‘Turn your words into action’ plea to Leeds transport bosses over trolleybus successor

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A new mass transport system to replace the scrapped trolleybus and Supertram plans WILL form part of Leeds’s future transport vision, council bosses confirmed today.

Leeds City Council last night published its four-year transport strategy, the culmination of months of work after the Government pulled the plug on the NGT scheme earlier this year.

As civic leaders today vowed to continue to lobby for more funding for transport - and pledged to keep fighting for a mass transit service in Leeds - campaigners called on decision-makers to finally turn decades of talks into action.

The council has announced a range of measures to invest £270million in public transport over the next four years.

Highlights include three new railway stations and a £180m overhaul of the city’s bus infrastructure.

As part of the plans, the council is hoping to leverage £100m of private sector investment - alongside £173m of Government cash it has been promised from the scrapped NGT scheme.

A lengthy report going to Leeds City Council’s decision-making cabinet next week lays out the proposals in full, but makes only brief mention of a mass transit system.

The report says: “The council’s ambition remains to have a system that can transport large numbers of people through the city through some form of mass-transit – be that light rail, tram-trainor tram – to support sustainable economic growth.”

The report adds that “a more focused review of options...will be started in the New Year”.

However speaking on the launch of the transport strategy last night, leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake reaffirmed the authority’s commitment to a mass transit scheme.

She said: “This investment in public transport and the new Leeds Transport Strategy is hugely important for us to make deliverable changes to make a big difference in the immediate and short term, especially as we need to have spent the £173.5m of government funding by 2021.

“The investment now is a response to the action people told us they wanted to see delivered as soon as possible, but as a city and for the regional economy we continue to need a viable mass transit system which benefits all communities in Leeds and will boost growth and onward connectivity.

“Mass transit systems can cost around £80million per kilometre and take a long time to plan and deliver, so such a scheme was not possible with the current level of funding available and also the timescale the government set us.

“To bring about such a scheme must remain the ambition so we are calling on all key partners and everyone in the city to work together to secure the very significant amount of funding we need.”

The proposals will be considered at next week’s executive board meeting at Civic Hall. If approved, the planned £270m investment will then go to the Department of Transport for its consideration.

The launch of the transport masterplan drew a cautious welcome from campaigners today.

Stuart Long, a national campaigner for bus improvements in Leeds, who founded the Leeds Fairer Fares campaign, said the consultation on the issue - which drew 8,000 responses “ was “not bad”, however it was now time for the city to “get on with it”.

He said he was “confused” by the numerous pledges on buses, as the Government’s all-important Buses Bill has not been passed yet,

“We have jumped ahead,” he said,

Noting that a second key report on a new mass transport system is not due until Autumn next year, he said that after decades of discussions about trolleybus and Supertram, “they have had a long time to think about it”.

“I would like to see Coun Blake and Coun (Richard) Lewis make a proper commitment to this one.

“We want to have a guaranteed date when we will see this. What day will we start building?

“I think the city has opened its mind and taken on board what people want - now the city needs to act.”

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