Welcoming Leeds City Council’s announcement of £180million investment in the city’s bus services, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Chair Councillor Keith Wakefield today 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.
“Elland Road Park and Ride is already making to reduced congestion, better traffic flows and air quality in Leeds city centre and we are already developing the £9m, 1,000-space facility at Temple Green in east Leeds, which will open next year.
“Buses have a vital role to play in achieving the key aims of our Leeds City Region Strategic Economic Plan, which are to create 36,000 extra jobs and generate £3.7 billion of additional economic output. We are therefore, determined to build upon the successes we have already achieved in partnership with the bus operators, such as the development of MCard, the country’s largest smartcard travel scheme outside London.
“The plans unveiled by Leeds City Council today will help us to develop the attractive, reliable and integrated services individuals and businesses tall us they want to see across the City Region.”
The details have been revealed as part of the Council’s ambitious new Leeds Transport Strategy to be released later today which would see a total of £270m of improvements made to the public transport networks in the city. In addition to invsting £180m in bus service the Strategy aims to double passenger numbers within 10 years and improve air quality.
Bus operator First West Yorkshire has pledged to invest £71m to provide 284 new state-of-the-art buses for its Leeds fleet by the end of 2020. This will offer a better experience as well as the new buses being low Euro VI or zero-emissions vehicles which will improve air quality in the city by reducing NOx emissions by 87 per cent. Leeds City Council is also in talks with other bus operators about additional investment in their services. This partnership approach, including all bus companies, is aiming to increase demand, encourage 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 of Department of Transport funding secured following the decision not to proceed with the New Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus in May, with the funds needing to be invested in public transport before the end of 2021. Additional public and private investment would also be available, such as from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and developer contributions.
The proposed improvements include:
- Over 90 per cent of services on the core bus network to run at 10-minute frequency, along with more frequent early evening services
- Additional bus priority measures on key corridors including the A61/A639 South, A61 North, A660, A58 north east and A647 to ease congestion and improve bus journey times and reliability
- A new park and ride site at Stourton with an express bus serving the city centre, along with a further new site in north Leeds and Temple Green which opens next year – would add more than 2,000 additional spaces in the city
- The current Elland Road park and ride service to continue to be expanded and for it to link with other parts of the city
- A focus on improving local bus journeys to improve connectivity between communities and neighbourhoods
- Use of new smart technologies to improve ticketing, boarding and waiting times using real-time updated displays and information to generate increased network capacity, along with free wi-fi on all new buses
- Bus stops across the city to be improved, with 1,000 more offering real-time information on service.
- Improvements at Leeds Bus Station and enhanced district hubs across the city as part of a more integrated bus network connecting with community services
The need to provide improved bus services with better reliability, faster journey times and a more integrated network connecting communities was one of the priorities identified from the recent survey as part of the transport conversation in Leeds.
Bus travel is the most used form of public transport in Leeds, with 15 per cent 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: “We know bus travel is an essential way of getting around in Leeds and people have told us they want to see improved services, infrastructure and capacity. They also want to see improvements quickly, alongside longer term proposals. 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.
“The demand for more park and ride schemes like Elland Road shows drivers are willing to leave their cars in order to get on buses if they are efficient and reliable. In environmental terms these changes and using new technology will ease congestion and improve air quality. As part of the overall strategy these improvements would help get all of Leeds moving and be better connected which is the key to increased productivity and the future growth of the city and regional economy.”
Paul Matthews, Managing Director for First West Yorkshire, said: “As one of the largest bus operators in Leeds, we are delighted to be able to advance our significant investment, which alongside the commitments of Leeds City Council, will dramatically change the customer experience for bus travel, and as a result, we believe that doubling passenger numbers in the next 10 years is achievable.”
The new Leeds Transport Strategy has been supported and guided by the new Leeds transport advisory panel. The panel is chaired by Director of Strategy for Transport for the North Nigel Foster and includes leading transport experts and senior figures from transport bodies and organisations, along with representatives from the worlds of business, education, planning, accessibility, equalities and campaign groups.
It also forms part of the wider regional strategic economic plan which aims to deliver up to 36,000 new jobs and an additional £3.7billion of economic output by 2036 in the Leeds City Region.
The proposals and strategy released tomorrow will be considered by senior councillors at next week’s executive board meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday 14 December and if approved will then go to the Department of Transport for its consideration.