Where To Now For Leeds Plans For A Modern Transport Network?
Illustration by Steve Spencer
Leeds’ desire to create a transport system fit for Yorkshire’s premier city was dealt a serious blow when Minister for Transport, Lord Ahmad came down on the side of a planning inspector’s advice not to let the New Generation Transport (NGT) trolley bus scheme to go ahead.
It’s the latest in nearly three decade of setbacks to blight Leeds plans to improve its traffic choked roads. Early plans to build a light rail network between Seacroft and the city centre in 1988 failed due to disagreements within the council. Leeds then put its hopes in the Supertram scheme similar to those operation in other cities like Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Nottingham. When plans were unveiled in 1991 the cost of the scheme was around £100m. Holdups due to lack of government funding delayed progress until 2001 when Labour’s John Prescott gave Leeds Supertram the green light. By now the cost had risen to £500m. More delays, crisis talks with the Department for Transport and escalating costs of up to £1bn, meant that by 2005 Leeds hopes of a Supertram network were dashed against the rocks.
In line with government advice the city now rested its hopes in a trolley bus scheme known as New Generation Transport (NGT). After initial delays, deputy Prime Minister (2010-15) Nick Clegg announced the £250m scheme would go ahead. However, a lengthy public enquiry again thwarted progress. One thousand objections to the NGT scheme were sent to the Department for Transport stating that it would have a negative impact on the environment and heritage along the A660. This was enough to convince Lord Ahmad to scrap the scheme, leaving Leeds without a modern transport system while other Northern economic centres continue to have the advantage such a system provides.
Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake commented that “Leeds had been let down by successive Governments in Whitehall on transport, first Supertram and now with NGT, each occasion setting public transport in the city back many years.”