Call for investment in Leeds station

Crowds outside Leeds Station
Crowds outside Leeds Station
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LEEDS station saw one of the fastest growths in passenger numbers last year as it handled more than 26 million people, prompting fresh calls for investment to increase capacity and improve facilities.

The station saw a 4.6 per cent rise in passengers, only narrowly beaten by London’s Euston station which saw an increase of 4.9 per cent.

Construction is under way on a new south entrance to Leeds station, due to open in Spring 2015.

But there have long been calls for improvements to the facilities at Leeds and the building’s appearance with business leaders expressing concern it does not present a positive image to visitors.

Work on a package of measures known as the Northern Hub has also begun which will increase the number of rail services on the Yorkshire network, accelerating the growth in passengers further.

Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has run a longstanding campaign for improvements at the city’s station.

Head of policy Mark Goldstone said: “The latest data highlights the growing importance of Leeds station to the local economy however, historically investment has not kept pace with passenger growth and we find ourselves with a station which at peak times struggles to cope and certainly does not provide the “Welcome to Leeds” the city would want to provide.

“The Chamber has lobbied for improvements and in December we were delighted to host a presentation from Network Rail who came back to the city with exciting plans for redevelopment.

“There is more work to do to assemble all of the funding and we will continue to work with Network Rail, Metro, the City Council and others to help secure this essential investment.”

All the top 10 busiest stations reported an increase in passengers in the last financial year, according to the figures published by the Office of Rail Regulation

And the number of people using stations across Britain rose 3.3 per cent.

Outside London, the busiest station was Birmingham New Street where numbers rose 2.7 per cent to 32.09 million followed by Glasgow Central, with numbers rising 2.2 per cent to 27.18 million.

Leeds was busier than its transpennine counterpart Manchester Piccadilly which served 23.15m passengers.

Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “These statistics show more and more people are using the train to get to work.

“The Government needs to support this with affordable fares and better infrastructure.

“That means not just updating our busiest stations, but connecting communities who currently lose out because they are not on the network.

“We also need to devolve more investment decisions away from Whitehall to make the railways more responsive to local needs.”

Waterloo in London was the UK’s busiest station, with numbers rising 1.9 per cent to almost 96 million.

Second was Victoria with numbers rising 1.6 per cent to 77.34 million, with another big London terminus, Liverpool Street, third with a 2.4 per cent rise to just under 58.45 million.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Our railways are a success story, carrying more people than at any time since the Second World War.

“We want to make sure our railways continue to meet the challenge of passenger demand.

“That is why more than £38 billion is being spent over the next five years to transform the network.

“That means better stations and more trains and services, allowing more people to travel quickly and comfortably.”

A spokesman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: “Not just in London but across the country, more people are using the railway, which is helping to generate record levels of revenue to fund better services and improved stations for passengers.”

Liverpool Central and Liverpool Lime Street were the only major stations to see a fall in passengers.

Shadow Transport Secretary and Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said: “Labour’s record of investment in new trains and stations means we continue to see rising passenger numbers in Leeds, but incompetent Ministers risk squandering that legacy.

The franchising process is in chaos and David Cameron has allowed train companies to hit passengers with inflation busting fare rises of up to 9% a year. Labour wants communities to have more control over the railways, so services can be tailored to their needs.”