This is why traffic gridlock in Leeds is getting worse - and how it can be improved

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The sight of Leeds city centre buckling under the pressure of gridlocked traffic seems to be becoming an almost daily occurrence.

Last week the city came to a standstill for most of the day as police closed part of Armley Gyratory after a man fell from the bridge.

On Wednesday night this week, cars barely moved around Albion Street and The Headrow after a temporary signal light failed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And an ambulance was stuck in gridlocked traffic on Boar Lane at the weekend.

Traffic gridlock after a man fell from a bridge at Armley Gyratory.Traffic gridlock after a man fell from a bridge at Armley Gyratory.
Traffic gridlock after a man fell from a bridge at Armley Gyratory.

Why is this happening?

A perfect storm of roadworks across the city, more and more people driving into Leeds and the city's 'Motorway city of the seventies' legacy being no longer fit for purpose mean the slightest issue somewhere on the road network can cause chaos miles away.

It leads to endless hours of frustration for motorists and bus passengers every day.

But what can be done?

Traffic gridlock on Wellington Street.Traffic gridlock on Wellington Street.
Traffic gridlock on Wellington Street.

The council is spending millions to transform transport through its Connecting Leeds programme - but there are no easy answers or quick fixes to the city's problems, though it will almost certainly involve fewer cars, as well as the mass transit system that has eluded Leeds for so long.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The council's own chief Highways and Transportation officer, Gary Bartlett, has said his vision is for Leeds to be a city where you don't need to own a car.

And a senior figure at First Bus West Yorkshire - giving his own personal view on social media - has called on the council to 'make buses the solution and ban cars from the few roads left in Leeds'.

"Something needs to happen about the state of Leeds City Centre," he wrote.

Leeds city centre at a standstill.Leeds city centre at a standstill.
Leeds city centre at a standstill.

Transport campaigner Rob Greenland put it simply.

"We tend to look for reasons or excuses - a road closure or traffic lights being out - but there are just too many of us travelling into the city centre at the same time," he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Figures show that 750,000 vehicles every weekday use roads approaching Leeds City Centre.

During the morning commute, there are 77,000 people travelling towards the city centre in cars and in 83 per cent of cases there is only one person in the vehicle.

"We just can't cope with it," Mr Greenland added.

He is less sympathetic to people who complain about bus and cycle lanes.

"You can move far more people around the city more efficiently if more of them walk, cycle or take public transport, rather than driving," he said

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"For people to take the bus, you need to prioritise bus travel - and that means creating bus lanes - which may result in short term delays as they're built.

"Similarly, roadworks to build cycle lanes will cause congestion - but encouraging more people who currently drive to cycle some of their journeys instead will help us to tackle congestion, whilst also having other positive impacts like reducing air pollution."

Mark Parry, who lives in Beeston and campaigns on transport issues, walked to Leeds Playhouse from his home after seeing the chaos last week.

"It's not acceptable," he said. "It shows how desperately tight the network is.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"If people want to keep building more roads and adding more lanes then all that is doing is encouraging more traffic, which means more congestion and less reliable buses," he added.

"We need to say 'no to new roads'.

"A quick win would be getting people travelling one or two miles to walk or cycle."

Leeds Chamber's Head of Policy Mark Goldstone said: "The impact of heavy congestion on the city is a major issue, not just in terms of lost productivity for businesses but also poor air quality in turn harming the environment and the health and wellbeing of citizens.

"We know Leeds City Council is taking further positive action to develop more bus infrastructure, but as the city continues to grow and succeed we must see 21st century solutions to ensure businesses can access the widest possible labour market."

What you said:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Chris Turner: "How else are they meant to improve the roads without causing short term disruption? Let's not pretend everything was fine and dandy before they built cycle lanes.

"They could have maybe phase the current works better to reduce impact on local traffic but that would likely increase the construction programme and costs significantly."

Josh Wilson: "If the council stopped digging up roads and putting in cycle lanes everywhere, traffic would be more free flowing."

Michael Taylor: "I’m afraid the answer is quite straight forward, Leeds does not have an alternative to car or bus travel, when it’s cold would you cycle? No, walk 3-4 miles to work?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Leeds needs desperately a tram system, that doesn’t use roads.

"We should then have buses on the outskirts connecting the tram stations, making it fully integrated.

"There’s 1000’s of new housing being built in and around Leeds, most of these people will work in Leeds, how do they get there? More car journeys I’m afraid."

What Leeds City Council and the Conservative opposition say:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Councillor Andrew Carter, Leader of the Conservative Group, said: “This is not a new issue and the recent incidents where the city centre has been totally grid locked for hours highlight the problems Leeds faces in terms of connectivity and frankly the clear need for a mass transit transport system in our city.

"I have every sympathy with motorists caught in the recent chaos – indeed I’m one of them - and the impact on businesses of congestion is well documented. Planning and lobbying for a major transport overhaul needs to start now.”

A Leeds City Council Spokesman said: “We’d like to apologise to anybody caught up in the recent city centre congestion.

"There have been a number of unfortunate issues adding to traffic problems in the city centre in recent weeks that led to closures at Armley gyratory and Whitehall Road that significantly added to the usual traffic pressures in the evening rush hour.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"As those living or working in the city centre will be aware we are also engaged in a major scheme of work to improve future bus flow through the city, to increase the pedestrianisation of the city centre, improve walking and cycling links through and add to the green space in our public realm with more trees and planting all of which will contribute to the city’s carbon reduction once the work is complete.

"These improvements help address the Climate Emergency that we all face, as well as offering a better city environment for everyone to enjoy once the works are completed.

“We are working hard to cause as little disruption as possible around the Headrow while the work is underway, however given the scale of this project laying District Heating pipes as well as altering the road layout and public realm there will be inevitably be some issues.

"We appreciate that this has been extremely frustrating as the Headrow is a major bus route which in the short term is impacting bus users in particular.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We would urge people to not be discouraged from using public transport and we ask that, where possible, people travelling into the city centre leave their cars at home and use public transport or active transport modes, to decrease the risk of more congestion.

“Wednesday night’s congestion around Albion Street/The Headrow was due to the failure of temporary traffic signals at that junction.

"Working with our partners in District Heating, and their contractors, the signal system was repaired as quickly as possible, and staff were put in place to monitor the junction. It will continue to be monitored to ensure the congestion is alleviated. These works are planned to finish by mid-December.”