You may have noticed that the Secretary of State has today approved plans for a new southern entrance to Leeds Rail Station.
But are the plans a brave bid to ease congestion at the station – or a £17m white elephant?
“This is excellent news for the thousands of Leeds Rail Station passengers who live or work south of the river,” said Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis. “The new pedestrian entrance will open up new travel opportunities and provide a further stimulus to redevelopment and expansion of the city centre. The Secretary of State’s positive decision means we can push those plans forward, with the aim of starting construction towards the end of 2013 and being open for business in early 2015.”
The much-vaunted Leeds Station Southern Entrance (LSSE) is a new enclosed extension over the River Aire. Lifts, escalators and stairs will take passengers arriving at the new pedestrian entrance to a widened footbridge, which will have customer information screens, ticket vending machines, CCTV, cycle storage facilities and a new ticket gate line above platforms 16 and 17.
Transport chiefs say the area around Little Neville Street will also be pedestrianised and landscaped and Network Rail has submitted an application for improvements to the area around Dark Neville Street.
But when the plans were originally approved by Leeds Council back in March 2010, the much-missed Guardian Leeds blog reported the proceeds of the plans meeting in full. Quoted was the then Headingley Liberal Democrat Cllr James Monaghan:
“This is a [£15m] white elephant and I can’t support it,” said Monaghan, who said it was being built in the wrong place, there wasn’t enough room for taxi pick-ups and criticised the negative impact the development would have on the area as a whole.
Monaghan, comparing Leeds Station unfavourably with Kings Cross, St Pancras and Manchester Piccadilly, added:
“This station is an embarrassment to Leeds, you could use this money better. If you go ahead with this scheme you will not solve any of the main problems the station faces and you will be spending more money in years to come putting right what you should have been today.”
Earlier this year disabled campaigners launched a legal fight against the scheme for an alleged failure to comply with the Equality Act 2010.
The £17.3m scheme, which has been met with scepticism in some quarters over the past four years, has secured £12.4m from the Department for Transport as well as funding from West Yorkshire’s Local Transport Plan and Leeds City Council.
What do you think about the plans? A white elephant or really useful to the daily commute? Join the conversation and have your say in the comments section below or cast your vote in our just-for-fun poll.