New Generation Transport

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New Generation Transport (NGT) is a £250 million public transport scheme. Its promoters are the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Metro) and Leeds City Council. The scheme would have 20 articulated trolleybuses running between Holt Park in the north and Stourton in the south, via Leeds city centre. Park and rides would be built at Bodington, just south of Holt Park, and at Stourton. The Leeds trolleybus scheme results from the failure in 2005 of the Leeds Supertram scheme to win government funding.

The NGT trolleybus would carry a maximum of 160 passengers of whom 60 would be seated. This diagram shows a vehicle of similar carrying capacity. It has the chassis and body of a Mercedes Benz Citaro G. The Citaro G can carry 158 passengers with 47 seated and 111 standing. Fully laden, the standing density is 7 passengers per square metre.[1]


Stanley King in 2011 at the wheel of Bradford trolleybus 737 at the Bradford Industrial Museum

Metro made the decision to pursue a trolleybus scheme under the chairmanship of trolleybus enthusiast Stanley King late in 2006.[2] During the 1960s, Stanley King had led an unsuccessful campaign to reverse Bradford Council's decision to scrap the Bradford trolleybus system.[3] He became a councillor in 1970 in a further unsuccessful attempt to prevent Bradford scrapping its trolleybus system.[4] On the 26th March 1972 on the final day of trolleybus operation in Bradford, he gave a speech in which he described the trolleybus as “the finest mode of transport ever devised.” [5] For over 20 years, he was Bradford council’s representative on the Metro board. He was Metro’s chairman between July 2004 and June 2005, and again between June 2006 and June 2007. He was deputy chairman in the intervening year and again until he retired in 2008. As Metro’s chairman, in April 2005 he gave the second of two keynote speeches at a conference held at Dudley in the West Midlands for trolleybus lobbyists called “Tbus Expo 2005.” The first keynote speech was given by Ashley Bruce from the trolleybus lobby group “Tbus.” [6] Councillor King was also a guest speaker at “Tbus Expo 2006.” [7] In August 2005, three months before the cancellation of Supertram, Councillor King paid an official visit to Arnhem and Solingen to view their trolleybus systems.[8] In late August 2006, Stanley King and Metro's director general Kieran Preston visited the 22nd Swiss Trolleybus Convention held in Geneva. [9] Then in November 2006, chairman Stanley King and the rest of the Metro board decided to pursue a scheme of double articulated trolleybuses for Leeds.[2] Following the decision, 'Buses' magazine editor Alan Millar wrote of Metro, "It has a thing about trolleybuses. The Bradford connection was ensured by immediate past PTA chairman Stanley King, a Bradford Conservative and an enthusiast - in all senses of the word - for the mode. He has never given up on the dream that they could run again. And over the past 20 years, Metro has plugged away at projects to run modern trolleybuses in Bradford and Leeds." [10] Following Stanley King's death in October 2012, a Bradford trolleybus enthusiast paid him this tribute, "I have just learned of the very sad death of Stanley King, former Lord Mayor of Bradford and vice chair of the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. Stanley King fought energetically for the retention of trolleybuses in Bradford and was instrumental in keeping trolleybuses on the agenda within West Yorkshire during the dark days of the eighties and it is to him who thanks must extend for the current trolleybus plan. It saddens me to know that Stanley, who very much wanted to be, won't be there at the opening in 2018." [11]

An Initial Business Case was submitted to the Department for Transport in March 2007.[12] In June 2007, the promoters asked for financial backing from the Regional Transport Board of the now abolished Yorkshire and Humber Assembly.[13] Following the subsequent decision of the Regional Transport Board to support the scheme, Metro's director-general, Kieran Preston said, "Gaining the Regional Transport Board's financial backing is a huge step forward in our plans to develop what will be the UK's first new trolleybus system in Leeds . . . It means we have an agreed funding source, which combined with the DfT's acceptance of our business case could mean that people will be riding on state-of-the-art trolleybuses by 2011." [14] In July 2009, the Yorkshire and Humber Assembly gave its provisional approval to the scheme.[15] This was a step on the way towards the scheme winning government approval. In October 2009 a Major Scheme Business Case was submitted to the Department for Transport.[16] This included proposals for three routes serving north, south and east Leeds. Initial Programme Entry Approval was granted in March 2010, but only for the north and south routes, and an extension of the north route to Holt Park.[17] In June 2010, the initial Programme Entry Approval for NGT was suspended whilst the government carried out a review of funding for all major transport proposals.[18] In September 2011, a Best and Final Funding Bid was submitted to the Department for Transport.[19] This increased the proposed local contribution from £19 million to £57 million. Following the submission of the Programme Entry Business Case in March 2012,[20] the scheme was re-awarded Programme Entry Approval in July 2012.[21] This renewed approval was for a maximum central government contribution of £173.5 million towards the overall cost of £250.6 million.

