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Campaigners protest against trolleybus’ impact on south Leeds

Whitfield residents in Hunslet protest about the proposed trolleybus route, which will roll through its pedestrianised precinct. Picture by Steve Riding.

Whitfield residents in Hunslet protest about the proposed trolleybus route, which will roll through its pedestrianised precinct. Picture by Steve Riding.

Dozens of residents have staged an anti-trolleybus protest in a desperate bid to protect a pedestrian precinct.

People living on the Whitfield Estate, in Hunslet, produced banners and placards voicing fears over the impact the £250m New Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus scheme could have on a pedestrianised area near the Garden Gate pub.

Protestor Deborah Fahey’s house neighbours the precinct and claims the introduction of the trolleybus could put children at neighbouring primary schools and nurseries at risk.

The 47-year-old, from the Whitfield Residents Against the Trolleybus group, hopes the picket will raise the profile of the area’s plight in the face of the Holt Park to Stourton scheme.

She said: “I feel that nobody knows about Hunslet, a lot of the people opposing trolleybus come from the north Leeds side. Where this route is going to go is not safe and will take away our freedom. It will be a network of ugly cables on the precinct.”

Campaigners hope planners will rethink the trolleybus route or scrap the scheme in favour of transport giant First’s proposals for a new fleet of double-decker buses, Oyster card-style ticketing and road layout changes.

Placards sporting messages such as ‘Whitfield residents unite’ and ‘Hunslet and Hyde Park united against the trolley folly’ were displayed yesterday.

A public inquiry that will decide the fate of Leeds’ trolleybus scheme is in the middle of a five-week break before it restarts on September 2. If the scheme is given the go-ahead construction is due to start in early 2017.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “Widespread consultation has been carried out along the NGT route and some design changes have been incorporated into the scheme’s designs in response to people’s concerns.”

He added that the ongoing public inquiry is a chance for those both in support and opposition to the NGT trolleybus scheme to present evidence to support their claims.

FIRM OFFERS TROLLEYBUS ALTERNATIVE

Transport giant First claims a fleet of new buses would deliver greater benefits than trolleybus at a fraction of the cost.

The company wants to introduce vehicles based on London’s New Routemaster double-deckers along with smartcard tickets similar to those used in London’s Oyster system.

It brought one of its new green-coloured buses, which it hopes to roll out across Leeds and other West Yorkshire cities, to Bramley Shopping Centre as part of an ongoing consultation earlier this month.

First, the biggest bus operator in Leeds, says if NGT gets the go-ahead, it will be harder for it to justify investing in the proposed new fleet of buses as a direct rival would be operating on one of its main corridors.

 

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