Nestled conveniently amidst the everyday conundrum of the vast cityscape, the Leeds Railway Station is the busiest in England after London, with around 120,000 passengers passing through its doors daily. It is to meet this increasing passenger demand, and to accommodate the rapid development taking place around the area to its south, which has seen substantial regeneration during the past decade that the Leeds Station Southern entrance (LSSE) was envisaged.
Penny Gilg, Scheme Project Manager, Network Rail explained:
At the moment all of the entrances and exits to the station are to the north, but if you were to come from or go to the south you would actually go down Neville Street, which takes up a considerably longer journey time. So the idea is to open up a new gateway to the south from the station and attract both businesses and residents as well as tourists with this new entrance.
Research as part of the ‘Transport for Leeds’ programme of studies has shown that employment in the city centre in general will increase from approximately 102,000 in 2009 to 108,000 in 2018 and 118,000 in 2030, with these new jobs likely to be created in the expanding southern part of the city centre.
This, coupled with passenger demands, has led to the Leeds Southern Entrance (LSSE) project, the construction work for which was spearheaded in March 2013 as a joint venture by Network Rail and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA). This is under the financial patronage of the Department for Transport as well as West Yorkshire's Local Transport Plan, Network Rail and Leeds City Council.
“This is not just a back door to the station, this is an iconic structure that in design reflects the traditional 200 year old Dark Arches,” emphasised Penny.
Therefore, once completed, the southern entrance - enclosed within a massive glass and gold effect roofing - would not only prove a feat of unique design but is also expected to provide ease of access to the station, for instance from Holbeck Urban Village, the Granary Wharf, Bridge Water Place, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, and developments to the south. Besides shortening the journey time, LSSE anticipates the considerable relief of congestion within the station by diverting an estimated 20% of rail passengers through the new entrance.
“The entrance will be made up of three levels. The first level will be an extension to the station’s western footbridge, then there is a mezzanine level with access via escalators and finally what we call the river deck level,” explained Penny.
Open link bridges will provide ease of access from the new entrance to both banks of the river. What is more, 2 lifts, 4 escalators and stairs will link the new concourse to the footbridge, which will be extended and widened to the south and west over platforms 15, 16 and 17 to meet the new entrance with an upper concourse including automated ticket barriers, ticket vending machines and customer information screens.
“From none at all, the entrance will provide four doorways to the south, two leading on to the Dark Arches, one on to Little Neville Street and another open to Granary Wharf,” explained Penny.
The construction project however has been no easy task, working against forces of nature, but is expected to reach completion by November this year. “We were very much dependent on the river. It largely affects the project not to mention the strong winds affecting use of the tower crane. Because we have no road access all the goods to the site are delivered to Water Lane then transported on pontoons along the river,” added Penny.
“So far we have put in about 1,600 pieces of steel and are currently working on the scaffolding. The next stage is to cover it with four layers of waterproofing and cladding. So even though for the next few months all you see from the outside will be the scaffolding, once it comes off, the new entrance will look totally different,” ended Penny.
Once open, the LSSE will provide a stepping stone to strengthen the link between the burgeoning south and the rest of Leeds’ thriving city centre, enabling ease of access, meeting future passenger demands and offering a more attractive first impression of the city.