Aisha Iqbal: Let’s all have our say on Leeds’s ‘son of trolleybus’ plans

trolley-dashed: The NGT New Generation Transport scheme was scrapped last year
trolley-dashed: The NGT New Generation Transport scheme was scrapped last year
Have your say

Transport has been a real bugbear for the people of Leeds for many years, and continues to be so.

A city of our size and ambition needs a first-class public transport network led by a modern mass transit system, but at the moment we don’t have either.

It’s a drum that many people have been banging for a very long time, but the perception that the needs and views of ordinary people are being ignored in all this has permeated much of the debate outside the corridors of power.

So, it was heartening to see this week that some of the key people driving forward the longed-for overhaul of our public transport network are making a renewed effort to engage grass roots communities.

Senior officers from the council’s transport team are doing the rounds of a variety of local forums to gauge opinion. It follows a consultation which had 8,000 responses. People obviously care.

Top of the agenda with current talks is the imminent unveiling of new, wider-ranging transport proposals, linked to the HS2 high-speed rail project, which the council’s cabinet will get a sneak peek at next month.

Also expected to be hinted at soon are the city’s ‘son of trolleybus’ post-NGT plans - as I have decided to dub them.

Of course, the £174m of Government cash originally earmarked for the failed trolleybus scheme is now being used to part fund a variety of smaller (though still huge for us) proposals - including a number of new railway stations, enhanced park and ride facilities and bus improvements. That cash has to be spent by March 2021, as the Government is pretty much holding us to ransom in a ‘use it or lose it’ type edict.

But let’s be honest. The city wants and needs a bigger, bolder and more realistic mass transit scheme. That’s the conversation we need to be having, and we need some meaningful progress on this soon. However for that to happen, we have to start talking in seven figure sums rather than six figure ones.

After we saw trolleybus dumped by the Government last year, the way the journey to that failure played out has been a sensitive topic at Leeds Civic Hall.

That tetchiness was evident this week at a meeting I was covering.

I would urge anyone with a view on the city’s public transport to pop along to one of the grass roots forums and have their say.

It’s democracy in action, and it’s the best way to get our city moving - in every sense.