Cost of Leeds/Harrogate rail link to airport put at £98m, Bradford-Guiseley to wait for phase two

1024px-LBIA_terminal_1A quick footnote – especially for friends and family in Bradford – to yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons about a possible rail link to Leeds/Bradford airport.

When I heard the figure of £98m that was being bandied about about the cost, I wasn’t sure if it was expensive or …

… but it turns out it only refers to the cost of linking the airport to the Leeds-Harrogate rail line via two spurs, and doesn’t include any rail link from the airport to a line running in to Bradford.

What Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew said during the debate was that he was advocating that the airport be linked to the Leeds-Harrogate line as “stage 1″.

“I had a meeting with the airport last week; the Horsforth spur that I suggested would cost some £50 million, and the Harrogate spur would cost an extra £25 million to £30 million. With all the other costs that would be added, the total is some £98 million,” he said.

It’s not clear where Mr Andrew got his figures from.

There was no mention during the debate of any “stage 2″, where it might go or what it might cost.

But a pledge of sorts on the Bradford connection did come from Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland on Twitter on Wednesday evening:

bradford2Why not indeed? 

Does Messrs Andrew (Tory) and Mulholland’s (Lib-Dem)  phased approach have the backing and blessing of the Labour-run councils in Leeds and Bradford?

Who knows?

Curious, though, that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (the people who are supposed to make all the big transport decisions in the region) have left it to two local MPs to make the announcement for them.

This one is going to run and run.


Airport rail link completists! You can read the whole debate here online in Hansard. They only finished talking around 5pm Wednesday evening and it was online three hours later. Not bad.

Cheers to @StuartLong01 for pointing me to it.

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Leeds/Bradford airport unscathed by airline review … but what next?

Airport_1374071cThey’ll be breathing a sigh of relief up at Leeds/Bradford airport. Monarch airlines announced today that next year it’s maintaining the number of summer flights it’s been running from the airport this year.

With too many planes chasing too few passengers, Monarch has been carrying out a “strategic review” of its operations as it tries to turn itself into a low-cost airline.

Staff, including pilots, have already accepted pay cuts and changes to their conditions in an effort to help secure the future of the travel group, which looks set to be bought later this month by a business that specialises in turning round underperforming companies.

So, after the airline announced it was stopping flying from East Midlands next year, it was no surprise that questions were asked about whether Leeds/Bradford was about to suffer the same fate.

Hence the relief.

The airline is going to be flying 10 routes from LBIA next summer (down one from last year). In come two new ones – Alicante and Venice – out go Lanzarote (Canary Islands), Bodrum (Turkey) and Heraklion (Crete). The end result is that there’ll still be 28 flights a week.

No more chat about new location


No more chat about new location

Where does all this leave Leeds/Bradford airport – apart from relieved?

Funnily enough, Leeds City Council’s bosses are discussing the airport’s future tomorrow.

They’re not announcing anything new, just nailing their colours firmly to the airport’s mast (do airports have masts?).

Gone is the unfortunate chat earlier in the year (instigated by the council – see panel right) about West Yorkshire maybe needing a new airport in a new location some time in the future. It’s now all about helping the airport in Yeadon fulfill its potential.

How big is the potential? It depends on who you believe … if anybody.

The science of forecasting

A graph showing a forecast

A graph showing a forecast

When the airport issued its Masterplan in 2005, it forecast that passenger numbers would almost double to 5.1 million per year in 2016 and to 8.2m by 2030.

Not happening.

A 2009 report by consultants Arup forecast that if terminal facilities were improved, 5.1m could be using the airport by 2013 and very nearly 7m by 2020.

Not happened.

Government projections issued in January last year – and reproduced in a report for tomorrow’s council meeting – say that over 9m MIGHT be using the airport by 2050.

Pie (chart) in the sky? Quite possibly.

All we know is that the airport’s use is growing, but at 3.3m passengers a year, it’s only the 16th busiest in the UK.

