Making Transport Better in Leeds: Does Bradford Have The Answer?
How do we make transport better in Leeds? asks James Blythman …
My theory is that Bradford is the key.
So how does that work I hear you ask? Well, it’s quite simple: Bradford Cross-rail.
Say that again?
Leeds continues to suffer from chronic congestion in its road networks and rail capacity issues at Leeds City Station. Bradford continues to suffer from its rail and road systems not being fully plugged into national systems. Both cities roads have been named and shamed again recently in the Tom-Tom most congested places report.
Leeds City Region is fairly polydemic (meaning inhabiting more than two regions: Ed) in regards to labour but it simply does not have a rapid transport system to support it. Hence a major reason towards why we have severely clogged up roads.
The road system around Leeds has been rapidly expanded during the last 50 years. The planners simply can’t keep up with the demand. Around 50 years ago also saw decommissioning within the rail system. This included both lines and stations being removed. In hindsight this has been widely seen as shortsighted. The last 20 years has seen some of these decisions overturned with the reintroduction of stations. There are still a lot of possibilities for new stations. It is also still feasible for some old lines to be reintroduced. However, there is a massive hindrance. That is capacity at Leeds City Station.
This is because Leeds is essentially the hub of rail transport for West Yorkshire. It has major lines both terminating there and passing through it. These include Transpennine, Cross Country, Midland Mainline, East Coast Mainline and Calderdale services. To get anywhere in West Yorkshire or beyond you have to go into Leeds to change to get to the place you want to get to. Its bit like the London Underground conundrum. That you have to go into central London to get a connection to anywhere else. The transport Tsars of London are spending billions trying to partially alleviate this idiom through Cross Rail.
I believe West Yorkshire needs the same.
Leeds City Region and Metro should be exploring a Cross-rail project in Bradford. What does this mean? Well it’s not a new proposal and there is an action group who are lobbying for it. Bradford currently has two stations which are not linked and serve different, mainly local, rail networks. Cross-rail would see them linked and allow trains to travel through Bradford.
This would enable Bradford to take some of the strain from Leeds through taking increased national significance. For instance it would open up new routes from the south to Scotland via Skipton and Carlisle. This could be exploited by existing East Coast and Midland Mainline Services. Also a new east to west cross country service could be introduced. It would also enable direct links from the south and west via Bradford to the airport. Building on this a new Transpennine service could be constructed going via Bradford, Leeds Bradford Airport and Harrogate providing a new link between the North West and the North East.
In turn this would reduce the strain on Leeds which could enable an expansion in local stations and services. Perhaps even reintroducing old lines (where short sighted councils haven’t allowed old tracks to be built on) to, for example, Wetherby and Otley. Benefits could include connecting some of the regions tourist attractions into the rail system. Fairburn Ings, Bolton Abbey, Armley Industrial Museum, Kirkstall Abbey and the Middleton Railway to name a few. It would enable any rail link to Leeds Bradford International Airport via Leeds to run frequent services from a variety of starting points.
Furthermore, it could form the basis of a new housing strategy a la 19th Century London. New villages and towns could be formed around the railway. Stations could be reintroduced in urban centres such as Hunslet, Beeston, Armley and Stanningley to both help reduce congestion and stimulate local economies. These could be complemented by park and ride style stations near major roads or motorways. It could enable commercial and leisure destinations such as Lawnswood Business Park and the White Rose Centre respectively to be transformed into true town centres.
So is there a catalyst? Well yes. More than one. High Speed 2 will be coming to Leeds in 20 years time. This provides an opportunity to build wider improvements to the local rail network. There is also increasing Government focus on investing in infrastructure to spur economic growth. A similar scheme is beginning elsewhere in, dare I say it, Manchester. The Northern Hub project is seeking to improve capacity in Manchester through linking Victoria and Piccadilly railway stations.
Probably the most important enabler is the formation of Leeds City Region and the part decentralisation of transport funding. Our local authorities have complained for years about being starved of adequate funding. Now they have more control lets see what they can do – together.Tags: Bradford, cross-rail, leeds, Transport