Leeds: City chiefs accused of ‘lacking ambition’

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A leading MP has branded plans to introduce the trolleybus scheme in Leeds unambitious and urged city leaders to ‘think bigger.’

Leeds East MP George Mudie, the former leader of Leeds City Council, also revealed the city looked into building an underground system in the 1980s.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, he said: “When I was leader in the 1980s, we seriously considered the the idea of building an underground in Leeds with an overground light railway connecting different parts of the city.

“We did a lot of work with [the late] Sir Alan Bristow, who owned Westland Helicopters, who was building a light railway train at the time. We tried to get civil engineering firms interested. We even went down to Sir Alan’s place to look at a prototype.

“Our plan was to construct an [underground] ring in the city centre and then run spurs off towards York Road and Quarry Hill and take another spur from there round the back of the hospital and connect that with the university.

“If I had still been on the council today, it’s something I would push. An underground is so much better than any tram.”

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Mr Mudie said city leaders lacked ambition, adding: “The Government is looking for big infrastructure projects to spend money on. It’s funny how cities like San Fransisco and Boston and all these European cities all have undergrounds and yet we do not.

“Why do we lack the ambition of these other cities? Undergrounds have proven time and again useful, practical and everything people want.”

His comments follow calls by a number of people for Leeds City Council to re-examine its transport blueprint.

Dave Haskins, chair of the New Generation Transport, which is behind trolleybus, said: “An underground would cost about 10 times that of trolleybus. When the Jubillee line was built in London it cost £250m per kilometre, our scheme costs £173m. If someone wants to come along with £3bn to build an underground, we can think bigger but there’s no indication of where this money would come from. It has taken two years to get £173m out of the Government.”

About trolleybuses in general, he said: “They are more economic than trams, which cost a couple of million each – trolleybuses cost £700,000 each.”