September 9, 2016
by Neil Turner
Earlier this summer, Yorkshire gained a new railway station on the outskirts of Leeds. Called Kirkstall Forge, it’s located on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines which offer commuter services from the Aire and Wharfe valleys into Leeds and Bradford. And on Wednesday, I went to have a look at it.
Kirkstall Forge gets its name from a large forge that used to exist on the site. It was demolished, leaving a huge area of brownfield land, ripe for development. And it happened to be right next to a railway line. So the site’s developers contributed a sizeable amount of money to ensure that a station could be built. After all, houses near railway stations tend to command higher prices.
The station has been a long time coming; plans were first drawn up 17 years ago in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2014 that all of the funding became available. Construction started later that year, although its location on the River Aire’s flood plain put its opening back to June.
As it was a nice day on Wednesday, I walked to the station from Leeds, along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It’s about five miles and took me a bit over an hour to get there. Of course, I was about a third of the way there before I realised that Google Maps wasn’t showing a footpath from the canal towpath to the station. Thankfully, a quick Google search verified that there was indeed a path to link the station to the canal. Indeed, thanks to the footbridge at the station, access to the canal in this area is now greatly improved.
The station itself is nothing special. Two platforms, a footbridge with lifts, a couple of waiting shelters, some seats, a ticket machine and a passenger information system. The latter two of these were out of order, showing a scrolling message about checking the paper timetables. Welcome to 2016, everyone.
Considering that a train passes through the station every 10 minutes in each direction, surprisingly few actually stop there. The basic service seems to be hourly in each direction, to either Leeds or Shipley and Bradford Forster Square. A handful of services instead go to Ilkley or Skipton, but these seem to be limited to peak times.
It might seem a bit of a waste then, to spend millions on a station with such a basic service. But then, there isn’t yet much to serve here. Whilst I’m sure that the forge site will be covered with hundreds of new houses in a few years, right now there was only a little construction taking place. Still, I was not the only person to catch the train towards Bradford, at around 4pm.
Kirkstall Forge, for now, retains the crown of Yorkshire’s newest station, but not for too much longer. South of Bradford, Low Moor station is under construction, on the site of the ill-fated Transperience museum, and is due to open next year. Well, hopefully – it’s already behind schedule after an uncapped mine shaft was found right where one of the lifts was due to be installed. There’s still a big gap in the Bradford-bound platform, at time of writing.
Scott managed to visit Kirkstall Forge before me and wrote about it – and I largely agree. Maybe in a few years, the station will be able to better justify its existence.