Tom Richmond: First trolleybus, now answers over Leeds Bradford Airport link fail to get off the ground

Will a parkway station and park and ride site improve access to Leeds Bradford Airport?
Will a parkway station and park and ride site improve access to Leeds Bradford Airport?
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HERE we go again. Having wasted a small fortune on a trolleybus system that was flawed from the moment it was imposed upon Leeds by Alistair Darling, the then Transport Secretary, history appears to be repeating itself.

I refer to the controversial plan to build a parkway station, with park and ride facilities, about a mile from Leeds Bradford Airport, already the most inappropriately located international gateway in the UK, and the latest correspondence between local MP Greg Mulholland and Leeds City Council.

Like all diligent MPs, Mr Mulholland was doing his job when he wrote to council chief executive Tom Riordan on January 25 to ask a series of detailed – and relevant – questions that are pertinent to his Leeds North West constituents, the wider city and the Leeds to Harrogate railway which already can’t cope with passenger numbers at the best of times.

They included the following:

What land and properties/buildings would need to be compulsorily purchased for the plans to go ahead? Please provide a list.

How much will the compulsory purchase cost (including legal and professional fees, officer time and all associated costs) including any envisaged compensation payments?

What/how many buildings would need to be demolished for the plans to go ahead? Please list them.

What is the size of the proposed site of the station and park and ride? Please provide the area and the footprint.

What would be the cost of the road changes, new road sections, road improvements necessary to both serve the buses to transport passengers and traffic using the park and ride site?

However the reply from Martin Farrington, the council’s director of city development and the officer who admitted at the trolleybus public inquiry that he had little experience of transport planning, could not have been more unconvincing.

I’ll leave you to be the judge. “At this stage in the process and prior to the detailed engineering development and prior to public engagement we are not in position to confirm the specifics of land ownership or the need or otherwise for the exercise of compulsory purchase powers,” he wrote.

“Suffice to say in developing the scheme proposals there will be full cognisance to the impacts on residents and business and will seek to reduce these as far as practicable including any need to take possession/demolish buildings.

“The costs for any necessary land acquisition will be assembled alongside the detailed development of the scheme options and their associated valuations.”

In other words, the council has not even done the basics – as this doublespeak makes clear.

Forgive my naïvety, but shouldn’t these matters have been considered before Leeds Council revealed a plan which could do little to reduce congestion in the airport’s vicinity? I note there was also no cost-benefit analysis as to whether sufficient passengers will use the service – and then catch a shuttle bus to and from the airport. This couldn’t be more basic.

Sorry, but Mr Riordan needs to answer the MP’s questions rather than deferring to an officer who – no pun intended – does not have the best track record. They’re in the public interest and it’s what local taxpayers have a right to expect of him. It’s called prudent civic leadership.

TALKING of transport, Theresa May fudged her answer at PMQs this week when asked by Labour’s Judith Cummins if Bradford would be included in the trans-Pennine rail improvements proceeding at varying speeds.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was similarly noncommittal when asked by Ryedale MP Kevin Hollinrake when the A64 coast road will be dualled from York to Malton after a £135m roundabout upgrade. “We will ensure that progress in the road’s development continues as we move towards the start of the next investment period,” said Mr Grayling.

Really? One transport scheme where the economic case is proven, I’ll believe it when it happens. Residents have only been waiting since December 1978 when Malton’s bypass opened.

EVEN though the Church of England’s anachronisms are beyond me, I do know that it has struggled to move with the times despite the leadership of John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and others.

Given it is two years since Dr Sentamu presided over the ordination of the first female bishop at York Minster, Philip North’s divisive appointment as the next Bishop of Sheffield is perplexing. A theologian whose conservative teachings and opposition to female clergy was widely known, why was he considered for this important role when his mere presence will compromise the progress made in recent years to broaden the CoE’s horizons? Some enlightenment please.

IF Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t the courage to face up to his own backbenchers in person following his party’s by-election humilation, he’s an even poorer leader than I thought he was.

Copeland was the first time that a governing party had won a seat off the main opposition since the Tories took Mitcham and Morden in 1982 as the Falklands conflict drew to an end. By refusing to accept his unelectability, Mr Corbyn’s hubris detracts, further, from some of his more humanitarian qualities.

THANK you for those who have started submitting ‘rileyisms’ – occurrences when the Radio 5 Live sports presenter George Riley, from Leeds, uses the word ‘absolutely’ ad infinitum to exaggerate a point. The best was ‘absolutely nothing’ – but I have no idea how this differs from ‘nothing’. Do you? Keep ‘em coming.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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