Hundreds of people packed into the banqueting suite at Leeds Civic Hall for yesterday’s summit, as city bosses bid to come up with the ultimate scheme to replace the city’s scrapped trolleybus.
Guests were invited to question an expert panel and put forward their ideas to make Leeds a “beacon” in urban transport planning.
The summit was told that the city must “think about the mobility of young and old - and everybody who steps outside of their front door”.
Guests heard that Leeds will “tap into the best national and international brains” to formulate its strategy and finally get its hands on the promised £173m Government funding pledged to the city for the right scheme.
Among the speakers was former London transport chief Peter Hendy, who appeared via a video presentation, and stressed that “frequency, affordability and reliability” must be at the forefront of the city’s - and the region’s - vision.
Also addressing the summit was Dr Greg Marsden, a professor of transport planning at Leeds University, who told the gathering: “For me, the importance is to try and develop a transport system that works for everyone.
“That includes recognising the relative roles of all the different forms of transport, including the car.
“I don’t think we’ve got the balance right in Leeds at all right now.”
Andrew Carter, leader of the main opposition Tory group on the council, said: “I was the poor unfortunate chap who sat in front of Alistair Darling in 2006 to be told that supertram was not going to be funded and there was no money on the table.
“So I am delighted that this Goverment has infact left the money on the table.
“We are fortunate. And this £173m is a massive opotunity.
“We have to think about connectivity to the heart of the economy of the city region - which is Leeds. “We can’t afford to make the same mistakes again. Because mistakes have been made. It will be third time lucky - we hope there won’t be a fourth, so let’s make sure we get it right.”
Leeds council leader Judith Blake said that whatever happens, “we have to take the people of Leeds with us”.
Speaking after the event, she added: “It was inspiring to see people from such a huge cross section of organisations and communities across Leeds coming together for the first step in what will be the biggest ever consultation about the future of public transport in Leeds.
“What was clear today was that, while we can’t all always agree on what the best solution might be, what we do have in Leeds is a shared passion for giving the city a transport system we can be proud of.
“Leeds has made some excellent progress, with projects like the award-winning Elland Road park and ride and the new southern entrance to Leeds Station already making a big difference for commuters.
“Ongoing projects such as the East Leeds Link Road will also provide a major boost for other parts of Leeds in the future.
“But what we now need to do is develop additional plans for further improvements that are pragmatic, deliverable, and focus on the outcomes we are trying to achieve- faster journeys, more capacity, economic growth and better air quality.
“We need to identify schemes that can be delivered soon, such as park and ride sites, high quality, fast bus routes, new rail stations, better public spaces, cycle and walking routes alongside transformational long-term projects that suit the needs of 21st Century commuters and passengers.
“Our next step will be to take the feedback from today as well as ideas and information gathered at forthcoming community consultations and develop a detailed plan to submit to the Department for Transport before the end of the year.
“I’d like to offer my thanks to everyone who attended today and encourage as many people as possible to play their part in future sessions so we can ensure Leeds gets the transport system it deserves.”
‘Let’s get back to canals’ after trolleybus woes
Opening up Yorkshire’s historic waterways could be a crucial element in helping solve the region’s urban transport woes, the influential summit was told.
The idea was one of several radical solutions put forward at the transport event in Leeds yesterday,
David Lowe, from the Canal and River Trust, suggested that the country’s – and the region’s – historic waterways could be used as a way of reducing pressure on the roads, but also to boost economic potential.
“We have a fantastic system of waterways in this country and the Leeds and Liverpool canal celebrates its bicentenary this year,” he said.
“The waterways can provide walking and cycling opportunities. We can also look at waterbuses – there’s already an experimental service between Leeds station and Leeds Dock which is working well.
“The Aire and Calder navigation is of course a major transport waterway for this country.”
He pointed out that the Trust is currently developing a port at Leeds, which could carry barges “equivalent to 20 to 30 lorries”.
Coun Judith Blake said the idea had already attracted “significant” interest at a recent meeting between leaders of the major Northern cities, especially in relation to the issue of moving freight.