The public inquiry into Leeds’s trolleybus scheme could end up costing as much as £2.6m, the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal.
Local transport bosses today confirmed they had set that sum aside to pay for the inquiry, which is due to finish this Friday.
The New Generation Transport (NGT) scheme’s promoters, Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), stressed the money was part of its £250m overall budget.
Officials have also forecast that the final bill for the inquiry will be “well within” the earmarked £2.6m.
The figures involved have, however, still been greeted with dismay by one transport campaigner.
Leeds-based Stuart Long told the YEP that it was “total madness” for local taxpayers to be “lumbered” with the cost of the inquiry.
Government ministers handed Leeds’s trolleybus plans £170m of funding in the summer of 2012.
The scheme’s promoters still have to secure a Transport Works Act Order (TWAO) that would give them legal permission to commission, build and operate the system.
Whitehall’s decision on the award of the TWAO will be based on the findings of the current public inquiry.
Taking place in a Leeds city centre office building, it has run on and off for around 70 days since April.
A spokesman for the council and the WYCA said: “The process for major schemes such as NGT includes a public inquiry chaired by an independent inspector.
“Most of NGT’s total costs will be funded directly by the Department for Transport, who have accepted the business case and approved funding of £170m.
”The promoters are required to cover the costs for the inquiry and a budget provision of £2.6m has been set aside within the £250m total NGT budget.
“Expenditure at the public inquiry includes its day-to-day running cost as specified by the inquiry inspector, providing a suitably-sized venue with IT support, fees and expenses for the inspector and his programme officer, legal and technical advisers, legal agreements and the production of required inquiry documents.”
The NGT inquiry was originally due to finish in June but has lasted longer than expected, partly as a result of the large number of people wanting to cross-examine expert witnesses called by the council and the WYCA.
Around £75m will be pumped into the scheme by the promoters if it gets the go-ahead.
Powered by overhead wires, the trolleybuses would run between Holt Park in the north of the city and Stourton in the south.
NGT chiefs say the scheme would create up to 4,000 permanent new jobs and boost local economic output by more than £175m per year.
Opponents claim the project would offer poor value for money while Leeds East MP George Mudie has condemned it as “unglamorous”.
Leeds’s trolleybus proposals were drawn up after the then Labour government scrapped the city’s Supertram light rail scheme in 2005 amid worries about spiralling costs.
Plans for a tram system linking Seacroft and Cross Gates with the city centre were floated as long ago as the late 1980s but were initially scuppered by political in-fighting.