New Bus for Leeds?
First in Leeds has offered an alternative to the NGT trolleybus scheme proposed for the city by Metro. Dubbed ‘The New Bus for Leeds’, First claims this option will deliver a greatly enhanced transport service but far sooner than 2019, at a fraction of the cost and benefitting much more of the city instead of just the proposed north-south corridor of the trolleybus. The plans include the introduction of smart and mobile ticketing for faster boarding, targeted infrastructure changes to provide quicker journeys and state-of-the-art vehicles. Similar in concept to the New Routemasters in London, the ‘New Bus for Leeds’ vehicles would provide multi-door boarding, luxury interiors, free Wi-fi and hybrid technology. The company stresses that this would come without all the infrastructure required for the trolleybus and says that it will develop into fully electric buses when the technology becomes available.
The alternative scheme is set out in First’s submission to the forthcoming public inquiry on the NGT project, which is set to take place on 29 April at Regus Office, 5th Floor, 2 Wellington Place, Leeds LS1 4AP. In its submission, the operator outlines why the trolleybus scheme will not deliver the economic and passenger benefits its supporters claim. There are concerns about the impact on other bus services feeding off the proposed trolleybus route as well as those crossing it, leading to a worse service for many passengers.
One of First’s main concerns is that Leeds will be ‘locked into outdated 100 year old trolleybus technology for decades to come’. Further significant advances in bus technology are expected by 2019, the forecast date of the first trolleybus, let alone by the end of the 30 years life of the scheme. Through having committed £250m to NGT, with further hoped for routes elsewhere in Leeds, the company believes the city will be deprived of investment in much more advanced, better value and more flexible alternatives.
Regional MD of First in the North of England, Dave Alexander, said, ‘A common objective between First, the Council and Metro is for Leeds to have a radical improvement in public transport that enhances its image and boosts its status. We are concerned that the trolleybus scheme will not achieve this. On the other hand, “The New Bus for Leeds”, combined with other measures, will bring radical improvements to far more passengers, in a much shorter time and with huge savings to the public purse compared with the trolleybus proposals. We are keen to work with the Council and Metro on our proposals that we believe align far better with the proposed West Yorkshire Transport Fund arrangement.’
Mr M J Whitehead LLB BSC CENG MICE, who has been appointed to conduct the Public Inquiry into the NGT scheme, is to hold a Pre-inquiry meeting to discuss the practical arrangements for the inquiry, to set an inquiry programme and to clarify the scope of the inquiry. This meeting will take place at the Leeds Metropole Hotel at 10.00 on 4 March.