First look at Leeds route for planned major tram network as lines could serve Elland Road and White Rose

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Plans to build a mass transit system in Leeds connecting across West Yorkshire that would "revolutionise the region's transport network" have been shared, offering an insight into proposed routes for tram lines.

The proposed first phase of the network, revealed today by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), would include two lines serving Leeds and Bradford - and bosses behind the the project hope construction work could begin in just four years.

It is the most significant step towards achieving the city's mass transit dream since the doomed previous 'Trolleybus' scheme was scrapped in 2016. Leeds has been frequently named as the biggest city in western Europe that remains without a mass transit system or rapid travel network in the style of tram, light rail or underground.

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Early sketches for the Leeds line of the proposed system show links from St James’ Hospital, through Leeds city centre and on to Elland Road and the White Rose Shopping Centre.

Meanwhile, the Bradford line would run from Leeds city centre to Bradford city centre – also linking Bradford Forster Square station with the new Bradford train station.

The proposals were published today (Thursday) ahead of a WYCA meeting next week (March 14), where leaders will be asked to agree a major step forward for the scheme. It is hoped that construction of the early stage of the project will begin in 2028.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously committed to delivering a mass transit system for the region after the HS2 link to Leeds was scrapped.

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Plans for a tram system between Leeds and Bradford have been laid out.Plans for a tram system between Leeds and Bradford have been laid out.
Plans for a tram system between Leeds and Bradford have been laid out.

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “Today is a key milestone in our plan to create a better-connected region that works for all. By setting out our plans to submit to government, we are taking a major step forward towards the biggest infrastructure project West Yorkshire has seen since the development of the motorways six decades ago.

"This will be transformational for the North, helping our communities to thrive and our economy to flourish - benefitting generations to come with greater opportunity and prosperity.

“We know that mass transit systems have successfully helped to regenerate areas right across the country by boosting connectivity, opportunity and prosperity – and we will work tirelessly to make sure that happens here in West Yorkshire.”

The Combined Authority says it will work to ensure that future phases of a mass transit network reach Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale.

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The submission of the Combined Authority’s "strategic outline case" document to the Department for Transport is set to be approved by members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on March 14. The document will then be sent to the government for approval to continue with the development of the scheme.

The project will be subject to a full business case and approvals process. Today’s announcement does not pre-empt the exact route, which will be subject to full public consultation.

The Combined Authority will ask the public to have their say in the summer on the possible routes, with the two “phase one” Leeds and Bradford lines expected to be joined later by potential further schemes covering the rest of the region.

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It will also work on a £1 million mass transit development fund to be set aside to support the Dewsbury Line Development Project, which will look into how to get mass transit to connect Kirklees with Leeds.

The mass transit system is designed to form a key part of a wider integrated transport system in the region that integrates with bus, rail, cycling and walking.

Councillor James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Mass transit will transform transport across our city and the wider region, helping to boost our economy and bringing our communities within easier reach of jobs and leisure opportunities.

“This is an important step forward in delivering mass transit, but there is still much to do and we are committed to working with the Combined Authority and our partners so this can be achieved for the benefit of people across West Yorkshire.”

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Leader of Bradford Council Susan Hinchcliffe said: “West Yorkshire is currently the biggest region in the country without a mass transit system. These tram proposals are part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for comprehensive new transport links, which will undoubtedly enhance people’s lives.

“We are already making good progress on developing plans for better rail transport nationally for Bradford, and this exciting new mass transit system supports our aim to connect Bradford more widely across West Yorkshire and also to connect the two Bradford city centre stations.”

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