Letter: Trolleybus will need a large contingency fund

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Leeds City Council is meeting this month to decide whether to back Metro’s application for a Transport and Works Act Order granting Planning and Compulsory Purchase Powers to acquire land and construct infrastructure for a trolleybus running north to south through the city.

Central Government has offered a contribution of £173.5m subject to Metro and the council meeting all additional costs. This funding is only available for the trolleybus and cannot be re-allocated for alternative transport infrastructure. It is understandable that the council wants to capture this offer but many in the construction industry would welcome assurances that adequate contingencies have been introduced to address inevitable overspend through variations and uncertain final procurement expenditure.

A substantial contingency element is essential as major modifications will be required if concerns are to be adequately addressed.

Cyclists are very unhappy with the conflict and the reduction in cycle lanes along Headingley Hill. Environmentalists are very unhappy with the projected loss of over 200 mature trees to be replaced with saplings. Residents are unhappy at the visual impact of the wires and gantries. Commuters will be unhappy with the extent of construction disruption.

Resolving these objections has the potential to remove many millions of pounds from cost plan consultancies.

Looking to future operating costs, has Metro considered alternatives to taking electricity from power stations through overhead gantries?

Has Metro investigated the rapid development of battery power and other energy sources and the advancements predicted by the proposed launch date of the trolleybus in 2018?

There is growing concern from fellow residents of Headingley at the costs and benefits of the trolleybus which many see as a poor and dated substitute for ‘Supertram’.

This is reinforced by a suggested saving of 1 to 3 minutes from the current bus journey from Holt Park to the city centre.

Should the council’s Executive agree to support Metro and NGT, can we expect immediate transparency on the costs of proceeding with the Order and Public Enquiry, accompanied by full details of the route, enabling works, a detailed programme, current cost and charging assumptions and the extent of contingencies?

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