Neil Hudson: Time to start dreaming... of an Underground for Leeds

GOING UNDER: Sometimes the answer to your problems is right under your feet.
GOING UNDER: Sometimes the answer to your problems is right under your feet.
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It’s all coming out now, isn’t it? The fallout from the forever doomed NGT Trolleybus scheme continues - a watchdog scrutiny committee report concluded this week that it was probably a bad idea from the off. Wow, really?

I said it and so did a lot of others but that didn’t stop grand plans being drawn up and Leeds councillors going off on fact-finding trips to Continental Europe. They came up with a plan to run Trolleybus through already congested Headingley, taking it behind the Arndale Centre (daft, I know), stringing cables up on just about every building along the route, including St Michael’s Church.

No. The ONLY solution to Leeds’s chronic transport problems is AN UNDERGROUND.

But those in power continue to wilfully dismiss this idea with a mixture of annoyance and disdain, arguing ‘it’s just too expensive’. Never mind the tens of millions already wasted on doomed-from-the-off Supertram and Trolleybus schemes.

There was a forthright campaign group set up to oppose Trolleybus from the off and it pointed out many of the scheme’s failings, like, for example, the fact it would only shorten journey times into Leeds by a matter of minutes (on a good day, with a fair wind and all that), the fact trolleybuses are ‘yesterday’s technology’ and the scheme would have involved the destruction of hundreds of mature trees. I hate to say we told you so but: we told you so. So hats off to those who campaigned against it.

So, back to the underground (which is too expensive, remember). I wonder whether the people behind the Leeds Liverpool Canal came up against such ardent opposition? Most likely they did and, yes, even that went way over budget and way over deadline (its original cost of £259,777 ended up being roughly £1,2m, a phenomenal amount in 1816, which is when it was completed) but it was built and what a thing of wonder it is, a jewel in our crown. You couldn’t imagine Leeds without it. Likewise, I want to imagine Leeds with an underground.

We could have another jewel, a legacy for future generations. London can spend £16bn on Crossrail (and never mind about Crossrail 2), we can waste tens of millions planning two failed transport schemes but if we’re serious about solving - properly, for the long term - our transport woes, then we need to start digging. And politicians need to start believing.