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Kirkstall: Work starts on protecting railway lines at risk of flooding

Work has started on protecting a section of railway that has flooded several times in the past near Kirkstall Bridge.

Part of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 2 (FAS2), the flood defence works on the right bank (railway side) of the River Aire upstream of Kirkstall Bridge will feature an earth embankment or steel sheet piled flood walls stretching 1.4km.

The embankment will tie into flood walls, also under construction, that will extend up to the existing Kirkstall Bridge. 

The section of railway line connects Leeds with Shipley and Bradford and has flooded several times in the past, most notably the Boxing Day 2016 floods with saw the River Are break its banks and cause widespread damage throughout the Kirksrtall Valley.

The lines currently remain at risk, council chiefs have said.

Alongside the embankment and flood walls, 2.4 hectares of landscape and ecological enhancements will be implemented in Kirkstall Meadows. This work includes the creation of wetland scrapes and various interventions to support local wildlife.

The existing sports pitches will be retained, and a new access ramp will be installed. The ramp will facilitate maintenance of the flood assets and provide access to the sports pitches for emergency vehicles in the future. 

WLD reported earlier this month that some flood defence works were running more than a year behind schedule, with completion now due in spring 2024. The same public meeting also heard Kirkstall community organisations pushing for scheme to restore the ‘rat-infested’ Kirkstall Goit to its former glory.

Drone footage captured some of the work earlier this month:

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, said: “Leeds FAS2 has been designed to protect the people of Leeds from damaging flooding. That includes our homes, our businesses and our infrastructure.  

“As the effects of climate change become more pronounced in the coming decades, it is important that we work with our partners to ensure that we build climate resilience across the region now. The works here showcase the great work that we have achieved in collaboration with Network Rail, delivering intricate solutions to build for the future without causing disruption.” 

Mark Groom, Asset Protection Scheme Interface Manager at Network Rail, said: “These works are vital to protect this section of railway line between Leeds and Shipley as it is particularly prone to flooding, ensuring it stays safe and reliable for years to come. 

“We’ll continue to work with our partners at Leeds City Council to deliver this important project whilst making sure disruption to passengers is kept to a minimum.” 

Leeds FAS2 is made up of a combination of catchment-wide natural flood management, as well as traditional engineering that stretches for 14km along the River Aire between Leeds City Station and Apperley Bridge. 

When it is complete in spring 2024, Leeds FAS2 will reduce flood risk to a 0.5% probability of occurring in any given year (a 1-in-200-year level of flood protection) for 1,048 homes and 474 businesses. This level of protection includes an allowance for climate change up to 2069 and will be effective for similar events to the boxing day floods in 2015, which cost Leeds an estimated £36.8m and the city region more than £500m. 

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