Kirklees councillor Peter McBride told a regional transport meeting that lessons must be learned from the failure to bring a tram system to Leeds over recent decades, by identifying the best possible routes to improve connections within the Leeds City Region.
The whole region must benefit from new transport routes, not just Leeds and Bradford, he told a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, as the newly-mooted mass transit system were discussed publicly for the first time.
The new system is part of a strategy to transform connectivity in communities of greatest economic need in order to boost the region’s productivity and living standards, improve air quality and complement the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail scheme which is due to open in Leeds in 2033.
According to a report to the committee, transport congestion and air quality have become major constraints on growth as the population has increased and there is “insufficient resilience and capacity” in the city region’s urban transport system, particularly to key employment sites.
The report states that by the time HS2 opens locally, there is a need to deliver a mass transit system within core urban areas of West Yorkshire. In doing so, there is an opportunity to introduce new autonomous or propulsion technologies which are not yet commonplaces in the UK, the report explains.
Initial proposals show three new mass transit lines running out of Leeds and into neighbouring areas. One line would connect Leeds’ Southbank with the city’s universities in one direction and through west Leeds into Bradford and south into Dewsbury in the other direction.
A second line would run from Leeds’ universities to the Southbank and branch out in three directions, to Temple Green park and ride, Junction 28 of the M62 and to Castleford.
The third line would connect Leeds Dock with Thorpe Park in east Leeds.
Commenting on the proposals, which were described at today’s meeting as merely “the start of a conversation”, Coun McBride said: “We have got some evidence of making mistakes in the past, I think the tram system, and the original proposal, many of us said was on the wrong route. I think we have not got to make that mistake again.”
The committee was shown a map of the proposed lines and Coun McBride said any routes must benefit the wider West Yorkshire region.
“That (the map) doesn’t refer in anyway to south west Yorkshire, all of Calderdale isn’t included, and huge swathes of Kirklees. All of these areas have got to be included. It has to be evidence based.”
Coun Barry Collins, deputy leader of Calderdale Council, agreed, saying: “When you are looking at the questions of housing and planning, there are huge potential developments in the areas of Kirklees and Calderdale.
“If we are having a conversation can we please make sure that we include all parts of the area in this and genuinely do look at areas that do need transformation in terms of connectivity.”
The committee agreed to start consulting with the public and stakeholders about its proposals.