£5 million ploughed into Leeds trolleybus – without guarantee it will go ahead

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Nearly £5m has already been spent on the Leeds trolleybus scheme – without any guarantees that it will go ahead.

Figures released following a request under the Freedom of Information Act show a total of £4.9m has been ploughed into the New Generation Transport (NGT) project by its co-promoters, Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire passenger transport authority, Metro.

A breakdown of the outlay shows about £3.9m of the cash has been spent on what are described as “consultants fees”.

Another £900,000 has been paid out on promoter salaries while around £131,000 was used for printing, office supply, travel and accommodation costs.

The £5m total is separate to the estimated £40m that was spent on the ultimately-unsuccessful plans for a Supertram light rail system in Leeds.

The new figure has emerged amid continuing preparations for the public inquiry that will make or break the city’s trolleybus proposals.

Expected to get under way in the spring, the inquiry’s findings will be used by the Government as it decides whether to grantLeeds the Transport Works Act (TWA) Order it needs to build and operate the system.

Should the city’s TWA Order application be turned down, then the £173.5m set aside for the scheme by the Department for Transport (DfT) when it initially got the green light in 2012 would be withdrawn.

The cash spent to date by the council and Metro, meanwhile, would be lost. Their £5m outlay is part of the £77m that will end up being contributed by the two promoters if the project secures its TWA Order and becomes a reality.

A Metro spokesman said an “extremely detailed level of planning” had been required for the scheme, and added: “The amount already spent by Leeds City Council and Metro on NGT, which has gained DfT approval and been described by independent inspectors as being at ‘the cutting edge of transport provision’, is part of the scheme’s overall £250m budget and is in line with the preparation costs of other UK transport projects.

“If this scheme does not go ahead, this £5m will be lost along with the £173.5m of Government investment and all the opportunity this first stage of NGT will bring to the local economy, but it will not be because we have under-prepared. Developing a completely new scheme now, as some opponents of the NGT scheme have proposed, would mean this initial expenditure would be forfeited as well as the £173.5m investment in our transport system and economy being lost.”

Leeds’s trolleybus plans were drawn up after the then Labour government scrapped Supertram in 2005 due to concerns over costs. The scheme would link Holt Park in the north of the city with Stourton in the south.

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