Experts gathered at Leeds Town Hall earlier, with operators and manufacturers all making the case for a light rail system in Leeds.
It came a week after Leeds council bosses announced a £270 million investment in the city’s buses, train services and park and ride facilities,
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group , told the gathering that the challenge now was to show that “Leeds needs light rail” and that it is the best mass transit option for the city, said after the day-long summit: “Thanks to Light Rail (UK) for bringing light rail experts together and to all the transport experts from all around the country and abroad who came to Leeds to discuss the opportunities for light rail in the city.
“The Light Rail for Leeds summit clearly showed that with the political will, we could and should get started with light rail in Leeds and the consensus was that the £250 million of NGT funding should be used for this.
“Leeds is the driver of the regional economy, and it needs a transport scheme to match. Leeds City Council’s plans to spend the money, which was given to Leeds for a mass transit scheme, on a series of smaller improvements, will not deliver the transformative change that Leeds needs”.
Speakers at the cross-party event included Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, who said he was fed up of Leeds “constantly complaining” about Manchester, and that the city was “brilliant at talking itself out of projects”.
He called on city leaders to take advantage of the “huge opportunities” available to it, adding that “Leeds needs to get its act together, like Manchester already has”.
Among the other speakers yesterday was Steve Barber, a Labour councillor who championed Nottingham’s tram system and Roger Harrison, chairman of the £570m Tramlink Nottingham extension.
Mr Harrison said passenger demand in Leeds would shoot up by 114 per cent over the next 30 years from 29million to 62 million, and meeting that demand would require a doubling of the number of buses. “Buses alone will not solve your problem,” the meeting was told.
Mr Harrison also pointed out that global investors from countries like China were “very interested” in pumping money into city’s with “good transport”.
He told the summit: “The £270m masterplan is good news for the Leeds City Region but it fails to fully address the Leeds Bradford Airport links. Tram-Train could provide that link.”
He added it would bring other benefits like reducing congestion and pollution and would allow the city to maximize on the arrival of HS2 high speed rail and the city’s own role as a key “strategic point” in the North.
Mr Harrison urged civic leaders to “get a team working fast” on an initial Tram-Train plan.
Also speaking was Veronique Ranadi, a representative of Stadler, which is building a pilot tram scheme for Sheffield from next year. She told the summit that the tram-train concept was “a tool for sustainable urban development, and not just a transportation system”.
She cited several examples of European cities embracing tram-train, including Aarhus in Denmark, which will be a European Capital of Culture next year.
She also cited another Danish city Odense, which is embracing tram train as part of a 3.2billion Euro public investment programme.
Another speaker, Tony Young - who chaired the technical team that developed Manchester’s tram system - said that £250-£300 million would deliver a 15-30km starter line and he put forward several options, concluding that the best way is to start linking the city centre with Stourton park and ride.