City transport must get back on track

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I’D wager that Leeds is the largest city in the OECD, i.e. developed countries outside the US, without a rail-based metro system or light rail network.

Even America is moving towards rail-based rapid transport everywhere, with, for example, a 77km network being developed in Dallas.

In the absence of such a system Leeds promotes the trolleybus scheme which no-one really wants, and Metro’s rail development people dismiss the brave proposals to link the two stations in Bradford.

I don’t know of a transport authority anywhere else that would be so inherently negative about the proposal for the Bradford Cross Rail, citing lack of demand.

Don’t they know that demand is both latent and unfulfilled, or expressed in untold avoidable car journeys across the city?

As far as Leeds is concerned, Metro’s idea of turning the Harrogate line from train to tram essentially proposes a system that has proved its worth in Germany ... in cities like Karlsrühe and Kassel that are a fraction the size of Leeds.

What Leeds really needs is a metro system like in Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow, with twin cross-city tunnels connecting at City Square and which could be used by both regional trains, such as from Shipley or Selby, and a future municipal tram system.

This is the system in cities like Essen or Zurich, more our size, yet Metro have persistently ignored my request that the idea be evaluated and costed.

Silly me, thinking that our politicians and their advisers want what I want: the best possible system for our city region.

The fact is that Metro and the unambitious local politicians like Councillors Carter and Wakefield have no public transport vision for our city region, apart from to tidy the street furniture between the two stations in Bradford and saddle us with a trolleybus, the route of which anywhere else in the developed world would be the back bone of a light rail network.

I know that such politicians work in a financial straitjacket imposed by the Treasury whose view of public spending in England – but not elsewhere in this UK – is akin to the Puritans’ view of fornication, but they could at least make some effort.

People are keen to see improved public transport that befits the status we want for our city and its region, as shown by improvements to transport being the main requirement expressed in the recent Leeds ‘What If...’ consultation.

If you think that I am being unfair, I ask again: How come that I can go from Horsforth by rail and do my shopping at the Metro Centre in Gateshead or Meadowhall in Sheffield but can’t do so at our own White Rose, because there is no station, despite assurances that there would be when it was built.

So much for being ‘green’.

I’d better not hold my breath waiting for an answer.

James Bovington, Horsforth

Catalogue of bus mistakes

REGARDING the bus services in Leeds. The No.8/9 Ring road used to do the full circle of the Ring Road. I could get on the bus at the end of my street and get to Pudsey in 40 minutes but last year they split the route, being Seacroft/Horsforth get off and wait 50 minutes for the bus to Pudsey – so that’s 1.5 hours to get to work, not viable.

I have spoken with other people who use the route and some have an extra hour on their working day because of the time changes. One lady has gone as far as changing her job.

Two million pounds plus was spent on a new bus station in Pudsey, a bus station that the locals said they didn’t want, don’t like and the bus services into it are not as good as before. The loss of parking and change of road direction has put people off using the town, hence affecting trade.

I hope the new timetable will be a benefit but, as yet, there is no timetable at our bus stop, just the empty case where it should be.

The No.9 Seacroft/Horsforth is run by Centrebus. They got the dirty end of the stick as that is the quiet half of the route beyond Horsforth to Rodley; at Farsley it gets busier so, by common sense, it should be back to the full circle of the ring road.

When it was Leeds City Transport the quieter routes were made up for by the busy ones, so all areas had a good service, but I suppose profit comes first these days.

Mrs J Hepworth, Leeds 17

Turn back the clock on pubs

HOW I agree with your regular correspondent D S Boyes about the negative effect that all-day opening of pubs has had on our ability to enjoy a social drink.

Like him, I wish we could return to the happy days when Sunday hours (12-2pm and 7-10pm) and weekday hours (11am-3pm and 5.30-10pm or 10.30pm) were perfectly acceptable and, what is more, I would imagine most publicans would too, as it gave them an afternoon break.

With a slightly different take on Mr Boyes’ comments, at the pub I have used as my “local” for the past 30 years, nowadays no matter what time I go for my pre-dinner drink on a Sunday it is virtually empty. Either the people I might expect to see have already been and gone or they haven’t arrived yet. In the days of 12-2pm opening, everybody would be there at the same time and you could guarantee an hour or two of enjoyable socialising.

