By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
Rishi Sunak’s reference to West Yorkshire’s planned mass transit system as the “Leeds tram” has been described as “annoying.”
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said the Prime Minister’s wording – linking the transport system solely to Leeds – was frustrating after years of the scheme being promoted as something that would benefit all towns and cities in West Yorkshire.
Although the plans are only in the early stages, the mass transit system is expected to include routes linking Bradford to Leeds – which would use an unspecified route through West Leeds – and Bradford to Dewsbury, as well as stops in areas like Holme Wood.
The PM included referred to the “Leeds Tram” in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference as one of the planned schemes that would benefit from the scrapping of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2.
The Prime Minister’s comments were discussed at the last meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, when Ms Brabin said: “Annoyingly he made a promise for the Leeds Tram. How many times have we got to say this is not a Leeds project? It is a West Yorkshire plan to create well connected towns and cities across the region using a multi modal transport network.
“This is not just about Leeds, it is about all of us.”
She said the Government’s pledge included a “downpayment” of £500m in 2027, with a further £2 billion in 2032.
Ms Brabin added: “I’ve made it very clear our plans are much more ambitious than that.”
She said more money needed to be released for the project in 2027 to deliver the project “as soon as possible.”
Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe, head of the Transport Committee on the Combined Authority, said: “This is a long term project, but will be hugely transformational stuff.
“It is not just about getting from A to B, it is about how it can transform the places around the stops, helping economic activity and housing.”
Ms Brabin said the Manchester tram system had helped “opened up” areas of Greater Manchester, and that a mass transit system in Dublin had led to developments in areas once considered wasteland.
Today the National Infrastructure Commission have released a report that says Leeds as one of the “biggest priorities” for transport investment in the Country.
A report by the commission says less than 40 per cent of Leeds’ population can currently reach the centre of the city by public transport within 30 minutes.
The assessment says the scale of Leeds’ transport capacity need “is likely to justify investing in tram or rail based projects, although the exact type and mix of projects is a decision for cities to determine with government based on the costs and benefits.
“Given major scheme lead in times, project planning and business case development should proceed as soon as possible.”
It suggests West Yorkshire Combined Authority should be provided with enough funding to ensure schemes such as the mass transit system can progress.