Where do autonomous vehicles and other innovations fit into Connecting Leeds Transport Strategy?

Autonomous vehicles, smart technology and an integrated system similar to London's Oyster scheme all feature in a new council vision for transforming transport in the city.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 4:45 pm

The draft Connecting Leeds Transport Strategy points to the potential for such developments to make a real impact on the way existing transport systems operate, the efficiency of road networks, and how people travel in the future.

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Connecting Leeds Transport Strategy sets out vision for city without the need fo...

Referencing the coronavirus pandemic, it says the events of 2020 have shown that the city needs to have a "pro-active approach to uncertainty and an ability to quickly adapt to changes to the way we live our lives and how we take advantage of technological innovation".

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Autonomous vehicles - such as this modified 2017 electric Nissan LEAF that navigated itself on a 230-mile journey last year - are referenced in the draft transport strategy for Leeds. Picture: Nissan / SWNS

Smart traffic signals that respond to travel demand are already being introduced in the city, with the strategy noting that technology for autonomous vehicles is advancing across the world.

These developments are highlighted in a section on new mobility solutions - one of six 'big moves' towards achieving the strategy's overall goal of making Leeds a city where a car is no longer a necessity and everyone has access to affordable, carbon free travel.

While widespread use of autonomous vehicles may be some way off, the strategy also talks about ideas that could be implemented more immediately to shift use away from cars and towards public transport.

Greg Marsden, a professor of transport governance at the University of Leeds' Institute of Transport Studies, sits on the Leeds Transport Advisory Panel set up to advise and challenge the council on its strategy.

The figures quoted in the Connecting Leeds Transport Strategy.

"I think what's difficult for a lot of people is that they have to both own a car and use public transport," he said. "It's the cost burden."

Although the strategy talks about a city where a car is not needed, there is a recognition that sometimes cars may be the only option. For example, for long or complex journeys or to reach remote areas without public transport links.

This is where ideas such as the creation of peer-to-peer vehicle sharing schemes or car clubs come in, as well as existing taxi and minicab provision.

The strategy cites figures that say the average car is only used five per cent of the time and making using of shared car ownership instead of owning a car outright could save people around £5,000 per year.

The saving is based on buying an annual rail and bus Metro card for £1,250, an annual car club membership of £50 and spending £1,200 per year on twice weekly car club vehicle use, versus average depreciation, car tax, MOT, maintenance, insurance and fuel costs of £7,575.

The public consultation that has now begun into the draft strategy comes a year on from the launch of the Yorkshire Evening Post's Unlock the Gridlock campaign, which set out five key transport priorities in response to concerns consistently raised by readers about the congestion and unreliable public transport networks that were blighting their lives on a daily basis.

Feedback will be reviewed after the consultation ends on March 26, with an updated strategy expected to be published in early summer.

Visit leedstransportstrategy.commonplace.is/ to learn more about the proposals, read the draft strategy in full or make comments.

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