An enormous package of transport schemes for Leeds and West Yorkshire have been unveiled. YEP political editor Jack Blanchard reports.
WHEN Leeds agreed its so-called ‘City Deal’ devolution package with the Government last year, big things were promised by everyone involved.
“This is a very significant moment for Leeds and the wider city region,” Leeds Council chief executive Tom Riordan said at the time. “It gives us the chance to start controlling our own destiny in ways that we have never been able to before.”
Now, the deal is beginning to bear fruit.
For the first time in decades, Leeds – in partnership with the four other councils of West Yorkshire, plus York – has control over how its transport network is to be improved.
Rather than dreaming up schemes and then asking Whitehall for approval – often, such as in the case of the ill-fated ‘super-tram project’ to be knocked back – the authorities are using their new powers to create a £1 billion West Yorkshire transport fund to spend for themselves.
Money from central Government will be pooled, and combined with a new levy on council tax bills worth a few pounds per household to create the new mega-fund.
Today, the six councils have unveiled the 33 projects they expect to deliver with that £1 billion over the next 10 years.
“These plans will have a truly transformative effect on the city,” said Leeds Council leader Keith Wakefield. “Taken together, I think this could be the biggest change to our transport networks in over 100 years.”
Seven of the schemes will benefit Leeds directly.
They include a new ‘park and ride’ railway station at Micklefield, effectively a new transport interchange to take congestion out of the city centre.
In the city centre itself, a whole package of road upgrades is being planned around a revamped Leeds station.
The idea is to make the area around city square more ‘pedestrian-friendly’ while reducing congestion and bottlenecks at the same time.
There will also be three major new roads – one out to Leeds-Bradford Airport, a second linking with the new Aire Valley enterprise zone, and the third relieving congestion by offering a new ‘orbital’ link from the M1 up through East Leeds.
“Of course this is about easing congestion,” Coun Wakefield said. “But it’s also about growth.
“We are going to be building 70,000 houses over the next 20 years. We need the infrastructure here to support that.”
Several wider schemes within the £1 billion package will also directly benefit the city.
They include improvements to the Leeds-Halifax rail line and a major upgrade of routes to Dewsbury, including highway improvements, bus lanes and park-and-ride facilities.
All will be debated over the weeks and months to come.
SCHEMES FOR LEEDS FROM THE £1BN TRANSPORT FUND
New Rail Park and Ride Station East of Leeds: Park & ride station at Micklefield on rail routes to Leeds, Selby and York close to A656, A1(M), M1 and A64, with 500-750 park & ride spaces.
East Leeds Outer Ring Road: New orbital highway route from the M1 Junction 46 to west of the A58. Facilitates significant housing and employment growth.
Aire Valley Enterprise Zone: New link road and river bridge to connect East Leeds Link Road to Pontefract Road. Park and Ride site on East Leeds Link Road with an express bus service to Leeds city centre.
Trolleybus line to Aire Valley: Follow-on from lines 1 and 2 to link the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone with Leeds city centre.
New access road to Leeds-Bradford Airport: A new single carriageway road linking to the airport with new junctions on A65 and A658.
Leeds A6110 Outer Ring improvements package: Enhanced pedestrian and cycling facilities as well as junction improvements.
Leeds City Centre Package: Measures to reduce through traffic around Leeds station, enhancing it as a pedestrian gateway and improving bus, rail and taxi interchange.