Leeds nostalgia: Wrong turn for Leeds bus

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This week’s blended ‘then and now’ picture and video shows an overturned bus outside the Parkinson Building in the 1940s.


BLEND: David Clay

BLEND: David Clay

Buses came into use in Leeds in 1906 and trolley buses started operating in the city from 1911 but trams were by far the main form of public transport. By 1916, Leeds had 114 miles of track and in general it proved to be a highly efficient form of transport, which was liked by the public. In 1933, 476 trams were operating in the city across 124 miles of track. This represented the peak of the industry, however, which went into slow but steady decline after the war.

In 1945, it was estimated that over 238m passengers were using trams annually. Part of the reason for their demise was the advent of cheap petrol and the fact buses were heavily promoted as being far more versatile and able to deviate from pre-designated routes.

The last tram in Leeds ran on November 7, 1959. It was the No 178, which reached the Swinegate Depot to find crowds of people gathered on either side of the tracks. Some places coins on the tracks so the tram would press them.

Still, buses in Leeds were a lot smaller back then. They were still a far cry from the original trams, which were horse-drawn. A programme to electrify the city, however, saw them enter a new era.

PIC: Bruce Rollinson

PIC: Bruce Rollinson

As Leeds awaits the outcome of the public inquiry into the NGT Trolleybus project, the city could once again see a change in its public transport.

In addition to that change, members of Leeds City Council have petitioned the Government for new powers which would enable them to have a greater say in how buses are run across Leeds and the wider Yorkshire area. The powers, if granted, would probably be linked to devolution and directly elected mayors.