‘Deja vu’ fears over Leeds trolleybus successor

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A transport expert has told an inquiry into Leeds’s failed trolleybus and Supertram projects that he fears a “deja vu” situation as the city draws up plans for an alternative mass transit scheme.

Professor Peter Bonsall was speaking at the latest session of Leeds City Council’s probe into the long chain of decision-
making which led to both transport plans ultimately being shelved.

Delivering a devastating critique of the NGT saga, Prof Bonsall said he welcomed the acknowledgement from key personnel that the business case had “weaknesses”, and that some of the choices made had “constrained the future development of the scheme and may have determined the final outcome”.

But he said the issue of some “extraordinary” forecasts and assumptions about the merits of the trolleybus had still not been addressed.

He accused the promoters of the trolleybus – chiefly Leeds City Council and Metro – of pursuing a “dangerous strategy’ in assuming the project would get Department of Transport approval. He also expressed concerns about future policy, and said he had a “worrying sense of deja vu” following recent announcements about a package of smaller transport schemes funded in part by the £173m NGT money.

He warned the process of drawing up and whittling down a list of schemes had “uncomfortable echoes” of previous misfires.


Martin Farrington, Leeds council’s director of City Development, insisted every key decision by the promoters of NGT was taken within “parameters defined by the Government” – and the role of Ministers in the saga had been “underplayed”.

He defended the council’s new approach, stressing that having a package of improvements (bus, rail, etc) meant the city was not waiting around for a decision like with Supertram and NGT.