Bid to save Leeds trolleybus scheme

Transport bosses have set out the blueprint they hope will save the Leeds trolleybus scheme from the scrapheap.

Government ministers knocked back a bid for funding for the 250m system in October, telling Metro and Leeds City Council to find ways of making it more affordable.

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Now the first details of how they intend to go about that task have

emerged in a report compiled for the executive board of Metro, West Yorkshire's publicly-funded passenger transport authority.

The report reveals it is likely the scheme will only get the go-ahead if the local contribution to its costs is DOUBLED.

Under the funding plan rejected by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond two months ago, city groups such as Metro and the council would have put 50m into the scheme - about 20 per cent of its estimated price tag, with the remainder coming from the Government.

According to the Metro report, however, ministers have now indicated that local contributions "in the order of 40 per cent" will be required for projects like trolleybus.

The report lists a number of ways in which those contributions could be raised to the magic 40 per cent mark. They include:

* Making use of recently-announced Tax Increment Financing powers that allow local authorities to borrow money for capital projects against predicted growth in their business rates;

* Seeking third party funding for the cost of trolleybus vehicle purchase and depot construction;

* Reducing the scheme's price tag through "re-scoping and value engineering", which effectively means finding savings whenever and wherever possible.

Plans for Leeds's trolleybus network were drawn up after Labour axed funding for the city's 500m Supertram light rail scheme in 2005.

A final decision from the Government on the fate of the revised project is due next year - and could even be made before Parliament's summer recess, says the Metro report.

The electrically-powered system would link the city centre with Holt Park in the north and Stourton in the south.

Sarah Champion MP

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