It's clear from the Initial Business Case[12] that even though a decision had already been to pursue a trolleybus scheme, alternatives had still to be evaluated. The document uses the term “bus-tram” for its preferred option, rather than “trolleybus.” It states that “bus-tram" is the highest quality bus transport and claims that “bus-trams” (with their need for overhead power lines) are as flexible as diesel buses. An article published in the Yorkshire Evening Post in November 2006[22] says of Metro, "It estimates that the cost of the congestion-busting “bus rapid transit” network – likely to be powered electrically by overhead wires – would be between 200m and 300m."

Consultation from 2008 to 2010

From the 12th November to the 15th November 2008, drop-in sessions were held in a trailer parked outside the art gallery. Visitors were handed a leaflet about the NGT proposals[23] and asked to complete a questionnaire.[24] The leaflet said that the options being considered for NGT were a trolleybus, a diesel electric bus, and a diesel bus. The deadline for the return of completed questionnaires was the 9th January 2009. The questionnaire did not ask people which option they preferred. Yet the report by Steer Davies Gleave on the findings from the 1,820 completed questionnaires[25] stated that 60 people had expressed a preference for a trolleybus (3% of the total). The report also stated rather confusingly that 29 people had asked for a tram (at paragraph 2.22), and that 61 people had asked for a tram (in Table 2-7).

The NGT drop-in trailer in June 2009 parked in Morrisons car park at the Penny Hill Centre, Hunslet

Between the 18th June and the 16th July 2009, a series of drop-ins were held in a trailer parked at the following venues: Morrison’s car park in Hunslet, St Chad’s Parish Centre, St Columba’s Church, outside the art gallery, Cinder Moor, and Beckett Street car park.[26] According to Metro, the 2009 consultations were "to inform the development of Major Scheme Business Case." [27] The leaflets that were handed out said that trolleybuses were the preferred option.[28] No other options were mentioned. The leaflets did not state that the proposed route would run across Woodhouse Moor or other open spaces. Detailed plans were only made available on request and if someone qualified was present to explain them (most of the staff present were agency staff). Requests for copies of the detailed plans were refused. Visitors were told that the advantage of the scheme was that the system would be controlled by Metro and Leeds City Council. Questionnaires were also handed out and people were asked to complete and return them by the 4th September 2009.[29] The questionnaires asked what people thought about the proposal for a trolleybus, and not whether people would like a trolleybus. The report by Steer Davies Gleave on the findings from the 2,594 returned questionnaires showed that 76% of respondents supported trolleybuses, and that this support was mainly on environmental grounds.[30]

People were told during the 2008 and 2009 consultations that there would be three NGT lines; one to Bodington, one to Stourton, and one to St James's Hospital. At that time, the scheme did not include an extension to Holt Park. People were also told that central government would be paying 90% of the cost of the scheme. Then in 2010, consultation took place from the 20th May until the 18th June on a revised scheme which involved an extension to Holt Park.[31] People were asked what they thought about a route to St James's Hospital even though the government had refused funding for this in March. The consultation included a 3 day exhibition at Holt Park. A report by Metro stated that 65% of the 140 respondents supported the proposals.[32] This consultation followed the government's initial award of programme entry approval in March 2010. The approval excluded the St James's Hospital route, but did include the extension to Holt Park. The Holt Park consultation was therefore "after the fact."

Programme Entry Approval

Nick Clegg pictured during his visit to Leeds on the 5th July 2012, talking to leader of Leeds City Council Keith Wakefield, leader of Wakefield Council Peter Box and leader of York council James Alexander

During a secret visit to Leeds on the 5th July 2012, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the scheme had won programme entry approval.[33] This meant that the scheme would go ahead provided its promoters, Metro and Leeds City Council could obtain a Transport and Works Act Order. The announcement surprised many as the previous year it had been reported that the likelihood of the scheme winning programme entry approval was small, since it was at the bottom of a list of transport schemes awaiting approval. According to the Yorkshire Post, "But while it is estimated they will all produce benefits at least 4.2 times their cost, the £200m trolleybus scheme – designed as a green way of cutting congestion – is rated to have benefits only 2.2 times the cost when last examined by Ministers." [34] The announcement caused some to wonder if the decision owed more to political strings being pulled, than to the scheme's claimed merits.