Extension to terminal building? Erm …

1024px-LBIA_terminal_1There are two important things that have to happen for any of these predictions to have a cat in hell’s chance of coming true in the long term – and both seem mired in uncertainty.

First, the airport’s facilities have to be expanded and improved.

With a view to doing just that, the airport’s owners, Bridgepoint Capital, were granted planning permission to build a new two-storey extension to the terminal building at the end of 2009 – nearly five years ago.

Two years ago they got the permission extended for a further three years. They’ve now got a year left to get on with the job or face having to go through the whole planning process all over again.

The clock is ticking.

Transport links? Erm …

gettoairportThe second thing that has to happen is that getting to and from the airport has to be made loads less painful.

Everyone has known this for years. Or, in report-speak:

“The lack of a dedicated transport surface access infrastructure has been a theme of long term planning for the airport since it was first identified in the initial surface access strategy and Masterplan in 2,000.”

And it’s still just that – a theme.

The government’s looking at road and rail options to the airport, but no-one knows when it might make up its mind to do anything – or not.

The aviation minister says a rail link is “obviously desirable” but “we have to look at other airports and priorities as well”.

And a rail/light rail link to the airport is listed among the transport objectives of the north’s “big five” council leaders (Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds). They’d like it by 2024 … but they’re not paying for it.

As for better roads to the airport, work has begun “to investigate the detailed investment case and justification for an airport link road,” the report says.

“The work will also identify the range of options available for improving road access and set out the initial options for the routing of a link road with a view to moving towards more formal public consultation during 2015/16,” it adds.

We should probably not hold our breath.

So, having Monarch commit to Leeds for another year will be seen as a relief: having three low-cost airlines (Ryanair, Jet2 and Monarch) is better than relying on one.

But there’s a long, long way to go before the aspirations some people have for the airport – the YEP was talking last week about it becoming “the international travel capital of the North“! – have much chance of becoming reality.

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Council announces final cuts to library hours – West Leeds pretty unscathed

humanities-libraryLeeds City Council has announced the final detail of how it’s going to save £300,000 a year by cutting the hours its libraries are open to the public.

Proposals going to council bosses for rubber-stamping at a meeting next Wednesday (15th October) say that 13% of library opening hours are to be cut citywide (I make it 12% – see below).

The council says the cuts have been targeted at times when demand is at its lowest, and that over 98 per cent of users will be unaffected.

It says the alternative – such as axing more libraries (13 got the chop in 2011), stopping the mobile library service or not buying new books – would have a greater impact on local communities.

The £300,000 savings will be made through reduced staff costs.


A report drafted for the meeting says that the original proposals on where opening hours would be cut library-by-library have been modified in light of a public consultation this summer in which over 7,200 people took part.

In the consultation, users were asked which of two options for reducing hours at their local library they favoured. There wasn’t a “neither of the above” option.

Little surprise then that only 4.6 per cent of those who responded “indicated that they had a preference for neither of the options presented which suggests that they felt there should be no reduction to library opening hours”.

Consultations, eh? Dontcha just love ‘em.

West Leeds


Rachel Reeves MP: “none of the above”

West Leeds – where there was a vocal campaign against any reduction in opening hours spearheaded by local MP Rachel Reeves – has come out of the process pretty much unscathed.

It’s been decided since the consultation that the library in Armley is one of three of the city’s 36 that are going to be exempt from the cuts, because they’re participating in a pilot of a new council plan to develop “community hubs”.

And Bramley – which was facing closure all day Thursday – could end up with no cuts too after a local group proposed holding a “schools and community day” at the library.

Ms Reeves is pleased.


Methley mystery

Mystery still surrounds the fate of the city’s least used library, in Methley, which, for some reason, wasn’t part of the consultation. Latest figures show it was only getting 80 visitors a week last year.

“In the short term the opening hours will remain as current. Planning with the councillors for the longer term future of Methley library is ongoing,” the report says rather ominously.

