A senior politician in Leeds has claimed a planned rail station serving Leeds Bradford Airport would be “too far” from the site.
Updated plans to revamp transport links to the airport and nearby sites – including a new road and a “parkway” airport rail station – were unveiled by Leeds City Council last month.
However, the leader of the authority’s Conservatives group Coun Andrew Carter has complained those using the station would have to complete their journey by bus and called for more “ambitious” solutions.
Another senior politician complained that more help was needed from rail operators to increase the capacity enough to accommodate airport-goers.
Coun Carter told the council’s executive board: “I want to see an ambitious proposal come forward that, at its heart, has environmental protection, but also looks at how we can reduce congestion.
“It seems that the parkway station as proposed is too far away from the airport. It means you have to then change your mode of transport to a bus.
“We need to look at how we can somehow engineer the station to be nearer the airport, and how we can, ambitiously, with public money, get people from that station to the airport with a modern means of transport.
“We really have to think out of the box here – there are conflicting agendas and it’s a balancing act.
“I would hope we can also view this in the wider context of transport in the city region as a whole.
“If money is available in large amounts – and I think it is going to be – we have to be as ambitious as we possibly can and wrap into it as many of the issues we face as we can, and that includes access to the airport.”
The proposals for the new station would see the facility sit on the Harrogate line, well over a mile away from the airport terminal.
Council leader Judith Blake (Lab) said: “Ambition is something we’ve expressed repeatedly to secretaries of state and this is one of the areas that has generated a lot of interest from the department for transport.
“Detractors will talk about change of mode in terms of negative and old-fashioned technology, but we have the opportunity to do something special here.
“The airport is important as an employment hub as well – there are a number of jobs there, and that has to be taken into consideration.
“It’s early days to come forward with the detail but we are all very keen to make sure we do make progress on this and have a much better network of transport in that part of the city.”
Lib Dems leader Golton: “I’m not sure Coun Carter’s interjection is particularly helpful, just saying ‘we want something ambitious’, but not saying what ambition looks like.
“Everyone wants to see more people get into the station by train, but the current service that is being promised by the rail operator is not fit for purpose for delivering the modal shift that we want.
“I would like to know if any talks are due to take place with Northern Rail to discuss whether they can introduce more frequent services and longer trains to accommodate the extra demand we hope to achieve on this line.
“If we’re not going to have the surface access changes we were intending, and the airport is still intending to grow, then the current congested transport in the area is due to double in the next 10 years.
“When would local residents get to see what the alternative is for managing that?”
A council officer responded: “We are fully engaged with Northern and Network Rail. But, as we all know, the industry at the moment is in considerable turmoil in terms of what is being delivered.
“We believe there remains an ambition to increase frequencies of services on the Harrogate Line – not at this present moment in time, but a significant increase in the train service in the short to the medium term.
“There is an ambition for further investment in the Harrogate line to bring it up to the standard of some of the other lines – we are not in a place at the moment where we can do that, but we are pushing for investment.”