Immediately following Nick Clegg's announcement, a Leeds City Council press release was issued in which Metro's chairman, councillor James Lewis said, "I’m delighted to announce that Metro and Leeds City Council have been given approval for their job- creating, economy-boosting, environment-improving, time-saving, carbon-reducing, congestion-busting NGT trolleybus scheme. This is great news for our region, by speeding up journeys into and around Leeds, improving local connectivity and preventing the growth of congestion, NGT will provide a £160m per annum boost to the local economy and the creation of 4,000 permanent jobs.” In the same press release Leeds City Council's head of Highways, Councillor Richard Lewis said, "This is a huge injection of cash to the City Region, which will finally enable us to deliver a high-quality rapid transit network that is essential for a city of Leeds’ calibre." [35] In a Department for Transport press release, Transport Secretary Justine Greening said, "Leeds will have new state-of-the-art trolleybuses that will be faster, more reliable and greener than their predecessors. They will make public transport in Leeds more accessible and attractive than ever before and I know trolleybuses will be transformational for growth and jobs in West Yorkshire." [36]

The Proposed Scheme

There would be 20 trolleybuses on one route passing through the city centre. Park and rides would be built on fields at either end of the route. There would be no express trolleybus service from the park and rides as trolleybuses can’t easily overtake one another. The trolleybuses would carry 160 passengers, but would have seating for just 60. Ten sub-stations would be built along the route to supply electricity to the trolleybuses. Most of the proposed route follows the route of Supertram. Metro had already bought property along the route in the expectation that Supertram would be given the go-ahead.[37] The scheme also involves a Headingley Bypass. It has been an aim of Leeds City Council’s Highways Department to build a Headingley Bypass since 1937.[38]

Although billed as a public transport scheme, senior councillors have acknowledged that the scheme is mainly a highways project, with the cost of providing trolleybuses and the infrastructure necessary to run them amounting to 10% of the total cost.[39]

The promoters' "run-time" model originally predicted a time saving on the journey from the city centre to Holt Park of either one or three minutes[40] compared to the scheduled Number 1 bus journey time for the same trip.[41] Following criticism that it wasn't worth spending £250 million for a saving of 1 or 3 minutes, the model was adjusted in mid 2013 to produce a time saving of 14 minutes in the morning peak and 12 minutes in the evening peak.[42]

£76.5 million of the scheme’s estimated £250 million cost would come from Leeds City Council. When property bought for Supertram is included in the total, there is still a £20 million shortfall.[43] The promoters estimate that consultants' fees would amount to over £32 million.[44]

The Route

The northern terminus would be at the Holt Park district centre. A park and ride site with 800 spaces would be built on Leeds University's playing fields near the former Bodington halls of residence on Otley Road. The route would pass through the centre of Lawnswood roundabout, requiring new signals to be fitted at all four exits. Weetwood Lane would be closed to through traffic creating a ‘plaza’ outside the Three Horseshoes pub in Far Headingley. At this point, the A660 would be widened to five lanes comprising two bus lanes, two general traffic lanes and one lane for traffic turing into St Chad’s Road. New signals would be installed at the Churchwood Avenue, Glen Road and Otley Road junctions. A Headingley bypass would be created from Alma Road in Headingley to Headingley Hill. This would only be used by trolleybuses, cyclists and pedestrians. It would be lit at night. Between Headingley Hill and Hyde Park Corner, the A660 would be widened; and several buildings demolished. From the junction of Woodhouse Lane with Rampart Road to the junction of Woodhouse Lane with Raglan Road, the route would run across the part of Woodhouse Moor known as Monument Moor. Blenheim Way would be opened to two-way traffic, with access restricted along the parallel stretch of Woodhouse Lane in front of the university's Parkinson Building. A new roundabout would be created around the Dry Dock pub junction. The route then turns right onto Cookridge Street and continues onto Park Row and City Square, and then turns left onto Boar Lane. A right turn onto Lower Briggate takes the route across Leeds Bridge. The route then runs alongside the former Tetley brewery site and continues on until it joins Hunslet Road near the junction with South Accommodation Road. The route turns right off Hunslet Road and passes through the grounds of St Joseph's Primary School and the Whitfields pedestrianised housing estate in Hunslet. The route then turns right onto Church Lane and passes in front of the Penny Hill Centre. It continues on and turns left onto Balm Road and then continues up Belle Isle Road until Belle Isle Circus. It crosses Belle Isle Circus, turning left at its centre and carries on down Winrose Grove. After crossing Middleton Road, it reaches its southern terminus at the proposed 1,500 space park and ride at Stourton.