Below is the final list of how many hours your library is going to be cut. If you want to know the detail of the changes (what days, times are affected), they’re half way down the page here.


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Yorkshire Evening Post to be relaunched … again


The Jan 2013 new look

The Yorkshire Evening Post is going to be relaunched again, two years after its last relaunch.

The paper got a new look and a number of new supplements in January 2013 in an effort to make it “brighter and fresher” for its readers.

Since then sales of the paper’s print edition have continued to fall – they’re down 23%, from 31,200 a day in the second half of 2012 to just under 24,000 in the first half of this year.

News of the latest revamp came in a job advert placed by the paper’s owners Johnston Press for a new news editor.

“It is an exciting time for the Yorkshire Evening Post which will undergo a relaunch of content and design in January, and you will play a leading part in influencing that work, with a heavy reliance on a new, modern approach to our content generation, both in print and online,” the advert says.

Modern approach to content generation?

What could they mean?

Johnston Press chief exec Ashley Highfield – under whose leadership the company has shed 1,300 staff in three years – is a big fan of what they call “contributed content”.

In an interview a couple of months ago he spoke about the “percentage between what we write and what our readers contribute” shifting, using the example of a gardening column, written by the owner of a local garden centre, for the Harrogate Advertiser.

If you fancy having a crack at the job (the news editor one, not the gardening one), you can apply here.

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South Leeds – final round at council-run golf course set for end of October

middletonA council-run golf course in south Leeds which has been running at a loss of over £100,000 a year looks set to close at the end of next month.

Council bosses are going to discuss the fate of the Middleton Park course at a meeting next week, and the recommendation from officers is that the course be closed for play from 31st October and the 42 hectare site be turned into parkland.

The Middleton Park course and the Gotts Park course in Armley were earmarked for closure in budget cuts drafted in December 2012, but were later reprieved for a year to see if a way of keeping them going could be found.

Since then the council has carried out public consultations over the future of the two courses, which, it says, ran at a total loss of at least £214,000 in 2013/14.

The future of the Armley course is less certain for the moment, according to a report going to the meeting of the council executive.

The Gotts Park club have submitted plans to take over the running of the course after setting up a new community interest company. If the plans don’t prove viable, the course could be turned into a country park that would be free and open to the public, the report says.

Savings of £170,000 a year

The council says dropping its responsibility for the courses would save it £170,000 a year from 2015-16 onwards. Savings made before then would be reinvested in the new parkland and used as match funding to secure grants.

Two separate consultations were carried out with the public, one at the courses themselves, another with the general public as represented by the council’s “Citizen’s Panel”.

“Consultation undertaken at the point of play at each course demonstrated around 95% opposed to the proposal to close each course,” the report says.

“However, when broader public opinion was tested through the citizen’s panel, 87% were in favour of establishing semi-natural parkland, including around 73% of those who stated that they play golf,” it adds.


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Sales down again, web traffic up: how long have Yorkshire’s daily papers got?

Ladybird 1Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: sales of all of Yorkshire’s daily newspapers continued to fall in the first half of this year while web traffic was way up.

It’s such a familiar story that you can copy and paste it every six months when the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) releases its latest figures, just amending the size of the fall in print and the “boost” in online.

So here are the latest amendments:

Against a backdrop of a 13.5% year-on-year fall across the UK for regional dailies, the three papers hardest hit in Yorkshire were the Doncaster Star (down 28.8% to just 1,026 sold daily) the Yorkshire Evening Post (down 17.2% to 23,959) and the Sheffield Star (down 17.2% to 23,238).


Since the second half of 2008 (the earliest detailed figures I can find without coughing up for a subscription to ABC) the ‘Sheffield Star’ and the ‘Evening Post’ have lost
HALF of their daily sales
, with Bradford’s Telegraph and Argus not far behind.

Ladybird 5Everyone has known for ages that something will have to give some time soonish – unless papers can find a way of making enough money out of giving their news and other content away for free online.

But when? How long have they got to find the magic money tree?

