Plans to create the biggest station in the North of England to connect towns and cities with a controversial high-speed rail link have been revealed.
A huge upgrade of Leeds Railway Station would connect West Yorkshire with HS2, a £50bn transport project which has sparked criticism over its costs and effect on the environment.
A report by the chairman of HS2 Ltd, the government-funded company behind the rail scheme, recommends a “Yorkshire Transport Hub” to connect existing lines with the high-speed service.
The report by HS2’s Sir David Higgins said a central station would provide easy access to HS2 for people in surrounding towns and cities.
It said: “These plans need to ensure a step change in connectivity not only to Leeds, but to Bradford as a major city in its own right, as well as Wakefield, Huddersfield, and Halifax and the wider West Yorkshire region, while delivering improved links to Manchester and Liverpool to the West, and York, North Yorkshire, Newcastle and Hull to the North and East, and Sheffield and the East Midlands to the South.”
A plan to build a new railway station in Leeds to serve HS2 has been ditched in favour of Mr Higgins’ proposals.
Council leaders welcomed the report after being involved in talks with HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, the Department for Transport and others over the HS2 project.
Kirklees council leader David Sheard said: “This is excellent news as it means that places like Huddersfield and Dewsbury are just minutes from the HS2 network.
“It means that the high speed trains to and from London are connected to the trans-Pennine link joining Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York, Hull, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.”
Councillor Keith Wakefield, transport committee chair, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “Integrating the HS2 station with our existing station will provide a seamless interchange between high speed and classic rail services – and importantly, will allow through trains to enhance services to the city region and beyond.”
New developments were announced on Monday as the government gave more details on the HS2 scheme. No firm decision was made over whether the proposed HS2 station in South Yorkshire will remain at Meadowhall, as originally planned, or be moved into the centre of Sheffield.
Leeds Station is the busiest rail station in the north of England, used by 27.8 million people a year - similar to the figure for King’s Cross in London.
The number using Leeds Station is predicted to rise by 114 per cent over the next 30 years.
Sir David Higgins said the upgraded station would create more than 10,000 new jobs and attract £400m in private sector investment.
He said: “Given the physical constraints of the existing station, and the rising level of demand for services, coming up with a solution that meets all those needs has not been easy, but, thanks to the efforts of the council, the Leeds City Region and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as HS2 and Network Rail experts, we have reached a consensus.”