Leeds still playing a frustrating waiting game over trolleybus decision

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Leeds is still in the dark about the fate of its trolleybus plans – nearly 18 months after the completion of a public inquiry into the scheme.

The Government has to decide whether to give the £250m project the green light with the help of a report drawn up by the inspector who headed the inquiry in 2014.

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As previously reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, ministers were expected to reveal their all-important verdict at the end of last year or the start of this.

But, asked for the latest on the decision-making process, the Department for Transport (DfT) gave no indication on when the waiting game could end.

A spokesman told the YEP: “The inspector has submitted a report to the [DfT] about the proposed Leeds trolleybus.

“We and the Department for Communities and Local Government are giving it careful consideration and will be able to say more in due course.”

The continued delay was criticised today by Leeds-based transport campaigner Stuart Long.

He said: “The people of Leeds have waited patiently for many years for a way of reducing the amount of traffic on their roads.

“Trolleybus was announced as a solution to the problem. Whether or not you agree with that assertion, we should not still be waiting for this decision.

“When will it finally be resolved? This has gone on far too long.”

Whitehall handed Leeds’s New Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus project £170m of funding in the summer of 2012.

However, its promoters – Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) – still need to secure a Transport Works Act Order (TWAO) for legal permission to commission, build and operate the system.

Construction work on the scheme – which would run from Holt Park in the north of the city to Stourton in the south – could get under way as soon as next year if the Government gives it approval and awards the city the TWAO.

Supporters of NGT say it would create up to 4,000 permanent new jobs and boost the local economy by more than £175m per year while critics claim it represents poor value for money and would damage the environment.

Opponents have included the former Leeds East MP George Mudie, who branded the project “unglamorous”.

Plans for the system were put forward after the then Labour government pulled the plug on the city’s £500m Supertram light rail scheme in 2005 amid concern over spiralling costs.

The public inquiry into NGT ran from April to October 2014 and was held at an office building in Leeds.

It lasted longer than expected, partly as a result of the large number of people who wanted to cross-examine the various experts called as witnesses by Leeds City Council and the WYCA.

Inquiry inspector Martin Whitehead delivered his report to the DfT in summer last year.

The overall bill for the taxpayer-funded inquiry process could be as much as £2.6m.

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