I thought I’d project the latest figures into the future. If print sales continue to fall at their current rate (2011-14), how many papers will be being sold in three, six, nine years time?


(projection based on % sales fall 2011-14 for each paper)

Ladybird 7

Which means, I reckon, that I’ll most likely still be cutting and pasting this story in 2017, but probably not in 2020, and definitely not in 2023.

For completists, below are the papers’ online stats for the first half of 2014.

It’s all good news, now to generate some cash …




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Footfall booming in Leeds city centre after Trinity launch? Hang on, …

Street4Footfall stats. For policy makers with a faith in economic recovery through SHOPPING, their “partner” developers and the PR machines of both, they’re the gift that keeps on giving.

So it’s good that we now get to examine the stats for ourselves, courtesy of the council, which now posts the raw data on its Leeds Data Mill website.

Except that once you look, nothing seems as clear as the PR people would have us believe.

Take Leeds city centre. Been doing well of late, hasn’t it?

annual2010-13Erm. Sort of.

The data shows that total footfall (recorded at the eight council cameras across the city centre) fell from 2010-12, but that the decline stopped in 2013 – the year the new Trinity shopping mall opened – when we got a 0.27% rise over the figure for 2012.

A rise it is (just), a boom it ain’t.

And the figure for 2013 is still 5.8m down on that for 2010, a sign (if we needed one) that the recession is still with us and many of us still feel the pinch.

Centre of shopping gravity shifted

What about Trinity in particular? Isn’t it the perceived wisdom that it’s been having a really positive effect on the number of people visiting the city centre?

That was certainly the hope.

No better gauge of its effect than the data for the year before the mall opened, and the year after.

And the result? It doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the city overall.


The overall numbers are flat.

What’s been happening is that there’s been a shift in the parts of the city centre people have been visiting.

camerasupdownOn the right are the eight cameras. The black circles are the cameras where footfall was up in the year after Trinity was launched, compared to the year before.

The red circles are the cameras where footfall fell over the same period.

So, a massive boost of 3.3million at the bit of Briggate where Trinity’s entrance is …

… but an equally massive drop recorded by the two cameras on Commercial St and the one on the northern side of Albion St.

Dortmund Square has been holding its own and Macdonald’s on the top of Briggate did well in 2013 too.

The evidence chimes with anecdotal reports voiced by disgruntled retailers on BBC Radio Leeds a couple of weeks ago, who were complaining that the city’s centre of shopping
gravity had shifted and left them out on a limb.

Down in the first six months of 2014

1st6months2014So what’s happening now that Trinity is no longer a novelty?

If you look at the first six months of this year (click on the panel on the right), total footfall recorded by the cameras is a million down on the same period for 2013.

Even the Briggate camera by Trinity is down, probably not surprising given the 2013 figures included the initial fever with which people visited the new mall.

The trouble is none of this is a science

How so?

Here’s an example.


Camera-free visit to Leeds

What happens if I’m on a day out on the train to Leeds and I …

… come out of the station, head along Boar Lane to the Corn Exchange

… pop in to Kirkgate  Market

… head along King Edward St (maybe to Harvey Nicks for a cuppa),

… cross Briggate, wander along Albion Place

… up Albion St to the Headrow (past the city’s only bookshop),

…. along the Headrow to the Art Gallery

… and back to City Square via the Lapdance Quarter?

I wouldn’t be seen by a single camera.

Hmmm. Maybe time for a rethink on where they’re placed.


Camera as used by Experian FootFall, the “market-leading pedestrian counting services provider”

Are there other footfall cameras in the city centre that might help give a more accurate picture?

They’ve got some at Kirkgate Market (but the council doesn’t publish the data), Trinity has got its own, as does the St John’s shopping centre. They’ve probably got some at the Merrion Centre too. But the private ones don’t share the results.

(I’ve sorted the data into spreadsheet with month-by-month, camera-by-camera tables from mid-2009 to the latest figures up to the end of June 2014. If you want a copy to play with, give me a shout)

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