Review highlights need for major public transport investment in Leeds

Leeds is one of four city regions identified for public transport improvements in the Government’s official infrastructure advisers’ latest report on the biggest priorities for the long-term future of the UK’s key networks.

The second National Infrastructure Assessment – a five yearly review by the National Infrastructure Commission – sets out a programme of transformation for the country’s energy, transport and other networks over the next 30 years.

Its recommendations include giving Leeds a share of £22bn funding for major public transport schemes, with around two thirds of this investment focused on four priority city regions – Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, and Manchester.

The remaining one third should be allocated to other cities where a strong case can be made on the basis of connectivity or capacity, says the Commission.

The assessment says less than four in ten of Leeds’ population can currently reach the city centre by public transport within 30 minutes – something the Commission notes is worse than for many European cities of a comparable size.

It sets out the scale of expected passenger demand growth in future, with an estimated capacity gap of at least 7,000 additional passengers unable to get into Leeds city centre during the midweek peak by 2055, based on current public transport provision.

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.”

The Commission suggests city regions benefiting from this investment should make a financial contribution of at least 15-25% of capital costs, and that a combination of mechanisms such as business rate retention and capture of land value increases should be considered.

Following the Government’s recent decision on HS2, the Commission also calls for a new long-term strategy that sets out how rail improvements will address capacity and connectivity challenges facing the North and Midlands.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Growing the size and productivity of Leeds will help rebalance the country’s economic geography as well as create more well paid jobs locally.

“Better public transport and easing traffic congestion is key to that. Leeds is one of four city regions with a clear case for significant Government investment in a step change in transport capacity.”

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin added: “It’s fantastic to see this recognition of how important investment in transformational public transport infrastructure is to the future of our region.

“We have an ambitious plan for a mass transit system that will serve the whole of West Yorkshire — connecting its important places, tackling climate change and unlocking economic growth across the region and the entire country.”

The Government is expected to respond formally to the assessment within 12 months.