Unreliable buses in Leeds have led to people across the city losing their jobs.
The startling reality of the state of the public transport system was such that a whole new scheme, aimed at making it more reliable, user friendly and frequent, was started and out of it was created the Connecting Leeds strategy.
In a second feature about how transport in Leeds is contributing to social inequality we look at the ambitious Connecting Leeds project which will see £270m invested in public transport by March 2021 which will also encourage active travel, including new cycling routes along key bus corridors and in the city centre.
It was started three years ago with some projects already underway or in the planning stages but overall, the main aims of Connecting Leeds are:
*create a new Leeds high frequency bus network – over 90 per cent of bus services will run every 10 minutes between 7am and 8pm
*develop three new rail stations for key development and economic hubs serving Leeds Bradford Airport, Thorpe Park and White Rose
*provide 2,000 additional park and ride spaces
*one thousand more bus stops with information about delays
*double bus use within 10 years from 2016 levels
*build the East Leeds Orbital Road
Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority are leading on the proposals.
Council leader Judith Blake explained: “When we started work on the Connecting Leeds agenda we undertook the biggest public consultation around transport that we have done in the city and got a good response - a really high level of engagement.
“It became very clear that the vast majority of people in the city relied on bus transport for moving around in several of our communities.
“We heard really traumatic first hand experiences of what it means if you are dependent on buses and it is late or does not turn up, how many times people arrive late for work and we have heard from people that lost their jobs due to buses being unreliable.
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“They are a real lifeline for whether it is getting to work, college, training opportunities, social events and health related visits. People are increasingly asked to go to different parts of the city for appointments. All of this made us realise that bus transport around the city was something we needed to do and urgently.”
Next month is set to see the start of bus corridor works, which will allow buses to bypass general traffic, on the Wakefield to Leeds stretch of the A61 south. Plans are also being worked on that will see similar schemes on the Alwoodley to Leeds route, Adel to Leeds on the A660, Bradford to Leeds on the A647 and Oakwood and Roundhay to Leeds on the A58.
Work was approved in April for an August start to transform the Headrow into an area that prioritises buses whilst offering dedicated public spaces, wider footways and better cycle lanes.
The Elland Road park and ride site is being expanded for a third time to provide an extra 550 spaces, creating 1,350 spaces in total in response to public demand and Connecting Leeds are considering plans to extend the site at Temple Green by around 400 spaces.
In January 2019, Leeds City Council’s Plans Panel approved planning for a Park and Ride site located off the M621 in Stourton. The site could be open and operational from 2020 and residents are being consulted on the feasibility of a park and ride at Alwoodley.
Bus companies in Leeds will provide around 300 new and environmentally clean buses and a thousand new bus stops with real-time information are also planned.
More and more buses will have free WiFI, USB charging points and contactless payments and ticketless smartphone options.
However, Coun Blake added that while the desire to remove traffic from the city centre and improve public transport is progressing - it does leave the council with another problem.
Where will traffic go?
“What we are trying to do is use the information that we have and it is going to take time to do the planning for it and it won’t be a quick process but are getting things in place that can have a major impact quickly
“Part of the strategy is linked to the highways plan which is trying to get traffic out of the city centre. Neville Street, City Square and Millennium Square having more space for cyclists and pedestrians and public transport getting through.
“But that has to work back to where that traffic will actually go.”
In the meantime, Leeds triathlete and double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee MBE, has been recruited as the city's first Active Travel ambassador.
In his new role, Alistair will add his support to initiatives, projects and infrastructure projects being undertaken through the city's Active Travel campaign, which key aim is to encourage more people to incorporate walking and cycling as part of their day-to-day journeys.
He said: “As someone who trains nearly every day on the roads of Leeds and used to cycle to school, I am really passionate about promoting the opportunities that are available for people to be able to cycle or walk as part of their day-to-day journeys.”
Other schemes under Connecting Leeds include pay as you go car hire and car sharing, HS2 rail link, new stations and improvements to existing stations and some current road improvement projects include Harehills, Dewsbury Road and traffic calming.