Transport bosses in Leeds have made a renewed pledge to “keep the city moving” as the next stage of a major £180m overhaul of the bus network approaches.
And an inquiry panel set up to examine the improvements needed to bus services in the city has been told that reducing congestion “pinch points” and tackling “micro” issues are key to any wider transport ambitions.
The Leeds City Council commissioned cross-party inquiry has already made nine key recommendations, with ideas including more work on opening up the city’s bus service market in the context of new deregulation powers, air quality improvement measures and more “robust” accountability to be imposed on operators. A detailed action plan has now been ordered by early 2018.
But at a wrap-up session of the scrutiny investigation, panel members heard that tackling congestion should be at the heart of any work.
Paul Truswell, chair of the panel, said: “Congestion is something we have focused on as a specific issue. It’s clearly one that relates to bus services as well.
“Because the bus operators never hesitate to say that it’s one of the main reasons why their services are unreliable.
“We don’t necessarily buy that - but it’s something that obviously needs to be looked at.”
He urged further investigation of the congestion “pinch points” on the city’s road network. And he stressed that in many cases, “practical stuff rather than number-crunching” was vital to finding a solution.
“It’s very clear to anyone driving into this city - on whichever route - that there are some things that could be done that aren’t astronomically expensive, or groundbreaking, like stopping people queuing into junctions for example,” he said.
“I can quote a number of examples where just the extension of yellow lines for 10 feet would reduce some of the pinch points and allow traffic to pass on both side of the road rather than having to slow down to allow people to come towards you.
“It’s practical stuff rather than number-crunching.”
The congestion-busting call-to-arms comes after the YEP reported earlier that traffic jams in the city will cost motorists £1.5 billion by 2025.
Transport information company Inrix found time wasted in the UK’s worst traffic jams will leave drivers out of pocket to the tune of £62 billion by 2025.
London topped the list of 10 worst UK cities for congestion costs with delays in the capital estimated to set drivers back £42 billion over the next decade. Leeds was seventh in the list with an estimated cost to drivers of £1.5 billion by 2025.
The Inrix study, which used travel time figures from a Department of for Transport Commissioned report, identified the worst hotspot in Leeds as the westbound M62 junction 26 with junction one of the M606.
Andrew Hall, from Leeds council’s development department, said that ultimately, the bus network overhaul would be a “corridor based programme to support bus services, bus operation and the aspiration that we will double patronage over 10 years”.
He stressed that a “strategic approach” to tackling congestion was important, adding that “the knock on effects are such that if you don’t have that, you just create a queue somewhere else”.
A major £180m investment in bus services in Leeds over the next decade was announced earlier this year. A large chunk of the funding will come from the £173.5m of Government cash that was originally earmarked for the scrapped NGT trolleybus scheme.
Research shows that 15 per cent of working residents in Leeds travel by bus, with 250,000 bus trips being made per day in the city.