Failings of Leeds’ transport vision

TROLLEYBUS: Plans to bring the �250m scheme to Leeds were rejected by the Government.
TROLLEYBUS: Plans to bring the �250m scheme to Leeds were rejected by the Government.
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Ambitions are still high for Leeds’s infrastructure, transport chiefs have insisted, as the city’s scrapped trolleybus and tram schemes are found to have been “unsound” from start to finish.

A lengthy inquiry into a series of decisions around the now abandoned trolleybus and Supertram mass transport schemes for the city has found that while no single organisation was responsible, there were flaws in the process from “inception to conclusion”.

A watchdog scrutiny committee, examining in depth decisions across three decades which resulted in the scrapping of both – at a cost of tens of millions of pounds – found this was down to a series of “unhelpful circumstances and weaknesses”.

Now, after council leaders acknowledged there are lessons to be learned, transport chiefs stress there is still a great deal of ambition in plans to ensure the city sees growth in coming years.

Martin Farrington, director of city development, stressed the focus has to be on both delivering schemes now and on having ambition for the future.

“Leeds is experiencing quite considerable growth in key areas and the transport infrastructure has to facilitate that growth,” said.

“This is about how we can really make a change in people’s lives. It’s something far more fundamental to the health and quality of life of people in the city.”

The cross-party watchdog had over recent months examined in depth a series of decisions which led to the scrapping of the two schemes.

The projects, developed over nearly 30 years in total, each spent 10 years in development limbo before finally being scrapped by the Government.

No single organisation was to blame, the inquiry found, citing a “complex” set of circumstances which led to its downfall, including changes in policy, lengthy delays and the pausing of projects.

“It is our view that the process was unsound from inception to final conclusion, due to a series of unhelpful circumstances and weaknesses, some of which would have been difficult to identify at the time, but have been recognised with the benefit of hindsight and self-reflection,” the report concluded.