The findings from consultants suggest the gradients around the airport are too steep for conventional trains, although tram-train technology might be able to provide a new link to the airport but at a cost of up to £360m.
And their report also argues that the airport will need improved road connections regardless of whether alternative links are developed.
Critics of proposals to upgrade existing roads or build a new road to the airport have previously argued that a rail link should be considered as an alternative.
Coun Keith Wakefield, chairman of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said: “This study has confirmed 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 and West Yorkshire Combined Authority sees them as a way of achieving its ambition of developing an integrated Metro-style transport system for West Yorkshire and the City Region.”
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.
A public consultation on improving road links to the airport closed yesterday. Options included the building of a new road and upgrading the existing A65 and A658 at costs of between £15m and £75m.
The airport is the highest in England and its location and limited links to the wider transport network have long been regarded as major obstacles to its growth. It faces competition from Robin Hood airport in Doncaster.