PLANS to transform a huge area of Leeds city centre to create a rail hub for the North of England were widely welcomed today.
A report by Sir David Higgins, the chairman of the company building the HS2 high speed rail line for the Government, recommended the existing Leeds station should be expanded to cater for the new services.
It had previously been suggested HS2 services would stop at a new station on land near Asda House but that proposal has now been scrapped.
The revised plan for Leeds will see HS2 lines arriving from the south cross the River Aire close to the existing Victoria Bridge and stopping at platforms forming a T with the current east-west lines in Leeds station.
Although no detailed design work has been done, the plans are likely to dramatically change the area south of the station next to Granary Wharf and could see traffic removed from Neville Street altogether.
The revised plan follows intense lobbying by council and business figures arguing there should be a single station to make it easy to transfer between HS2 and local services to other parts of the region.
Leeds Chamber of Commerce president Gerald Jennings said: “This truly is a once in a hundred year opportunity and we have to be ambitious.
“A single station will not only benefit Leeds but the entire region and provide the integration and connectivity which will maximise economic benefit.
“Clearly there is still much work to do but there is now a huge opportunity to think about creating breath-taking sense of arrival and make more of the waterfront around a new and improved central station.”
The dramatic expansion of Leeds station will be one of the biggest urban development projects in Europe.
Sir David said: “Leeds Station is already the busiest station in the north of England, and also a major transport hub for the city, Yorkshire and the wider north of England as a whole.
“Given the physical constraints of the existing station, and the rising level of demand for services, coming up with a solution that meets all those needs has not been easy, but, thanks to the efforts of the council, the Leeds City Region and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as HS2 and Network Rail experts, we have reached a consensus.”
High speed rail services to Leeds are due to start in 2033.