The YEP's open invitation to the Transport Secretary as we call on the Government to get our city moving
Dear Transport Secretary,
Today the Yorkshire Evening Post is extending the invitation to visit the great city of Leeds to debate the fantastic opportunities that exist if a 21st century transport infrastructure can be developed.
Our worry is that you won't make it and will become just another casualty of the late-running and cancelled trains that are now an all too regular occurrence.
Less than half the trains run by Yorkshire's biggest rail operator, Northern, arrived on time in October as performance levels plunged to their lowest since last year's timetable chaos - and this performance is getting no better. And TransPennine Express were even worse than they were a year ago when they were disrupted by timetabling chaos, a recent report found.
This letter comes in yet another week when passengers across the north of England are being let down by a railway system that is not fit for purpose. A significant number of cancellations and delays caused havoc for rail commuters on the first working day of new train timetables.
Staff shortages, signalling problems, a landslip and ongoing industrial action were among the issues affecting TransPennine Express and Northern services. However, this is little consolation to those using the rail network who are faced with the daily occurrence of delays and cancellations on their services.
We need more carriages on our trains, and more reliable services to get in and out of Leeds efficiently, to fully unlock our city’s potential to be a national trailblazer when it comes to economic growth and improving the country’s productivity.
But our point is a serious one: you need to come here at the earliest opportunity to witness the daily disruption, the pain caused to businesses and families, and the opportunities that exist here if you prioritise the pre-election promises made by the Prime Minister.
Day in, day out motorists, buses and cyclists have found themselves languishing in gridlocked queues on our choked arterial routes in and out of the city centre.
Leeds is proud to have the fastest rate of private-sector jobs growth in any UK city and hold the title of being the largest legal and financial centre outside of London. It is also the UK’s fastest-growing city which is the main driver of a city region with a £64.6bn economy, a combined population of three million and a workforce of 1.37 million.
The city centre is the jewel in the crown for Leeds - but how are we supposed to attract people into it when they are stifled by the transport network?
Surely the fact that the Conservatives intend to set aside £4.2bn "for local public transport" is further recognition of the infrastructure injustices that successive governments - Conservative and Labour - have presided over?
This is another acknowledgement that improved transport links are integral to economic growth, a point that has been made repeatedly by the Yorkshire Evening Post and other newspapers co-ordinating the Power Up The North campaign.
This is an issue that will not go away while Leeds remains one of the biggest Western cities without a mass public transport system.
The much-heralded £270m Connecting Leeds scheme promises to transform travel for people who live, work and visit in the city. Yes our city needs big investment but transport chiefs also want travellers to look at the alternatives to jumping in their cars for a shorter journey. Yet as Leeds continues to remain the biggest city in Western Europe without a mass transit system, what are the alternatives?
One commuter, Richard Wilkinson, summed it up perfectly. It takes the Space Station just over 90 minutes to orbit the earth. Yet for some drivers that is just how long it takes to get from one side of Leeds to another.
If this Government is serious about unlocking the potential for growth for the Northern Powerhouse and northern cities now is the time for actions rather than words.
We are urging you to commit to fund an audit of transport in Leeds, working with transport chiefs and Leeds City Council to look at current traffic flows, demand, what’s working, what isn’t and come up with a fully costed, viable plan to unlock the gridlock in our city.
So today we throw down the gauntlet and ask you - the Transport Secretary - to get on a train from London to Leeds and then we’ll show you just how tough it can be to get from one side of Leeds to another.
We want you to show us and our readers you are serious about promoting growth in the north of England following the result of the General Election because we don’t want our great city to remain stuck in the slow lane for the next decade and beyond.
The Yorkshire Evening Post