Words: Richard Beecham
A Leeds councillor has claimed public transport has become “pretty much non-existent” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con) added that, while he welcomed increased tree-planting, schemes in the city were now getting criticism from the public for disrupting picnic hotspots.
The comments came during a meeting of the council’s Climate Change Emergency Committee, where one of the its transport chiefs called for more confidence to be put back into public transport in the city, following months of Covid-19-related disruption.
Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport, Coun Lisa Mulherin (Lab) told the meeting:
“We would hope some of the changes, in terms of people being more active will be able to continue, as well as people getting back to a more normal quality of life next year.
“The measures we have taken improving the cycle routes and the broadening of footpaths, and making safer cycling much more accessible to people – we should keep that as well as getting confidence back in public transport.”
Responding to Coun Mulherin’s statement, committee member Coun Wadsworth said: “I am very keen that Coun Mulherin thinks we can get confidence back onto public transport, because we have a huge job to do there.
“Public transport is pretty much non-existent at the moment.”
Regional buses and trains have been running at a reduced service since earlier this year.
Coun Wadsworth’s comments came while the committee was discussing its annual report into the state of the environment in Leeds.
The document claimed there had been a national improvement in emission-related air quality since the first Covid-19 lockdown in March. It added there were also numerous programmes in place to plant trees across the district.
Coun Wadsworth added: “If you’d have said a year ago that we would be planting more trees, people would have said ‘absolutely brilliant – we need more trees’.
“But now people want the green space back to sit on and picnic on – people are saying to me ‘you are planting trees where we used to picnic because there was nowhere else to go’.”
Committee chair Coun Neil Walshaw said: “Nobody in this council believes tree planting is a cure-all for all of our transport emissions – there is not enough land in the world for that.
“The tree planting work is good, but it needs to be the right trees in the right places.”
A full Leeds City Council meeting is expected to discuss the report early next year.