Tom Richmond: Leeds council off track with its airport rail station plan

I ALREADY feel sorry for international visitors arriving at Leeds Bradford Airport, a depressing experience at the best of times.

Friday, 9th December 2016, 4:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:38 pm

Yet I envy them this ordeal even less if Leeds City Council does eventually build a tuppenny ha’penny £16m railway station, and park and ride facility, to service Yeadon’s glorified aerodrome.

If they do land in the fog or snow, they will invariably face a long wait for passport control because there are never enough staff – and the airport can’t cope with two or more planes landing at roughly the same time, judging by feedback from regular correspondents to this newspaper.

Our new arrivals from foreign lands will then be expected to locate the council shuttle bus which will ferry them a mile or so to the new Parkway station. With me so far?

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Then they will have to hope there’s a wind-proof shelter while they await one of the half-hourly services which operate on the antiquated railway between Harrogate to Leeds.

And this is assuming there’s space on the actual trains for the passengers and their baggage, this being the rail route regularly serviced by two-carriage trains which already can’t cope at peak periods – it’s standing room only – and which led to unprecedented (and embarrassing) queues at Leeds Station when Yorkshire hosted cycling’s Grand Départ in 2014.

Welcome to Leeds – and the same when our visitors bid farewell to the city.

As for airport users from these parts, they will notice no difference whatsoever.

Seriously, if Leeds City Council thinks this is acceptable in Europe’s largest city without some form of light railway as councillors unveil a new £270m transport strategy in place of the trolleybus plan which was mismanaged from start to finish, those concerned are deluding themselves.

Devoid of ambition, or practicality in part because this notorious airport is the highest in the country, I have no confidence that this new facility, a proverbial white elephant in making, will be used by 800,000 passengers a year – the council’s own projection after I asked to see the business case – and I’ll believe the promised new rolling stock when I see it with my own eyes.

I know the council says an underground station at the airport will cost £500m, a sum simply not justifiable in the financial climate, but can it afford not to? After all, this cheap alternative sends out the worst possible message to the rest of the world.

FORGIVE the Leeds bias, but the gridlock in the city has wider repercussions for Yorkshire’s economy.

Let me help Leeds Council leaders. If they truly believe their new blueprint is the way forward, with three new stations and improvements to buses in place of the flawed trolleybus project, put it to a referendum of local voters.

Here’s why. Even though this exercise in democracy will cost money, a positive mandate would, in fact, enable council leaders to move forward with a mandate that they do not otherwise command.

BRAVO Betty Boothroyd for tearing into David Cameron and the ‘lobby fodder’ cronies he appointed to the unelected House of Lords.

Making the case for the number of Lords to be halved to 400, the Dewsbury-born former Speaker of the Commons let rip at a colleague who concluded, meekly, that appointments invariably represent the “personal preferences” of Prime Ministers.

“The abolition of their untrammelled power is long overdue,” she thundered. “Be gone, I say – and I hope Theresa May takes note.”

I couldn’t agree more – provided a reformed Lords still has some place for those wise Parliamentarians, like our Betty, who do command the nation’s respect.

EUROPEAN Union leaders were quick to hail the Lib Dem by-election success in Richmond Park as a decisive victory for Remain supporters.

Really? More than 70 per cent of voters in this West London suburb backed Remain in the June 23 referendum. In this month’s vote, the Remain supporting Lib Dem winning candidate Sarah Olney, and Labour’s Europhile candidate, received a 53 per cent share of the vote. On this basis, support for EU membership is dwindling rapidly.

AFTER mismanaging the Government’s damp squib response to last winter’s floods, why is the incompetent and inept Liz Truss still Justice Secretary after telling Parliament this that prisons should use “barking dogs” to deter drones from dropping illicit substances into the country’s jails?

As I said long before others picked up on the unqualified Lord Chancellor’s many shortcomings, not least a lack of legal training, she’s the one who is ‘barking’. I just don’t understand why Theresa May hasn’t hung her out to dry.

NEXT year is the 20th anniversary of Tony Blair coming to power on the back of his ‘education, education, education’ mantra.

How sad to learn that the only school in the Merseyside borough of Knowsley offering A-level courses is ceasing to do so because it is no longer financially viable.

This matters. Though in Liverpool, Knowsley is part of the so-called Northern Powerhouse. To use Blair-speak, I just hope Theresa May recognises that ‘skills, skills, skills’ is as important, if not more so, than ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

Rather than increasing the speed limit in motorway roadworks to 60mph to cut congestion – a trial is now underway on the M1 near Rotherham – how about Government incentives to speed up the completion of repairs and improvements? It can’t be a coincidence that so many regular road users reacted to this week’s announcement by bemoaning the fact that they never see any work being carried out. That might be preferential to jeopardising road safety because of a lack of urgency on the part of Highways England and Department for Transport.

EX-football manager Harry Redknapp did himself no favours by saying he had heard ‘rumours’ for two decades about a paedophile coach at the centre of football’s sex abuse scandal. He should be explaining why he did not report his concerns at the time. If he can’t answer this question when he next winds down his car window for a yarn with the media, I suggest a long vow of silence or the CPS make his a test-case for proposed ‘duty to report’ laws.