City could see trams in 2020s, council chief says

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council Picture Tony Johnson.
Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council Picture Tony Johnson.
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The chief executive of Leeds City Council insisted yesterday that its latest infrastructure investment plans would cover the whole city region and be delivered in the 2020s.

Speaking at the Leeds launch of the Deloitte Regional Crane Survey 2016 today, Tom Riordan said the council’s latest plan, which includes a new tram network, would not just be confined to Leeds.

“We haven’t ruled out a tram, in fact, we want a mass transit system,” Mr Riordan told an audience of property professionals and business leaders. “But we are being very honest about recognising that that is going to be in the 2020s. We want your support in terms of building the case for government and future governments, to support Leeds and the Leeds city region.”

The ambitious proposals come after Leeds’s Next Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus scheme was abandoned after being rejected by the Department for Transport last May.

The money from the failed trolleybus scheme will now be used by council transport chiefs partly to fund the latest proposals.

Plans including building a new station serving Leeds Bradford Airport and new railway stations to be built at White Rose Shopping Centre and Thorpe Park as well as new buses and new technology, such as a smartcard system. “That will be a really good first step in giving us the transport system we deserve,” Mr Riordan said.

He added: “One of the mistakes about Supertram and NGT was that it was just about Leeds. It’s got to be about our links to Bradford and Wakefield, other parts of West Yorkshire, and York as well as that HS2 link.”

Meanwhile, Mr Riordan told The Yorkshire Post after the event that he was confident a devolution deal could be done this year.

Councils and MPs in North, East and West Yorkshire have not managed to agree deals with the Government while a proposal for a Yorkshire-wide deal and single mayor for the region has been rejected by Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy.

Although Mr Riordan insisted Leeds has not yet suffered as a result of the indecision, he said the issue diverted attention away from the area to other cities.

He said the main issue was perception. “I don’t think we can point to a government decision where we have been penalised yet but I think inevitably as the devolution deals take place and the elections take place in May, it diverts attention away from Leeds to other places. Our view is that we want a deal. The West Yorkshire leaders have said that but it needs to be on a geography that works for the economy and we’re trying to be flexible.

“We need patience and compromise and the right attitude from people to get a deal over the line and I’m confident this can happen.”