Transport secretary Philip Hammond has told MPs at the transport select committee that the proposed high-speed rail service between Leeds and London could herald the eventual demise of domestic and short-haul flights from airports such as Leeds Bradford International.
He went on to say that this is the reason he supports the high-speed rail link between London and the North and that eventually he would like to see it extended to the Channel Tunnel.
According to Mr Hammond this switch in mode of transport would have a “transformational” effect on the country’s economy.
However, the commercial director of Leeds Bradford International, Tony Hallwood, disagrees. He is confident that domestic and short-haul flights will still be in huge demand despite a high-speed rail service. For a start, many of the destinations served by Leeds Bradford such as Scotland, Cornwall, the south coast and the Irish Republic are nowhere near the areas served by the rail link. There is also plenty of evidence for the fact that many travellers from the North to places such as Amsterdam do not want to go through London.
Mr Hallwood stated that Mr Hammond’s assertions did nothing to change Leeds Bradford’s aims of increasing passenger numbers, flights and choice of airlines and the strategy for the future remained unchanged.
The Government’s preference for a route which would go from London to Birmingham, Manchester and then across the Pennines to Leeds has been the subject of much criticism and experts have predicted that journey times would not be sufficiently short to boost West Yorkshire’s economy.
The Department for Transport is looking into the possibility of a Y-shaped route, branching off at Birmingham, with one line going to Manchester and the other to Leeds.