Local taxpayers will have to foot part of £2bn bill for West Yorkshire Mass Transit System

Just £100m of new money towards the estimated £2bn cost of the proposed new West Yorkshire Mass Transit System is budgeted for in the Government's controversial Integrated Rail Plan.

Ahead of the publication of the plan last month, Government sources briefed national newspapers that the transit system would be a "consolation" for the city for being dropped from the HS2 route.

But the IRP states the cost of the network is expected to be over £2bn - a figure not fully budgeted for within the £96bn programme of investment announced by the Government. The report says Government "will also expect local taxpayers to make a contribution to the system's capital costs".

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The plan says £200m will be provided to help develop proposals and start work but this money will also cover the costs of a new study into eventually bringing HS2 to Leeds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Network Rail hub at Gascoigne Wood, near Selby, North Yorkshire, to coincide with the announcement of the Integrated Rail Plan.

At a Transport for the North board meeting last week, Department for Transport official Nick Bisson revealed that £100m of that figure actually comes from the previously-announced City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement for West Yorkshire, with the new £100m announced in the IRP will be split between developing the mass transit system plans and the HS2 study.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said today that she has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps "seeking urgent clarification on the funding for a mass transit system for West Yorkshire".

She said: “Almost two weeks on since the Government announced the Integrated Rail Plan, we have had no written confirmation from government on what is new money and what has been previously announced. That is simply not good enough.

“Once we have clarification on the additional funding available, it’s vital that we have a seamless and timely approach to delivery.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Network Rail hub at Gascoigne Wood, near Selby, North Yorkshire, to coincide with the announcement of the Integrated Rail Plan.

The IRP states that "exciting plans" for a transit system for the city have been drawn up by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The report makes clear that the £200m announced to develop the proposals - alongside revised plans to join the city to HS2 - includes money previously announced in the Budget as part of West Yorkshire's £830m City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement.

It highlights how other similar schemes like the Manchester Metrolink and Sheffield Supertram were paid for at a local level. The Metrolink was paid for in part through a council tax levy, while the costs of the Supertram were controversially split between the taxpayers of South Yorkshire and is not due to be paid off until 2024. The BBC reported in 2014 that people in South Yorkshire were paying 5p a week each towards Supertram.

The IRP states: "Leeds is the largest city in western Europe without light rail or a metro. By any standard, it and the wider West Yorkshire conurbation need better local transport as well as better, faster trains to other cities.

"West Yorkshire Combined Authority has drawn up exciting plans for a West Yorkshire Mass Transit System, which could involve tram-trains (as in Sheffield), conventional light rail, prioritised bus rapid transit corridors or a mixture of these technologies. As with Manchester's Metrolink, the system would improve transport both within Leeds and to other towns and cities in West Yorkshire.

"The IRP and West Yorkshire’s new City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS), announced at the 2021 Spending Review, will together commit more than £200m from central government to further develop and start work on delivering these plans, alongside the assessment of how best to get HS2 services to Leeds. We intend for some parts to be in service by the second half of this decade.

"The cost for the initial network, over ten years, is expected to exceed £2bn. There are inter-relationships between the Mass Transit System and the other schemes in the IRP, particularly at Leeds station, where the metro could free capacity by removing some local services, as Metrolink did from Manchester Piccadilly.

"The mass transit system and the other schemes in this Plan must, therefore, be planned and delivered in a co-ordinated fashion, rather than separately, as now. As in other light rail schemes in the West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Nottingham and Greater Manchester, we will also expect local taxpayers to make a contribution to the system's capital costs."

Future allocations of Government funding towards the scheme will be the subject of discussions between the Department for Transport and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We’re spending £96bn – the biggest ever such investment – to boost our rail network and level up the entire country.

“The majority of this spend will be focused on bringing opportunity and prosperity to the Midlands and the North of England, a decade quicker than previous plans and at better value for the taxpayer.”

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