Trolleybus decision expected next month

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A FINAL decision on the long-delayed trolleybus scheme in Yorkshire is expected within a matter of weeks.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said yesterday he expects to make an announcement “very shortly” on whether to give the green light to the £250m Leeds Trolleybus scheme and finally deliver a modern transport network for the region’s largest city.

A decision had been expected in May, but has slipped again amid ongoing concerns from Treasury and Department for Transport officials about the cost of the city centre scheme.

But it is still expected an announcement will be made before Parliament goes into summer recess on July 17.

“The Leeds Trolleybus scheme is actually on my desk at the moment,” Mr Baker told the Yorkshire Post.

“That’s a matter which we’re subjecting to rigorous economic assessment, because it’s more complicated than the other schemes which we funded from the same fund.

“There are two issues there. The first is a technical issue, which is that it goes across the next spending review (period), and that’s something which no Government, no Treasury, ever likes very much. So there’s an issue about that.

“The second issue is that this is new technology to Britain.

“It’s not new in the sense that we used to have it years ago, but there isn’t a trolleybus scheme in the country (at the moment) and therefore we obviously have to look at it very carefully.

“We have to make sure the assessment we apply is a correct assessment, because it’s difficult to look at comparators.”

The trolleybus scheme has been revised repeatedly by transport bosses in Leeds over several years as they try to win approval from Ministers.

It follows the rejection of a planned tram system for the city by the previous Labour government in 2005.

Local authorities are requesting £160m from Whitehall, having pledged to make up the shortfall with locally-raised funds.

Mr Baker said he was unable to put a precise timescale on when a decision will come, but told MPs in the Commons yesterday it is expected “very shortly”.