Letters December 8: Local devolution is key to getting city’s transport up to speed

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From: Coun Keith Wakefield (Lab), Chair, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee.

I AGREE with Grant Woodward entirely (The Yorkshire Post, December 3). We need to deal with the transport challenges faced by Leeds and the rest of West Yorkshire today, long before the arrival of HS2 in 2033.

When it does arrive, HS2 will mean quicker journeys from London to Leeds but far more importantly it will provide a huge boost to West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region in terms of improved connections and capacity.

Good transport underpins business, economic growth and job creation and, with huge growth forecast in city and town centres, we need to make the kinds of journeys Mr Woodward describes in his article quicker, easier and more pleasant for commuters.

We want to devise a transport network that means Mr Woodward will not feel the need commute into central Leeds by car but is able to catch the bus or train like tens of thousands of other people do each day.

But to entice Mr Woodward and many others like him out of their cars we need to be able to offer an alternative that is reliable, quick, comfortable and easy to use.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution which is why West Yorkshire Combined Authority is embarking on a £1bn programme of 26 Growth Deal transport projects, the first of which, Wakefield Eastern Relief Road, is already on site.

We are also developing a new transport strategy for the county that will encompass our road and rail networks and a new approach to bus services and will also consider how we can use trolleybus, tram and tram-trains and develop more cycling and walking facilities.

And HS2 is not just about Leeds but the whole region which is why West Yorkshire transport network must be HS2-ready and we are making progress on that front.

We are the only area with three new stations being constructed, all of them due to open in the coming weeks and months, along with the new Leeds Station Southern Entrance.

There is no quick fix and Mr Woodward is right when he points out our region has suffered from under-funding for transport from successive governments. That is why it is important we get the right devolution deal in place to ensure that in the future, decisions and funding that affect journeys for West Yorkshire and Leeds City region’s people and businesses are firmly in local hands.