Leeds launches £180m transport improvement plan

Leeds city council has proposed an investment of more than £180 million in bus services as part of its transport plan to promote public transport and improve air quality.

Leeds is one of the cities the government has promised to introduce a Clean Air Zone by 2020

Leeds has adopted a partnership approach with bus operators aimed at improving air quality

The proposal was revealed as part of the new Leeds Transport Strategy, released yesterday (6 December), which would see a total of £270m of improvements made to public transport networks in the city.

Operator First West Yorkshire has pledged to invest £71m to provide 284 new buses for its Leeds fleet by the end of 2020. The buses will be Euro VI or zero-emissions vehicles, which the council claims could improve air quality by reducing NOx emissions by 87%.

Leeds city council is in talks with other bus operators about additional investment. This partnership approach, including all bus companies, is aimed at increasing demand, encouraging more people to use public transport and improve air quality in the city.

The new buses would be complemented by infrastructure improvements, part-funded from the £173.5million Department of Transport funding that opened up following the decision to abandon the New Generation Transport trolleybus in May, with funds needing to be invested in public transport before the end of 2021.

Additional public and private investment would also be available, the council has claimed, such as from the West Yorkshire combined authority and developer contributions.

Proposals

Proposed improvements include running 90% of core bus services at 10-minute frequency, bus priority measures to ease congestion and improve bus journey times on key corridors including the A61/A639 South, A61 North, A660, A58 north east and A647, and a new park-and-ride with an express bus serving the city centre as well as two sites in north Leeds and Temple Green opening next year – adding more than 2,000 additional spaces in the city.

The need for improved bus services with better reliability, faster journey times and a more integrated network connecting communities was one of the priorities identified from a recent survey on transport in Leeds.

According to the council, bus travel is the most used form of public transport in Leeds, with 15% of working residents travelling by bus and 250,000 bus trips being made per day in the city. They also provide a key service to those without a car, which is currently approximately one-third of households in Leeds.

Leader of Leeds city council, Councillor Judith Blake said: “Together with First West Yorkshire, bus operators and partners in the city, we have set out the ambitious aim of doubling the number of people using the bus in the next 10 years along with improving air quality.

“We think that our ambitious target is achievable by delivering on these changes to offer an improved and more reliable network as well as increasing local services to help bring all communities closer together and connect people more easily to jobs.”

Air Quality

Councillor Keith Wakefield, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Chair, said: “Each week in West Yorkshire, people use buses to make over 3.5 million journeys, making them by far the most highly used form of public transport.

“Modern, clean, frequent and reliable buses carrying over 90 people at a time combined with physical improvements such as priority, intelligent junctions and park and ride facilities can reduce congestion, improve reliability and, importantly, contribute to improved air quality as well.”

The new Leeds Transport Strategy has been supported and guided by the Leeds transport advisory panel, chaired by director of strategy for transport for the North Nigel Foster. The panel includes experts from transport bodies and organisations, along with representatives from the worlds of business, education, planning, accessibility, equalities and campaign groups.

The proposals and strategy will be considered by senior councillors at the executive board meeting at Civic Hall on 14 December and if approved will go to the Department of Transport for consideration.