YORKSHIRE’S biggest airport today set out a 15-year growth strategy which includes new rail connections to Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate and York - despite a report last week branding a conventional train link “technically impossible”.
Leeds Bradford Airport published a “strategic development plan” which includes a “commercial hub” and hotel, improved terminal buildings, upgraded road access and a “parkway” rail station with tram-train and light rail options.
The wish-list document, Road to 2030, is now the subject of a public consultation.
A parkway station is one which serves a park-and-ride site rather than a town. Last week’s report from consultants, which said the gradients around the airport were too steep for conventional trains, put the cost of a tram-train at up to £360m.
A new train link is listed by the airport as one of its four main objectives.
Chief executive John Parkin said: “We are planning to continue our growth to support the progress of the Leeds City region and maximise the economic benefit our airport can provide as the international gateway to Yorkshire.
“We are now seeking comments and suggestions from the local community to inform the next stage in the Masterplan’s development.”
Leeds Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: “The significance of Leeds Bradford Airport to the regional economy should not be underestimated. It is expected that this growth and developments at Leeds Bradford will lead to the creation of a modern, attractive and vibrant gateway to Leeds and the wider Yorkshire region.”
Last week, Coun Keith Wakefield, chairman of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said tram-trains linking to the existing rail network at Horsforth could be “the best solution to overcoming challenges presented by the airport’s location and topography and locating a station close to the existing terminal building”.
Tram-trains are light-rail vehicles similar to trams that can run on exclusive lines but also share main-line railway lines with conventional trains. They are widely used in Europe and in North America.
A trial of tram-train technology is due to begin in South Yorkshire in 2017 where the same vehicles will run on conventional rails from Rotherham to Meadowhall before joining the Supertram network to go into Sheffield city centre.