By Richard Beecham and Keely Bannister
A Farnley & Wortley councillor has reiterated calls to reopen some of district’s lost railway stations to help combat climate change and get more people using public transport.
He is set to ask fellow councillors to support the resurrection of the city’s disused rail infrastructure, as well as supporting public ownership of the region’s bus services.
The motion ends by suggesting the council’s Chief Executive Tom Riordan write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask for government help funding the projects.
Cllr Blackburn’s clarion call is detailed in a motion, known as a white paper, set to go before a full Leeds City Council meeting next week, when councillors will vote whether or not the authority should adopt it.
“Council notes the current uncertain situation with regard to First Bus and other bus operators in West Yorkshire, and believes that the way forward is for West Yorkshire Combined Authority to take over the running of these operations.
“Council also believes that appropriate funding should be made available to bring back into operation disused rail infrastructure, such as unused track, and the re-opening of many of the former local railway stations closed many years ago, such as the one in Wortley and the two in Armley.
“It is council’s view that only with vibrant publicly owned bus services, running in the interest of the passenger, and expanded local rail services can Leeds (or for that matter, West Yorkshire) achieve a 21st century public transport system that delivers for its citizens, helps to reduce congestion and is consistent with the aims of the climate emergency.
“Council also notes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he will transform transport in the North. Bearing this in mind council, therefore, calls on the chief executive to write to the Prime Minister asking for the government to support these aspirations, both in actions and funding.”
Coun Blackburn made similar calls to reopen the city’s forgotten rail stations at a meeting of the authority’s climate emergency board in 2019, claiming plans to expand park and ride schemes were not environmentally friendly enough.
Following a report by government advisor Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s, a number of stations in Leeds, including Armley Canal Road, Kirkstall, Stanningley and Lowtown in Pudsey were closed.
Conservative motion over mass transit scheme
Calverley & Farsley councillor Andrew Carter (Conservative) has also put forward a motion at the full council meeting. It acknowledges the money being invested in Leeds through the Connecting Leeds programme and welcomes the “Government commitment to spend £4.2bn on public transport projects outside of London”.
Calling on a “new approach to public transport, not wholly reliant on the bus”, the motion says that the council should bring a report to the March Executive Board setting out detailed plans as to how a new mass transit scheme can be delivered to all communities in the city.
Cllr Carter’s motion reads:
“This Council is concerned by recent and repeated examples of gridlock and heavy congestion in the City Centre, leading to significant disruption to commuters as they travel in and out of Leeds.
“Council notes the investment being made through Connecting Leeds, including the £173.5m granted by Government, but believes that to get the city moving and to encourage greater growth and productivity a new approach to public transport, not wholly reliant on the bus, is required.
“This Council therefore welcomes the Government commitment to spend £4.2bn on public transport projects outside of London and notes that some of this funding is planned for the Leeds district.
“Council believes this offers a new opportunity to deliver a mass transit scheme for the city which will deliver obvious economic benefits as well as significantly reducing the city’s carbon emissions in line with the declared Climate Emergency.
“Council further believes that all areas of the city should be considered for mass transit infrastructure and is concerned that existing WYCA proposals seem to omit North Leeds, and the potential links to Harrogate, York and Wetherby, from any new transport infrastructure plans.
“In light of this announcement made during the election campaign, this Council calls for a report to be brought to the March Executive Board meeting setting out detailed plans as to how a new mass transit scheme can be delivered to all communities in the city and to include analysis of the potential benefits such a scheme would deliver in terms of reducing the carbon footprint in Leeds.”
At the meeting, which will be held on Wednesday 15th January at 1pm, the motions will be debated with each of the other political parties represented on the council able to submit amendments.
Each motion and any amendments will be voted on, with whatever is passed becoming official council policy.