Minister 'shrugs off' Leeds MP's transport questions

A cabinet minister has been accused of patronising the people of Leeds after he shrugged off questions in the Commons about delayed transport schemes in the city.

An angry Commons spat broke out between Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves after Mr Hammond announced the 23m plan to build new rail stations in Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge and the 250m Trolleybus project needed to return to the drawing board.

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Quizzing Mr Hammond in Parliament, Ms Reeves said delaying Kirkstall Forge – which is in her constituency – would result in "devastating prospects for jobs and homes."

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But she was then left furious when Mr Hammond, the Tory MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, suggested she should be grateful the Government had approved a scheme to build a new entrance at Leeds station.

During heated scenes, Mr Hammond replied: "Dear, dear, it must be my ears again. I did not hear the honourable lady mention the Leeds station southern access scheme, which has been approved.

"If I may say so to the honourable lady, when one's constituency is in a city, I think one will find that the effects of transport infrastructure improvement are a little wider than the narrow boundaries of a single constituency."

He went on to point out that the Kirkstall Forge and Trolleybus projects have been included in the "development pool" of 22 transport schemes which can bid for a slice of 600m, if they reduce costs and represent better "value for money".

Speaking to the YEP after the exchange, Ms Reeves, said: "I find the comments of the minister patronising towards the people of Leeds and reveal a huge lack of understanding of the geography of Leeds.

"Of course I welcome investment in Leeds city centre but Kirkstall Forge is five miles from the city centre and I am not sure what direct benefits investment five miles away will have on the lives of people in the Hawksworth Wood Estate."

Meanwhile, Pudsey MP Tory Stuart Andrew, left, supported Ms Reeves, saying the new rail station would "relieve significant congestion in some of the busiest parts of the city."

The Kirkstall station would be part of a privately-backed redevelopment of a 56-acre former industrial site. It would have a 125-space car park, lift access to platforms and CCTV surveillance.

The scheme would also have included around 1,000 family homes and new office space.

Commercial Estates Group agreed to provide around 4m towards the station.