Death knell for failed Leeds trolleybus was sounded a full TWO YEARS before Government scrapping of scheme, inquiry will hear

An investigation into the reasons for the failure of Leeds's trolleybus scheme will tomorrow hear about the key moments which sounded the death knell for the hugely anticipated but ultimately doomed project.

Tuesday, 21st March 2017, 6:56 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:50 am
An artist's graphic of the NGT New Generation Transport trolleybus as it might have looked

As previously reported, Leeds City Council is conducting its own lengthy inquiry into the chain of decisions stretching back across three decades which saw the separate NGT trolleybus and Supertram projects scrapped by the Government after decades in development limbo.

Tomorrow at Leeds Civic Hall, the latest session of the cross party investigation will recall the timeline of events, which includes reference to a “Gateway Review” undertaken by “Local Partnerships” early in 2014.

The key finding of the review was that “successful delivery appears probable, however attention will be needed to ensure risks do not materialise into major issues threatening delivery”.

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This was three months before the start of a 72 day public inquiry.

Tomorrow’s session will also be handed copies of a letter from the Department of Transport which had summarised the inspector’s damning report and had - in effect - sounded the death knell for the scheme a full TWO YEARS years ahead of the final decision.

The letter says: “The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that there is a pressing need to improve public transport provisions in Leeds in order to address the problems caused by congestion and to support sustainable growth.

“However on the basis of the evidence submitted to the inquiry, he shares the Inspector’s concerns about the extent to which the NGT scheme achieves the objectives that have been set for it.

“The applicants have not demonstrated that the scheme would meet the key objectives of supporting significant economic growth, reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, or enhancing the quality of life in the area it would serve.”

The letter noted the Inspector’s particular concerns that the trolleybus would “share significant sections of the route with other traffic” and “could be vulnerable to congestion and other delays making journey times less reliable than predicted by the applicants”.

And it added the design and route would “do little” to attract cyclists or improve pedestrian facilities.

Speakers at tomorrow’s inquiry session will include councillor Andrew Carter, who was joint leader of the council and its cabinet member for City Development from 2004 to 2010.

Also attending is councillor Ryk Downes of the Lib Dem group, who chaired and deputy chaired the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (Metro) from 2006 to 2011.

The session will hear views about the impact of the scheme’s ‘project pause’ in 2010, and will also examine how future potential mass transport schemes would make use of over-head wire technologies and “other technologies which could impact less favourably on vehicle emissions”.