From clumsy to lacklustre
When the Leeds NGT ‘clumsybus’ scheme was cancelled last year, the government agreed the city could keep the £173m allocated for the trolleybus to spend on ‘other transport improvements’. On 26 January, transport secretary Chris Grayling MP told business leaders at the Leeds Chamber Annual Dinner that the money “will make a real difference to transport in this city”.
But how is the money to be spent? At the moment, there does not seem to be any public explanation, but there are uncosted plans for new railway stations at ‘Leeds Airport parkway’ (somewhere on the Leeds to Harrogate railway), Thorpe Park, and the White Rose Shopping Centre.
Would these stations “make a real difference to transport” in Leeds? According to a 2014 Atkins report, the proposed station site at the White Rose Centre
[New Railway Stations in North and West Yorkshire Feasibility Study for West Yorkshire Combined Authority]
was felt to be unsuitable due to the changes which would be needed to the track and signalling equipment. The site is located on a curve with a high line speed and a high degree of cant. Constructing a station at this location would be costly.
The site is also relatively close to Leeds City Centre which means that the
impact of stopping services in this area would be detrimental to journey
times for existing passengers and line capacity is already constrained. Morley
and Cottingley stations are both less than 1.5 km either side of the
White Rose Centre.
The Atkins claim that ‘new stations close to Leeds City Centre would be detrimental to journey times for existing passengers’ would probably hold true if re-worded: ‘new stations would be detrimental to journey times for existing passengers’. One could make a perfectly good case for building new stations in the city centre ‘corona’, for example, at Marsh Lane, and Armley.
The indications are that a Leeds Bradford Airport parkway station would make next to no difference to traffic congestion. So what is the value for money, compared to just running a better bus service from the city centre to the airport?
One of the biggest obstacles to the creation of an S-bahn-type rapid transit in Leeds is the planned HS2 terminus just south of City station. If built, it would probably prevent four-tracking of the railway out of Leeds towards Neville Hill.