Anger at 'false hopes' raised on Kirkstall station

Ministers have been accused of offering "false hope" to West Yorkshire councils over the future of Leeds trolleybus, two new rail stations and other major transport schemes.

The Campaign for Better Transport has warned that councils are being encouraged to splash out money on proposed transport projects "which stand next to no chance" of winning government approval.

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Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced in October that the 250m Trolleybus and the 23m plan to build new rail stations in Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge needed to be redrawn.

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They are among 22 schemes in a so-called "development group" of transport projects which are fighting it out for funding from a 600m cash pot. Another 34 schemes are in a separate "pre-qualification group" which could also be granted funding from the development group

pot if they can prove their case.

A scheme to overhaul public transport in Castleford and a maintenance project for the Leeds inner ring road are both in the pre-qualification group.

But in damning evidence to the influential Commons transport select committee, the Campaign for Better Transport warned that many of the schemes will simply go unfunded.

It accused ministers of encouraging councils to waste money developing doomed plans, saying: "The government has offered false hope to councils, who will have no option but continuing developing their scheme."

The campaigners pointed out that several of the development group projects have price tags in excess of 70m each and predicted that no schemes from the pre-qualification group will be given the greenlight.

"It would have been preferable for the government (to] acknowledge that many of the schemes in the development and pre-qualification groups are not going to be built.

"This would have created political space for councils to rethink their proposals, to return to first principles and explore more affordable and sustainable solutions."

The trolleybus project would allow commuters in the north and south of Leeds to travel into the city centre on a network of electrically-powered buses, while the Kirkstall station would be part of a privately-backed redevelopment of a 56-acre former industrial site.

Transport minister Norman Baker said: "Despite our considerable investment, the number of the schemes prioritised under the previous system of Regional Funding Allocations is not affordable and we are doing our best to rationalise the programme.

"It is our duty is to make sure that we spend taxpayers' money wisely. The competitive process we have put in place will ensure that the greatest possible number of schemes, with the best value for money, will be able to go ahead while also providing local authorities with the chance to make their strongest case."