Plans have been unveiled for a new light-weight plastic roof which rail bosses say will "improve the look and feel" of Leeds station in time for the arrival of next year's world road cycling championships in Yorkshire.
The new transparent roof at the region's busiest railway station will be made from ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a type of light-weight plastic, to replace "dark and tired wooden roof" currently in place above the southern concourse.
Construction of the new roof, which Network Rail says is the first of several upgrades at Leeds station to be announced, will begin in the coming weeks with scaffolding in the concourse to support a crash deck below the existing roof.
Officials say any changes to walking routes through the station will be clearly signposted and staff will be on hand to assist with any enquiries.
The development is part of the Leeds Integrated Station Masterplan - a collaboration between the rail industry, Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
And today Leeds City Council agreed the submission to government of the strategic outline business case, which explains how the masterplan will deliver "longer-term transformational changes" at the station.
Improvements worth around £500m will be made to the station to ensure it can accommodate the planned high speed rail lines, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
It followed a report which stated claimed around 5,000 jobs would be lost or displaced from Leeds City Centre, as a result of the new HS2 line work starting in 2024.
The project is expected to be completed in under a year in time to welcome spectators for the UCI Road World Championships which take place in Yorkshire in 2019, with the Elite Men’s race starting at Millennium Square in Leeds on Sunday September 29.
The idea came from the East Coast Main Line Railway Board,which is chaired by Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity and was set up to bring together all elements of the rail industry to focus on improving the rail experience for passengers.
Sir Gary said: "Leeds Station is a main gateway into Yorkshire so it’s crucial people coming to visit the county are given a great first impression of the city of Leeds - now one of Europe’s most dynamic and vibrant cities.
"It was also important to the Board that passengers who use Leeds Station everyday have a station they can be proud of."
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail said: "Last year we established Railway Boards across the country with the simple focus of getting closer to our customers, and making sure that together our industry delivers for passengers.
"I’m delighted to see that Leeds is going to be one of the first places to benefit from the work done by the East Coast Main Line Railway Board chaired by Sir Gary Verity."
Network Rail’s Route Managing Director, Rob McIntosh said: "Having Sir Gary Verity’s experience of delivering for Yorkshire has helped us change the way we think about projects.
"The new roof will be a step change in the visual appearance at Leeds and is the first move towards giving Leeds a world class railway station befitting a city of its status."
During today's Leeds City Council executive committee meeting, senior councillors warned that too much focus on HS2 journey times could risk damaging the argument for high speed rail in the city.
Work is due to start in 2024 on the Leeds leg of the the nationwide high-speed rail project, expected to eventually cost more than £50bn.
The new trains are expected to cut 49 minutes on journeys between Leeds and London, but members of the executive committee have claimed the main reason for the work is to increase capacity on the network.
The council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, transport and planning, Richard Lewis, said: “In 2011, (then-transport secretary) Philip Hammond talked about the network and how it would create better links.
“I feel frustrated that the debate has since become a narrow one about high speed technology. It’s about rail capacity and that is what is important for this city.”
Coun Andrew Carter, leader of Leeds’s Conservatives, said: “I recall the beginnings of the discussions on HS2 which were with the last Labour government. The debate was around the fact that it was not just about speed.
“But now it has centred on journey times. The whole debate is ‘what is 20 minutes off journey times?’ – that is simply a by-product.”
He added that it could open up opportunities for companies to use the rail network for freight.
He said: “A high percentage of goods that come into the ports is going straight onto the road network.
“This will contribute massively to the environment to move goods from the road to the rail network.
“We need to move the debate away from speed and onto capacity. The benefits for the North of England and this city are massive.”