Will West Yorkshire transport funding get Leeds out of the slow lane? - Laura Collins, YEP Editor
It’s that time of the year again when the Chancellor looks set to open his chequebook as part of the unenviable balancing act that is setting the Budget.
Rishi Sunak will head to the Commons with a focus on levelling up transport links outside London, research and development in health, and a “skills revolution”.
It will be the second time this year he has stood in front of MPs and updated them on the state of the nation’s finances after the 2020 Budget was delayed until March due to the coronavirus.
And ahead of the big day on Wednesday we have already started to see a trickle of announcements over the weekend about what measures we can expect to see from the Treasury.
Time and time again we hear about the need to “level up” the country after decades of underfunding in the North. In West Yorkshire alone £174 is spent per heads o transport in comparison to London which stands at over £500.
So it was interesting to see an olive branch handed to West Yorkshire with £830m of funding to progress work on transforming the region’s transport system.
But leaders in the North, while welcoming the investment, fear it could mean bigger projects such as HS2 or Northern Powerhouse Rail could be scaled back.
Further details are needed on whether the funding package will allow development work to begin on a long-awaited mass transit system for Leeds.
We all know only too well how difficult it is to get from one side of the city to another - it is getting beyond a joke. So many letter writers have been simply exasperated by the sheer volume of roadworks across Leeds which are further compounding the matter.
This is an issue this newspaper has long banged the drum over as part of our ongoing Unlock the Gridlock campaign.
And that’s not even taking into consideration the difficulty in travelling to neighbouring areas such as Bradford, Wakefield and Pontefract.
One reader sums up the challenge perfectly: “For example if I want to travel from Leeds to Pontefract, I can do the trip in about 23 minutes by car, I am warm can listen to my choice of music. If I go my bus, it takes 1 hour and 12 minutes, given that choice which do you think I am going to choose?”
This problem just doesn’t start and end with a mass transit system - it is not a silver bullet and these plans have to go far beyond this.
Our public transport network desperately needs improving to create a more frequent and reliable service that travellers can feel confident in using.
Put simply people are not going to ditch their cars for public transport if they fear that the buses or trains aren’t going to get them to their destination on time.
The devil will most certainly be in the detail about what the funding will and won’t include. We will be watching closely to see what will happen next.
Dare we even start to hope that we’re turning a corner to finally coming out of the slow lane?
Our city is exhausted from its huge transport headache.
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