Traffic links ‘vital’ to Leeds Bradford Airport growth

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SORTING out the “plague” of traffic congestion - as well as lobbying for a new rail link - should be top of the agenda for Leeds’s regional airport, political leaders said today.

As revealed in the YEP earlier this week, Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBIA) is set to more than double its passenger numbers in the next decade, and it could TRIPLE those numbers by 2050, according to official Government figures.

And as airport bosses push ahead with their development masterplan, Leeds council has pledged a brand new package of support to drive its expansion and cement its “pivotal” role in the local economy.

A meeting of Leeds city council’s cabinet yesterday heard that while, in previous years, there had been “ambivalence” about the council’s relationship with the airport “for different reasons”, the time was now right to cement a new partnership that would bring benefits both to the airport and the city.

Councillor Richard Lewis, cabinet spokesman on transport and the economy, said discussions about better transport links to the airport had dominated debate over the past two or three years, stressing that “progress is certainly being made on the road link”.

“The rail link is obviously not as easy to achieve,” he said.

“[But] just to reassure people that there is full support for both of those.

“In common sense terms, regardless of what the expert says, we all can recognise that the thing the airport needs is that straight connectivity, that link that goes to the door and can connect the whole region with the airport.”

He added wider economic benefits - such as more local jobs - had to be part of any future vision.

Martin Farrington, the council’s director of city development, said hopes were high that plans for a link road to the airport will be brought forward in 2015/16.

“We are pushing them [airport bosses] as hard as possible on this,” he said.

Council leader Keith Wakefield said the airport has a “pivotal role “in the economy of the city and of the region.

He told cabinet colleagues he has now co-signed an official letter to LBIA bosses, supporting their bid for a new rail connection, which was also supported by the city’s MPs including Hilary Benn.

A “breakthrough” was now much hoped for, he said.

Councillor John Procter, deputy leader of the main opposition Tory group, said getting “clarity” on surface access had been an issue that had bene going on “far too long”, and it was something that “goes hand in hand with any expansion”.

“The reality is that the airport will determine their future, and we have to support them,” he added.

The meeting was told better surface access would be welcomed by local residents in the Yeadon area, who would “not be plagued by streets choked with traffic”.

LBIA is currently used by 3.3m passengers a year.

However figures show it is among the fastest growing airports in the country, growing by 16 per cent in the past five years.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has forecast that LBIA could be serving 7.3m by 2030 and more than nine million passengers per year by 2050.

Leeds City Council - along with other West Yorkshire councils - sold the airport to a private equity firm in 2007.

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