Last week, I visited Leeds-Bradford Airport to hear its vision for its future, and especially its plans to improve transport connectivity between the airport and the city centre, as well as the economic opportunities that this presents to the entire Leeds City Region.
This is outlined in the airport’s recently published Masterplan.
Leeds City Council has recently run a consultation to determine which of three proposals for improving road access to the airport should be pursued. I do, however, have some concerns about the proposals and the consultation itself.
While neither the airport nor the proposed link roads lie in my constituency of Leeds West, I feel that it is important to highlight the issue of connectivity between one of the fastest-growing airports and one of the fastest-growing economies in the UK.
My primary concern is that the recent council consultation on the issue of airport to city connectivity was exclusively dedicated to considering road options that will, at best, provide minor short term solutions to a more chronic problem of access between the airport and Leeds. This is in contrast to the more rounded vision outlined in the airport’s Masterplan, which calls for investment in a rail link to Leeds-Bradford Airport in addition to a new link road.
The fact that a rail link was not featured as part of the council consultation to improve connectivity to the airport shows a lack of ambition in envisioning a comprehensive plan for connecting the airport to centres of population and businesses that can be sustained for decades to come.
I am also concerned that there has not been enough information about what the roads could provide in terms of lowering the extremely high levels of private transport used to access the airport.
Would a new link road guarantee more frequent buses from Bradford and Leeds, with larger capacity for passengers?
I welcome any efforts to ensure that a possible new link road would be able to keep up with the projected rise of passengers in the next few years but the Leeds-Bradford area will still be falling behind its Northern competitors, like Manchester and Newcastle, that have more robust links between their centres and airports through frequent rail services. This is especially important given the planned expansion of terminal capacity in the next few years, as this presents the airport with an excellent opportunity to further increase passenger numbers. However, there is little use for an expanded airport if passenger numbers remain limited by poor transport links.
I also welcome the decision of the soon-to-be new operator of the Harrogate Line services, Arriva, to double the number of services in the next couple of years and improve rolling stock quality and capacity.
With the Harrogate Line just over a mile away from the Airport, not acting to secure a rail link now would be a lost opportunity for businesses and passengers.