Long wait for ruling on fate of Leeds trolleybus

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PEOPLE in Leeds may have to wait until the middle of 2015 to learn the fate of the city’s trolleybus plans.

As previously reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, a public inquiry will take place into the proposals before the Government decides whether to give them the green light. The inquiry is expected to get under way next spring and could last around two months.

But now it has emerged that it may take the Government a whole YEAR to make a decision on the plans once the inquiry is completed. Information about the process on the website of the £250m scheme’s co-promoters, West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro and Leeds City Council, says “it is envisaged that a decision would be provided within 12 months of the inquiry’s close”.

The potential year-long wait has always been factored into the plans of Metro and the council. They say that, should the scheme make it through the public inquiry process unscathed, construction work is on course to start in 2017 or 2018.

It remains to be seen, however, if that timescale will be affected by the possible change of government that comes with May 2015’s general election.

News of the drawn-out decision-making programme is likely to stir unhappy memories for some of the delays that have dogged previous attempts to secure a modern transport system for Leeds.

Plans for a tram network linking Seacroft and Cross Gates with the city centre were floated as long ago as 1988 but were scuppered by political in-fighting. Subsequent proposals for a Supertram light rail project were scrapped in 2005 amid concern about spiralling costs.

Leeds’s trolleybus plans were drawn up as a cut-price replacement for Supertram and got the funding go-ahead from Whitehall in July last year.

The city still needs legal permission to build the scheme, however, and it is that crucial last part of the jigsaw that depends on the post-public inquiry decision.