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West Yorkshire’s mass transit system could run through west Leeds – but we’ll find out stops over next year

By David Spereall, local democracy reporter

Details of the “once in a lifetime” West Yorkshire mass transit system, including the areas that are likely to get stops, will likely be revealed over the next year.

The system, which will see all of the region’s major cities linked by an as yet unknown form of mass transit, was one of the targets included in the new West Yorkshire Plan, which was revealed last Friday.

Indicative plans have shown that one of the mass transit system’s lines could link Leeds and Bradford and go through West Leeds and feature stops in places like Bramley, Wortley and Pudsey.

The document shapes what needs to be done between now and 2040 to make the most out of the area’s potential.

An early draft proposal of the network from last year.

It was launched at an event in the Leeds Corn Exchange on Friday morning, an event attended by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, and the leaders of all five West Yorkshire councils.

It has five main “missions”:

  • To create a more prosperous West Yorkshire
  • To create a happy West Yorkshire, by improving housing, public health and green spaces
  • A better connected West Yorkshire
  • A greener, more sustainable West Yorkshire, working towards new zero carbon
  • A safer West Yorkshire – a push that aims to reduce violent crime and anti social behaviour.

Presenting the plan, Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “At times we in West Yorkshire can let ourselves get overshadowed by other regions, or ignored by Westminster.”

But she said the decision to devolve power to West Yorkshire in 2020 meant the region had a much better chance of determining its own future.

Those in attendance were told it was up to organisations across the region to make sure the plan works, and does not “gather dust.”

One of the main strands of the plan is to improve transport. Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, spoke about the importance of the new mass transit plans, as well as improving bus services.

The Authority recently announced that taking greater control of local bus services was the “preferred option” to improve bus services, and that after a public consultation a decision would be made next year.

Speaking about the ways to improve travel, she said public transport should be the first choice for most people.

She said: “Buses are the most widely used form of public transport, but since bus deregulation, routes and timetables have been slashed.

“We want a bus service that meets the needs of all our communities.

“We try to step in when communities get cut off due to changes, but as things stand we can’t do anything to stop private bus companies from cutting services.

“With greater public control we’ll be able to create an integrated London style transport network.”

Referring to the mass transit system, she said: “This will connect people across the region by 2040.

“We’ll be consulting the public in the next year about the route options. It won’t come cheap, and I urge Government to back our plans in the long term.”

She said the Authority were also still pushing for Government to reverse its decision to scrap the Leeds leg of HS2 and to reinstate plans for a Northern Powerhouse Rail line that would include a stop in Bradford.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Taking buses into public control is only part of making buses better for West Yorkshire.

“We need more funding to provide an excellent bus service.”

WYCA was recently awarded millions for a bus service improvement plan, with the goal of adding to what is already available.

But Cllr Hinchliffe said that with government subsidies to bus companies reducing, and companies subsequently proposing cuts to services, there was a danger this pot of cash would be needed to prop up the existing system, rather than improve it. She said: “We might have to use it to subsidise the network, meaning we might not be able to deliver our greater ambitions.”

Referring to the mass transit plans, she pointed out that West Yorkshire was the biggest region in the country without a mass transit system.

Despite an apparent lack of progress on the ambitious plans, she said: “There has been a lot of work over the last few years, and there will be more consultations later this year that will start to crystalise what this mass transit system means and will look like.

“This is a once in a lifetime chance for a new transport system, but we can’t do it overnight.”

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