Transport schemes ready to go as cash is found

FIVE Yorkshire transport schemes which have been in limbo for 18 months could finally get the go-ahead this month after the Government revealed it has enough money to pay for all of them.

An extra £170m pledged by the Chancellor for local transport schemes in his autumn statement means the schemes – including the much-touted trolleybus and improvements to the inner ring road in Leeds and a bypass in North Yorkshire – are no longer competing against each other for a slice of the cash.

Transport chiefs now hope the schemes will be given the green light before Christmas as the Government relies on infrastructure spending to help the economy recover, although they will still have to pass tough value-for-money tests before being approved.

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“This additional funding for projects in the development pool is extremely good news for the Leeds City Region bids for the new generation transport trolleybus network and the refurbishment of the Leeds inner city ring road,” said Kieran Preston, director general of West Yorkshire transport authority Metro.

“We are confident that by helping to maximise growth of the local economy, enhancing the competitiveness of the city region, creating thousands of permanent new jobs, and reducing city centre congestion both these schemes more than meet the Department for Transport’s criteria, and look forward to a positive announcement as soon as possible.”

Chancellor George Osborne announced this week that he was approving £100m worth of transport projects in the region, including a park-and-ride scheme in York, two new stations in West Yorkshire, new trams for Sheffield and road improvements in East Yorkshire and Doncaster. He hopes the spending, some of which will come from local sources, will create jobs and stimulate the economy.

But another 25 schemes around the country – including five in Yorkshire – are still waiting for an answer from the Government 18 months after they were put on hold as the coalition began to make its spending cuts.

Fresh bids were submitted for each scheme earlier this year as officials were urged to cut costs if they wanted the go-ahead, but initially there was not enough money to pay for all the projects.

However, the extra £170m set aside by Mr Osborne means they are now all affordable and will all go ahead as long as they pass Department for Transport tests to show they are value for money.

The Yorkshire schemes hopeful of getting the go-ahead – which would eventually cost Ministers £264m – include the Leeds new generation transport trolleybus network, a scheme drawn up after the city’s supertram project was rejected by the previous government.

Officials claim the £250m scheme will generate £5.90 of benefits for every pound of Government money spent on it, helping boost the Leeds economy by £176m and creating 4,000 extra jobs in the city centre. The Government is being asked to fund £163.5m, with the remainder coming from the council and other local contributions.

Other schemes waiting for an answer include a bypass for Bedale, Leeming Bar and Askew, which would cost £43m, and improvements to Leeds inner ring road for which Ministers are being asked to contribute £18.5m.

In East Yorkshire, officials are hoping for £20.6m to be awarded from the Government to help fund the Beverley transport plan, which includes a new road, railway bridge and improvements to roundabouts, while in South Yorkshire there is a bid for £19.4m to fund a new bus route from Sheffield along the Don Valley towards Rotherham.

Officials cut the amount they were asking the Government for in their final bids for four of the schemes, with only the Bedale bypass request unchanged.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Osborne said he was making a “huge commitment to overhauling the physical transport infrastructure of our nation”.

A National Infrastructure Plan has been published including 500 projects the Government wants built over the next few years and the Chancellor hopes to use up to £20bn from pension funds to help finance construction.