In ONE month, the deadline for consultation on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Connectivity Infrastructure Plan passes.
One major part of this once-in-a-generation review is the Mass Transit 2040 vision, which tries to describe how West Yorkshire will use some sort of Light Rail system to ease the region’s transport headaches.
This section of the proposals fails, in my view, because it essentially looks for lowest-cost solutions based on reusing surface space to interconnect existing heavy rail lines and disused rail alignments, something one type of design WYCA describes in its own paper as “challenging to implement”.
Less obvious, unless one lives nearby, is the parts of Leeds that the proposed network bypasses, not least the polluted, noisy and congested A660 corridor through Headingley, Weetwood, Adel and Bramhope.
James Bovington’s letter (The Yorkshire Post, March 5), and Tony Young’s (The Yorkshire Post, March 10) are therefore a timely reminder that the most obvious solution is not being considered by WYCA; namely an underground system for Leeds.
I recognise that tunnels are more expensive than surface rail, but stitching Victorian heavy rail into the fabric of modern cities without going underground, is the hurdle that many projects fall at, however hard the planners try.
Short distances underground would create surface space for cyclists, pedestrians and deliveries, so relieve those congested, polluted bottlenecks.
Leeds is the largest European city without a tram or tube system, and the West Yorkshire region the largest conurbation I can find in Europe without some underground transport.
If “levelling up” and “Northern Powerhouse” are to mean anything, then it is high time our civic leaders showed more ambition, and demanded the funds to make this long-term and tangible improvement in the quality of life for all of the citizens of West Yorkshire.
In short, if it is right for London, Lille or Lyon to have a tube, it’s also right for Leeds.