Cross-city line to Air­port must be favoured op­tion

Rail (UK) - - Open Access | Letters -

We at the Har­ro­gate District Cham­ber of Com­merce strongly ob­ject to sug­ges­tions from the Par­lia­men­tary Light Rail Group, led by Greg Mul­hol­land MP, that the ex­ist­ing heavy rail line be­tween Leeds, Har­ro­gate, Knares­bor­ough and York should be con­verted to light rail - and specif­i­cally to tram-train op­er­a­tion ( RAIL 805).

Our ob­jec­tions to this sug­ges­tion are three­fold: the suc­cess of the ex­ist­ing heavy rail ser­vice; the cur­rent plans for up­grad­ing the line and its fran­chised ser­vices; and the in­her­ent tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial weak­nesses of tram-train tech­nol­ogy.

The need for a rail link to Leeds-Brad­ford Air­port (LBA) is now widely recog­nised, and the Gov­ern­ment has funded con­sul­tancy stud­ies into al­ter­na­tive sur­face ac­cess strate­gies.

It ap­pears that a new di­rect rail line ter­mi­nat­ing at the Air­port would not be tech­ni­cally or fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble within the fore­see­able fu­ture. West York­shire Com­bined Author­ity is cur­rently as­sess­ing al­ter­na­tive road and rail op­tions in de­tail, in­clud­ing the scheme that Har­ro­gate Cham­ber first pro­posed in 2011 - namely an LBA Park­way Station on the ex­ist­ing line near the Bramhope Tun­nel.

The pro­posed Park­way Station would be ad­ja­cent to the ex­ist­ing long-stay car park, and could be served by the ex­ist­ing Air­port shut­tle buses syn­chro­nised with the ar­riv­ing and de­part­ing trains. This scheme has been en­dorsed by the Air­port Man­age­ment in their lat­est Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment Plan Sur­face Ac­cess Strat­egy 2016.

We have de­vised a novel Cross-City Line scheme based on con­nect­ing the Har­ro­gate line to the Brad­ford and Skip­ton lines - serv­ing the pro­posed new station at Leeds Brad­ford Air­port.

This scheme has just been sub­mit­ted to West York­shire Com­bined Author­ity for eval­u­a­tion. It has also been pre­sented to Leeds City Coun­cil, which is cur­rently un­der­tak­ing a wide-rang­ing ‘con­ver­sa­tion’ with busi­ness and res­i­dents to de­velop its fu­ture trans­port strat­egy and plans for trans­port in­vest­ment across the City.

Con­struc­tion of a new Air­port Station on the ex­ist­ing Har­ro­gate line is a rel­a­tively low-cost ‘quick-win’ with­out any of the ma­jor cap­i­tal fund­ing and op­er­at­ing costs (or plan­ning blight) that would in­evitably de­lay the sug­gested di­rect rail link to the Ter­mi­nal - whether heavy or light rail.

The de­sign and con­struc­tion of this new station should only cost around 10% of the £173 mil­lion NGT legacy fund, and it could pos­si­bly be ready for when the ex­ist­ing train fre­quency on the Leeds-Har­ro­gate ser­vice will be dou­bled to ev­ery 15 min­utes and the rolling stock is up­graded to Class 170 DMUs in 2019. Brian L Dunsby, Trans­port Spokesman, Har­ro­gate District Cham­ber of Com­merce

As­pi­ra­tions must in­clude the city’s neigh­bours

An­drew Mourant’s fea­ture ( RAIL 805) re­views the as­pi­ra­tions for 21st cen­tury public trans­port in Leeds, fol­low­ing the New Gen­er­a­tion Trans­port de­ba­cle. As some­one who was not only Leeds born and bred but who also ac­tu­ally trav­elled on the last Leeds tram, I hope I may add to the de­bate.

From the 1890s on­wards Leeds led the coun­try in the de­vel­op­ment of its tram net­work, which was al­ways ex­pan­sive, in­no­va­tive and mod­ern. Per­haps an­tic­i­pat­ing gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture projects fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War, pro­pos­als were put for­ward in 1944 whereby city centre tram routes near the rail­way station would have been put un­der­ground, a highly in­no­va­tive move that was not pro­gressed in the light of the sub­se­quent post-war aus­ter­ity.

Nev­er­the­less, Leeds’ tram sys­tem con­tin­ued to ex­pand with tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions made, un­til a change in the city’s rul­ing po­lit­i­cal party in the mid-1950s brought about a very rapid - and many would con­sider dis­as­trous - clo­sure of the en­tire net­work.

That was largely a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion. And it has been po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions, or in­de­ci­sion, which have ruled ever since. Surely the very key to the suc­cess of Manch­ester’s Metrolink tram net­work has been the way that politi­cians from ten sep­a­rate coun­cils have worked closely to­gether.

As to the fu­ture, at the op­po­site end of the Leeds-Har­ro­gate line,

Har­ro­gate (led by the Cham­ber of Trade and Com­merce) very much wants to see a high-qual­ity, high-fre­quency, elec­tri­fied heavy rail link to both Leeds and York, more trains to Lon­don, and with a station on the Leeds-Har­ro­gate line to serve Leeds Brad­ford Air­port.

A tram-train ser­vice would scup­per such as­pi­ra­tions for eco­nomic growth in and around Har­ro­gate, and Har­ro­gate’s rail users would lose the cur­rent easy in­ter­change within Leeds station.

