Bus firm slated at Leeds travel inquiry

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The main bus operator in Leeds used “intensive lobbying” more than ten years ago to “scupper” chances of alternative travel options in the city – and has used the city as a “cash cow”, a meeting was told.

Former joint leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Andrew Carter, and ex-Metro chairman, Coun Ryk Downes, yesterday spoke at the Scrutiny Board for City Development.

Members are conducting an inquiry into the near 30-year saga of how bids to create Supertram and trolleybus (NGT) schemes in Leeds have failed.

The separate projects each spent ten years in development limbo before the Government scrapped them.

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Local Conservative leader Andrew Carter said that there was “intensive lobbying by First Bus against Supertram” during Alistair Darling’s time as the Labour Government’s Transport Secretary.

And Coun Downes told the Civic Hall meeting that the company, which runs the majority of bus journeys in Leeds, held a private meeting with Ministers in 2005.

Coun Ryk Downes (Lib Dem) said: “First Bus met with the Department for Transport, where they said at the time they could deliver a bus-based system for a fraction of the price.

“It’s my belief that discussion, initially behind closed doors, caused the cancellation of Supertram.”

He added that First makes big profits in Leeds which can be used to boost the company’s interests in North America.

Coun Downes said this is “profitable, without any risk of any major development. They can keep getting money from the cash cow that Leeds is.”

Coun Carter added: “It’s a shame First Bus can’t put into bus services what they have put into scuppering Supertram and then NGT.”

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