Businesses across Yorkshire have called for a full-scale revamp of Leeds City Station to help cope with the expected increase in passenger numbers and the HS2 scheme.
Chambers of Commerce in Leeds, York and Bradford have urged the Government to scrap plans for a separate HS2 station near to Asda House, arguing the city needs “a single station capable of accommodating the significant growth in existing rail services and for future high speed services to run through the station rather than terminate in Leeds”.
Leeds City Station - the busiest in the north - is expected to reach full capacity in the next 15 years and demand set to double over the next 25 years to over 60 million passengers a year.
The current published HS2 scheme proposes a new station is built south of the river to accommodate high-speed rail but earlier this year Chancellor George Osborne asked Sir David Higgins, HS2 chairman, to re-look at Leeds station options - including a major redevelopment of the city’s station.
Sir David’s recommendations are due to be announced this autumn but in a report out today, the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has emphasised the need to integrate the existing rail network with high-speed lines - including the east-west HS3, now known as ‘TransNorth’ rail - into one station.
Leeds Chamber president Gerald Jennings said: “The Chamber has been a long-standing supporter of HS2 but the proposed plans to site the station so far from the existing station would be a missed opportunity to provide the seamless and integrated network required to benefit the entire region.” He added: “Station capacity is already stretched so clearly further investment is required just to ensure existing national, regional and local rail journeys can be accommodated.”
While acknowledging there will be financial and engineering challenges within the proposal, the report said this represents a “once in a 100-year opportunity”, adding: “We must be ambitious and ensure Leeds has a station that provides a sense of arrival befitting one of the largest commercial centres in the country.”
Mr Jennings added: “For many of our members the journey from Kings Cross-St Pancras to Leeds is a stark reminder of the disparity in investment between London and the north. Leeds station must be viewed as a piece of national infrastructure and investment prioritised accordingly.”
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said she “fully supports the call for the integration of the HS2 requirements with the existing station”.
An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said Leeds station options are currently being developed with Network Rail, local authorities and business groups, adding: “The shared ambition is for a modern hub station with better connections for Leeds and the whole city region. Integrating plans for better transport links with the city’s regeneration strategy increases the potential to attract long term jobs, growth and investment to the region.”