‘Give Leeds the rapid transport system it needs and deserves’

NGT''Trolleybus artists impression.'Millennium Square.
NGT''Trolleybus artists impression.'Millennium Square.
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The leader of Leeds City Council will hold crunch talks with Government ministers on Monday to demand quick action on a replacement for the shelved trolleybus scheme.

Judith Blake will present the council’s demands just four days after the much-heralded £250m project was scrapped by an independent inspector.

The council leader was speaking as David Cameron also reiterated the Government’s commitment to ensuring £170m of funding earmarked for Leeds stays in the city.

Coun Blake revealed that civic leaders had already been preparing themselves for many months for a negative response - and had lobbied hard behind the scenes to ringfence the funding.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I am seeing the Secretary of State on Monday and my first question to him will be ‘how can we make sure that we can get that money quickly out of the door?’

“One of the things we have been working on in the last few months, in anticipation of it being a negative response, is that we have the money ringfenced to come to Leeds.

“That’s been a quite a challenge, but I am delighted that has been acknowledged.

“We don’t yet know what is attached to it and how we will draw the money down, but clearly a city of the importance of Leeds needs a modern, rapid transport system.”

She acknowledged that technology had “moved on enormously” since the trolleybus “saga” began, and suggested that the tram-train and “multi-modal” transport ideas would be considered to replace it.

Coun Blake insisted the rejection of the trolleybus scheme was ultimately a lesson to Government, to give local authorities like Leeds the power to decide their own destinies.

She slammed the “nonsense of going up and down from London” endlessly to make local decisions, adding that recent developments had “just reinforced the need for devolved powers so we can get on and deliver for the people who live, work and play in the city”.

She also pointed out that - much like the recent row about inadequate flood defences funding for the North in comparison to the capital - the spend in London per head on transport is “something upwards of 13 times the spend here”.

“This can’t continue,” she said.