It’s the same of an evening. I used to enjoy a beer or two during the last hour 9.30-10.30pm as a “nightcap”. Now the last hour has become 10-11pm, most people of my age (I will be 70 this year) choose not to venture out for fear of being mugged and the pub, yet again is almost empty.

We’re probably lucky it’s still open at all, as a so-called “wet-led” pub, without food sales to fall back on, or a clientele seeking food anyway, it has no other means of increasing its business.

Continual tax increases, cheap booze availability in supermarkets and the smoking ban haven’t helped either.

During the 1960s I had two enjoyable years working as a part-time barman at the Compton Arms, Leeds 9, under the old hours. It was essential that we had at least 20 pints of beer freshly pulled and lined up along the bar before opening at noon on a Sunday, so that we could serve the rush of customers that poured in as soon as we unlocked the doors.

Likewise at 7pm, on re-opening for the evening session, we had to perform the same exercise ready for the noisy but cheerful crown of lads that rushed in to watch Batman on the pub TV before heading into town.

Happy days, never to be repeated under today’s “open-all-hours” regime.

I fear we will eventually be left with a network of pubs concentrating on food sales, where those of us simply seeking a drink will be shoved into a remote corner as undesireables.

Furthermore, I don’t believe today’s 24-hour drinking generation will ever experience the friendliness we shared during our restricted hours, while the pub staff were never bored out of their heads, as they are now. We were on the go the whole time.

J R Mollett, Leeds 8

Sheer nonsense

LETTER writers seem to be fond of the cliche “the lunatics have taken over the asylum” and, given recent newspaper stories, it was never more true than now.

One concerned a police chief who has banned his officers from patrolling a children’s playground at night. He said: “There is no lighting in the area and I am not going to put my staff in an area where they cannot see.”

The other was about council workers being told that “if they want to have workplace conversations about football, holidays or babies etc they must clock out first”.

How do these people get into the position which allows them to issue such nonsense?

Which brings me to the present Coalition and a Cabinet made up of hypocrites and deceivers. One lot going back on everything they preached prior to the election and the other lot doing things never mentioned in their manifesto.

When Michael Portillo was asked why there was no mention of the drastic changes to the NHS in the Tory manifesto, his reply was “because most of the people who vote would not have approved”.

No mention was made of the legislation which makes it easier for employers to sack workers in the first two years of employment and the moves to make it even more difficult for workers to take strike action.

Same nasty Tories. Same working-class Tory voters.

R Pearson, Brignall Garth, Leeds

Stop tinkering

IT is of concern to me when I read news articles unfolding regarding adjustments to housing benefit and the apparent commitment by governments past and present to a programme of convergence between social housing rents to match that of the private sector.

This has this year added an average £20 per month to a social rent. I believe those responsible for this action have lost the plot and are adding to what could end up as a third world-style deprivation.

Social housing was designed and built for working people, maybe not at the top of the money tree but honest, decent folk. It makes little or no sense, with public and private job cuts everywhere, to tinker and alter the concept of social housing.

We are all aware of what has happened to house prices in the last 20 years and the unrealistic pressure, socially and otherwise, this will have upon future generations. The economy’s problems will not be solved by people flogging houses to one another, neither will jacking up social home rents to private over-inflated rents related to property madness help.

Private landlords have cost the country dearly; when a person living in one of their homes loses his or her job the taxpayer has been picking up this deeply expensive rent, so it’s no good Mr Cameron and Mr Shapps saying housing benefit reform will take back property that so-called hard-working families are allegedly denied. It is fact that these folk had nowhere else to go, as no-one can yet tell me where the five per cent of capital receipts went from Thatcher’s Right to Buy. It wasn’t invested in new-build and now they are cheekily asking social housing tenants to foot the new investment bill.

Kendal Wilson, Tadcaster

Fashion statement

IN reply to the ever-present Cheryl Cliff’s letter about her dismal wedding outfit of dark green coat, dark brown hat and maroon dress.

Might I suggest that rather than the fault of the Conservative government, as she states, it was her own Socialist appalling fashion sense!

J Shaw, by email

Leeds City Train Station. Picture Tony Johnson

YEP Letters: October 13