Plan scrapped the idea of the HS2 line reaching Leeds.
A £100m study into how to run HS2 services to Leeds is to be launched in its place.
During the evidence session, Mr Merriman asked Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail: "How can you deliver more capacity into Leeds without delivering more platforms? At the moment, a lot of the trains from London are stuck there for 10 minutes."
Sir Peter said: "That's why we need to look at the station."
Mr Merriman replied: "Ultimately, if you haven’t got a new design to the station with more platforms the IRP can’t be delivered.”
Sir Peter said in response: “I think we are on the same side.
“Leeds station is full. Everybody knows it is full. It is also physically not capable of taking HS2 trains.”
He said work was also needed at Leeds station to allow TransPennine route upgrades to go ahead.
There are £500m plans to speed up train services between Leeds and Bradford as part of the IRP from the current 20 minutes down to 12 minutes, while Mr Stephenson said Boris Johnson is committed to HS2 services reaching Leeds.
The select committee recently visited West Yorkshire as part of their inquiry into the Integrated Rail Plan and Mr Merriman questioned how achievable line improvements to allow for faster trains between Bradford and Leeds will be in reality.
Mr Merriman said: “What struck us is you’ve got two stations, Bramley and New Pudsey, on a short stretch of line.
“Most of the slower aspects to it are actually as you are approaching Leeds.
“So without a massive unpicking of the junctions coming into Leeds it didn’t strike me and indeed some of those who gave evidence that it would be possible to do it.
“My concern is, can you only do 12 minutes by doing something much more expensive and radical than actually this plan is?”
Nick Bisson, director of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Department for Transport, said there was “plenty of capacity” to run non-stopping services between Bradford and Leeds to reach the 12 minute target, in addition to stopping services.
But he accepted the proposals were subject to a business plan being agreed that could potentially result in slower services.
“If Network Rail come back to us and say, ‘You know what we could stop at 12-and-a-half minutes and we could save a significant amount of money then we will look at that.
Mr Merriman said: “The concern must be that to get to 12 minutes you’ve got to spend such a huge amount of money at Leeds station that actually there’s no business case in which case the 12 minutes that Bradford residents think they are getting to Leeds actually won’t get delivered.”
Mr Stephenson said: “Obviously the Treasury has said this is the funding envelope and we are happy with this plan, the plan has got Government support.
“But all these will have to go through all the usual Treasury approvals, all the usual mechanisms and go for final sign-off but this is the plan. Therefore hopefully and particularly in Bradford where significant work has already been conducted by Network Rail, we would hope there are no nasty surprises.”
Mr Bisson added: “Obviously for Leeds the critical thing is an answer to the HS2 question.
“And for Bradford, actually these plans coupled with Leeds station coupled with what’s on the East Coast could drive a pretty significant reduction in the London journey time and a much more regular service. That’s one of the things we want to look at as this is developed.”
Mr Merriman said: “All roads seem to lead to a massive redevelopment of Leeds station for this to be delivered.”
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