The idea of a tram-train spur into the air­port, with all its topo­graph­i­cal chal­lenges and prob­a­ble ex­tremely light us­age, is surely no more than a pipe dream.

In any case, the in­cred­i­bly pro­longed time it is taking Net­work Rail to even be­gin work-on-the-ground on the tram-train pi­lot scheme in Sh­effield, for which tri­als have to be com­plete be­fore the Gov­ern­ment will au­tho­rise any sim­i­lar project in the UK, means that any Leeds tram-train scheme is many years from re­al­ity. It will also be in a long fund­ing queue of other ea­ger-to-be-first cities once the ‘in prin­ci­ple’ green light is fi­nally given.

Leeds coun­cil­lors may want to see some so­lu­tion im­ple­mented in short or­der, but the time taken to de­liver the new sta­tions at Ap­per­ley Bridge and Kirk­stall Forge (well over ten years from first stud­ies) in­di­cates that noth­ing can be done quickly, es­pe­cially in a world where end­less busi­ness case stud­ies, public con­sul­ta­tions and public in­quiries slow the plan­ning process.

And given that some na­tional rail projects due for de­liv­ery in the present Con­trol Pe­riod (20142019) are al­ready slip­ping into the next one (2019-2024), which it­self is look­ing over­sub­scribed in terms of the Gov­ern­ment’s will­ing­ness to fund such projects, it is highly un­likely that any rail-based scheme which needs to go through the plan­ning and fund­ing labyrinth could be com­pleted much be­fore 2030.

That would make it more or less 70 years since the last Leeds tram trun­dled its way back into Swinegate De­pot on the foggy evening of Novem­ber 7 1959! Steve Broad­bent, by email

Learn from his­tory and get on with a proper tramway

Much has been writ­ten of the demise of the Leeds trol­ley­bus project, and of the Leeds Su­per­tram be­fore it ( RAIL 805). But these two projects are only the lat­est trans­port dis­as­ters in a long line stretch­ing back nearly 75 years.

In 1945 Leeds could have had a light rail net­work bet­ter than any in Europe. The Leeds City En­gi­neer, with the Leeds Tramways Man­ager, de­vel­oped plans for tram sub­ways un­der the city centre linked to seg­re­gated tramways into the suburbs, many of which al­ready ex­isted with more au­tho­rised.

Sadly, not only were these plans scrapped, the en­tire net­work was de­stroyed by 1959. But not be­fore three pro­to­type sub­way trams had been built - one of them can still be seen in the tramway mu­seum at Crich.

By the 1980s it was be­com­ing ob­vi­ous that Leeds had made a mas­sive mis­take in throw­ing away its tramway net­work (worth many mil­lions at to­day’s val­ues). Trams were once again pro­posed in a plan by West York­shire PTE and Leeds City Coun­cil for routes from the city centre to Cross­gates, Colton and Seacroft, much of which al­ready ex­isted as aban­doned cen­tral reser­va­tions.

In 1989 an en­tirely new con­cept was con­sid­ered, in­spired by the suc­cess­ful fully au­to­matic rub­ber-tyred VAL sys­tem in Leeds’ twin city of Lille, in France. How­ever, the scale of fund­ing re­quired could never be found in a Bri­tish city. Also in the late 1980s West York­shire PTE ob­tained par­lia­men­tary pow­ers for trol­ley­buses in Leeds and Brad­ford, and even in­vited ten­ders.

Then in 1991 a Bill was de­posited in Par­lia­ment for the three-line light rail sys­tem that be­came known as Su­per­tram. Pow­ers were granted in 1993 and plans were de­vel­oped over the next few years, un­til Trans­port Sec­re­tary Alis­tair Dar­ling can­celled it in 2004. Dar­ling’s ex­cuse was the in­crease in costs for tram schemes, but of eight high­way schemes that had much higher cost in­creases, none were can­celled.

Leeds Su­per­tram was es­sen­tially a good scheme, and it would have given Leeds the kind of sys­tem that Manch­ester, Sh­effield and Not­ting­ham now take for granted. But while Manch­ester re­fused to ac­cept Dar­ling’s can­cel­la­tion of all the Metrolink ex­ten­sions, Leeds em­barked on the ill-fated trol­ley­bus project that could never have given Leeds the public trans­port ser­vice that it de­serves and so des­per­ately needs.

It must now be time to put all this fail­ure be­hind us, and get on as rapidly as pos­si­ble with a proper tramway for Leeds. No more end­less stud­ies of op­tions. The only ques­tions that need an­swer­ing are what should an ul­ti­mate tram net­work for Leeds look like, and what is the most ef­fec­tive first stage to­wards it.

The re­cently sug­gested tram-train from Har­ro­gate and Leeds-Brad­ford Air­port, with street run­ning in the city centre, could well be that first step. The sec­ond stage could be the Cross­gates, Seacroft and Colton routes.

I chaired the tech­ni­cal team that de­vel­oped light rail for Greater Manch­ester. Suc­cess in Manch­ester was achieved by strong po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship across all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and all lo­cal author­i­ties, work­ing closely with a multi-dis­ci­plinary team of tech­ni­cal ex­perts. The West York­shire Com­bined Author­ity must now fol­low that pat­tern, and make get­ting a tram sys­tem for Leeds its num­ber one pri­or­ity. Tony Young, Skip­ton

Source: Har­ro­gate District Cham­ber of Com­merce.

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