£300m bill for city's Supertram alternative

By Paul Robinson

TRANSPORT bosses say it could cost as much as 300m to fill the gap left by the collapse of the Leeds Supertram project.

The city has been working on proposals for an ultra-modern bus system since the Government pulled the plug on Supertram a year ago.

Now a report by Metro, the body which co-ordinates public transport in West Yorkshire, has revealed how the scheme is shaping up.

It estimates that the cost of the congestion-busting “bus rapid transit” network – likely to be powered electrically by overhead wires – would be between 200m and 300m.

Local sources such as Metro and Leeds City Council would be expected to come up with about 10 per cent of that cash, predicts the report.

The Department for Transport (DfT) would supply the remainder of the funding - assuming it gives the project the green light.

Metro is hoping to submit an outline business case to the DfT by the end of the year, with a more detailed bid for support due to follow in late 2007.

If all goes according to plan, the network will be fully operational by 2012.

It would run along roughly the same geographical lines as Supertram, connecting the city centre with Lawnswood in the north, Seacroft in the east and Stourton to the south.

The system could also take in areas covered by the East and South East Leeds (Easel) regeneration project, as well as the Aire Valley employment zone.

Metro’s report says a number of vehicle types are under consideration, although the current favourite appears to be an electrically-powered bus with the “visual appearance of a tram”.

Advantage

It explains: “The advantages of this option are high performance, low noise, air quality benefits, reduced maintenance costs and public acceptability [on] environmentally sensitive sections of the route.”

The axe was brought down on Leeds’s 500m Supertram plan by the then Transport Minister Alistair Darling, claiming it did not offer value for money.

He stressed, though, that he was “very keen” to work with Metro on a state-of-the-art bus project.

A letter from the Government to Leeds’s civic chiefs also pledged that “the money will be there for the right scheme”.

The failed efforts to get Supertram off the ground ate up around 40m of taxpayers’ money.

paul.robinsons@ypn.co.uk

.

Just £150 more per person will help narrow the North/South divide, says Leeds council leader