Leeds: ‘It’s time to dump this trolleybus white elephant’

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Senior councillors have branded Leeds’s controversial trolleybus scheme a “white elephant” – and are calling for bosses to back off from the project entirely.

Opposition councillors spoke out in force against the project at this week’s full meeting of Leeds City Council.

They were commenting after campaigners from across Leeds joined forces to urge the council chamber to reconsider the trolleybus proposals, which they branded “conceptually flawed” and “not fit for purpose”.

Leeds has pledged £19.3 million as part of its share in the development costs of the £250m scheme.

Morley Borough Independent Coun Robert Finnegan said: “We have significant concerns about NGT in the same way we were concerned about the Supertram.
“We believe this is yet another white elephant.

“If you want to have better public transport, you should re-regulate the buses.

“We honestly believe that we will be sitting here in a few years with a Supertram 2 problem.”

Lib Dem councillor Sue Bentley called the scheme a “folly”, pointing out that other cities are turning their backs on the trolleybus idea and that “Geneva is ripping up its trolleybuses in favour of electric buses.”

Conservative Coun Barry Anderson said: “There’s no experience in this country of this type of trolleybus system. Even Budapest, which is often quoted, is giving up on it.

“The time savings [with trolleybus travel] will not be as great as some are saying. It is possible to use electric and hybrid vehicles to get the same performance. It’s going to be a waste of money because it’s not going to be the 21st century transport that we need as a city. We need to think again.”

Colleague Coun Clive Fox lashed out at what he said was “propaganda” in favour of the scheme, adding: “There’s no way we should be spending this money. The council should back off.”

Construction on the planned £250m NGT (New Generation Transport) trolleybus network – drawn up after Leeds’s Supertram light rail scheme was axed in 2005 – is expected to begin in 2016. However, concerns have also been expressed about the estimated 2020 completion date of the scheme, and the “finite” council and Government funding attached to it.

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