Leeds’s Next Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus scheme – allocated £173.5m Government funding – was abandoned after being rejected by the Department for Transport in May.
But Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, who opposed the trolleybus plan, says Leeds risks lagging behind other major cities if the council opts to spend the cash on smaller schemes improving the existing network.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, he said that to not investing the funding on a new mass transport scheme would be “a huge mistake as it would waste this single opportunity for Leeds to finally get started with a mass transit scheme and catch up with cities like Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham.”
However, Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning at the council, said there was not enough time to create and implement a mass transport plan because the Government money must be spent within five years.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “This is too important for us to have political squabbles about, it’s about the future of the city.
“The time frame is too small for a mass transit scheme. The leading time would mean it wouldn’t get done. This is about spending the money wisely on public transport.”
The rejected NGT scheme proposed a nine-mile public transport route connecting the north, centre and south of the city.
Coun Lewis said examples of smaller schemes - costing sums such as 10m and 20m - could be new park and ride schemes, or additional train stations in the city that would complement the current transport network.
Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority has carried out a series of consultations and ‘conversations’ for people to help shape the next transport schemes since NGT was rejected.
Coun Lewis said: “We have carried out the biggest consultation on transport that I can remember.
“What we are doing is actually asking people what they want.
“We don’t actually have a transport problem. Traffic moves relatively easy along Leeds at peak times.
“We are not in a terrible place at the moment but we want to be better.
“We are talking to the people of Leeds, we want their views. Once we have heard everything they are saying, that gives us a real feel for coming up with schemes that will help solve the city’s problems.”
Mr Mulholland also submitted a letter to leader of the council, Coun Judith Blake, demanding the £173.5m is spent on a mass transport scheme.
The letter says: “It would be absurd for Leeds to waste this opportunity just because of an arbitrary Government timetable, so I have written to DfT urging them to give time for proper consideration of what Leeds really needs as you yourself have acknowledged, which is a mass transit scheme to run alongside our railways, bus services and cycling and walking routes.
“I hope you will back this call as will the MPs, rather than submitting a bid that does not deliver what Leeds really needs.”
Councillors in Leeds will today meet with an advisory panel, made up of transport experts, to discuss proposals for schemes.
The council is organising an open event at Leeds Civic Hall on Tuesday for people to have their say about the strategy.