Senior Leeds councillor attacks West Yorkshire Combined Authority for 'not listening to Leeds expertise' on mass transit scheme

A senior Leeds politician has cast doubt onto the latest plans for a new mass transit scheme across West Yorkshire, claiming “we have been here before”.
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Leader of the Leeds Conservative Group Andrew Carter said he did not think West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) was listening enough to Leeds, adding that lessons should be learned from the city’s two previous failed mass transit schemes.

His comments came as Leeds City Council was in the process of responding to WYCA’s consultation on the latest form of ambitious plans to create a tram-led mass transit system covering the whole of West Yorkshire.

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Speaking during a Leeds City Council executive board meeting, Coun Carter said: “We have been here before, haven’t we? Over and over again.

Leeds Conservatives leader Coun Andrew Carter has doubts about the scheme.Leeds Conservatives leader Coun Andrew Carter has doubts about the scheme.
Leeds Conservatives leader Coun Andrew Carter has doubts about the scheme.

"Do I support the vision? Yes. Am I concerned about the delivery of a West Yorkshire Mass Transit system? Yes. I am very concerned.

"Do I think WYCA is going about it the right way? No I don’t. I think the local authority for a city the size of Leeds is a place where we know the most about the obstacles that we have faced over a long time delivering a mass transit system.

"I don’t think WYCA, as it is currently constituted, as the lead authority and promoter of the scheme is a fit place to do that.

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"I really fear for this scheme yet again falling by the wayside. It isn’t all about colourful brochures and photo opportunities.

"As senior officers around this table know, it’s a minefield.

"In the past few months, we have seen the slow hand of government being replaced with the dead hand of bureaucracy at WYCA.

"I am really concerned that at WYCA, they are not taking enough notice of the experience this authority and only this authority has.”

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Leeds councillors were signing off a letter to WYCA, which called on the proposed scheme to include stops near Elland Road, Thorpe Park, and St James’s Hospital, it adds that work on a region-wide system could start by the end of this decade.

Responding to Coun Carter, Leeds City Council leader James Lewis (Lab) said: “There are a number of players in delivering mass transit for the city.

"We are still waiting for a study we were promised [by government] around how mass transit fits into the wider vision.

"It doesn’t seem like the national government is fit to deliver schemes in this city – we have seen the delays on HS2 – a detailed route was published nearly a decade ago.

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"We have a manifesto commitment from government to deliver mass transit to this region, and we are ready to play our part.”

Two previously-proposed schemes – Supertram in 2005 and the Trolleybus in 2016 – were cancelled due to spiralling costs and planning issues respectively.

Early versions of the new multi-billion pound plans had already gone out to consultation last year, and a second round begun in November.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for infrastructure Coun Helen Hayden (Lab) said: “Leeds definitely needs transport infrastructure, especially if we are going to meet our targets for carbon emissions.

"It will all be finished by 2040 – it will start and be delivered in some part before that.”