Environmental Impact

The proposed route runs through nine conservation areas and across Woodhouse Moor, the city’s oldest park. It also runs through the Whitfields pedestrianised housing estate in Hunslet, the grounds of St Joseph’s Primary School in Hunslet and across fields on Headingley Hill which are the last remaining vestige of Headingley Moor and the last remaining green space in Headingley. In the process, several buildings would have to be demolished,[45]

Tree Loss

About 500 mature trees would have to be cut down.[46] The promoters say that these would be replaced on a three for one basis.

Listed Buildings

Numerous listed buildings would have high voltage cables attached to them.[47] The list includes the Parkinson Building, Emmanuel Church, Woodhouse Lane; Trinity Congregational, Woodhouse Lane; Blenheim Baptist Church; Broadcasting House, Woodhouse Lane; O2 Academy; Leeds Museum; Electric Press Building; St Anne's Cathedral; Permanent House, Park Row House and the Adelphi Public House. [48] It was also intended to attach cables to Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane but this application was withdrawn following a request by Leeds Civic Trust. Several other listed buildings would have their boundary walls demolished and their curtilages set back. There would also be demolition of buildings and boundary walls in conservation areas.

Open Space

The trolleybus route would pass across nine areas of open space including Woodhouse Moor, a public park. In order to make this possible, Leeds City Council appropriated these areas declaring that they are no longer required as open space,[49] even though in the case of Woodhouse Moor, it’s the most intensively used park in the city [50] and located in an area of open space shortage.[51] The NGT Board Minutes obtained through Freedom of Information, reveal that senior council and Metro officers realised that it would be difficult for them to declare that part of the Moor was surplus to requirements.[52] The land appropriation took place in January 2014. A year ago a barrister stated that the appropriation was probably illegal and that there had been grounds for judicial review.[53]

The Whitfields

A segregated section of the trolleybus route would be built on top of the tree-covered broad grass verge lying between St Joseph's Primary School and Hunslet Road. The proposed route would also cut through the grounds of the primary school causing the school to lose its picnic area, and pass through the Whitfields pedestrianised housing estate leading to narrowed pavements and loss of gardens. Overhead cables would be attached to the facade of the grade 2 listed Garden Gate pub. Residents say that the trolleybus would make the area unsafe and lead to a loss of privacy in the homes that would be overlooked by the passing trolleybuses. They also say that the trolleybus's siren would create a nuisance and keep night-shift workers awake.

Hyde Park Corner

The trolleybus scheme would involve demolition of the shops from 11 to 25 Headingley Lane, a letting agency at 25a Headingley Lane, a former garage at 27 to 29 Headingley Lane and the Victorian villa at 2 Victoria Road. Headingley Lane would be widened and a trolleybus stop would be built on the green space between Headingley Lane and St Augustine's church. This green space has been in situ since the late 1960s when a parade of shops that stood on the site was demolished to make way for the proposed Headingley Expressway. In addition, the existing southbound bus stop would be moved to the north of a new trolleybus stop that would be built immediately in front of the LS6 cafe. The buildings that would be demolished were bought by Metro as part of its preparations for Supertram.

Consultation in 2012 and 2013

By July 2012, when the government gave the scheme programme entry approval, the scheme was very different to the one that had been consulted on in 2009. The proposed line to St James’s Hospital had been dropped, an extension to Holt Park had been added, and the council’s contribution had increased from 10% to 30%.

Between the 17th November 2012 and the 5th March 2013, short drop-in style consultations were held at St Andrew’s Church Hall, West Park; Caedmon Hall, Beckett Park; St Paul’s Church, Ireland Wood; Headingley Parish Hall; City of Leeds School, Woodhouse; Ralph Thoresby School, Holt Park; Hunslet Library; St Mary’s Primary School, Hunslet; Wellington House, Leeds City Centre; University of Leeds Student Union; Leeds Metropolitan University, City Campus and Leeds Metropolitan University, Beckett Park Campus. As a result of the HS2 announcement in January 2013, the southern section of the route was diverted away from the main railway line and through Belle Isle. Following this, short drop-in style consultations were held at Belle Isle Family Centre on the 1st May 2013 and at West Grange Church, Belle Isle on the 2nd May 2013.

The NGT publicity van in Dortmund Square in July 2013.

Following the publication of the scheme's Design Freeze 7 drawings, a final round of drop-in style consultation events was held between the 22nd June and the 29th July 2013 at Windmill Primary School (Belle Isle Gala); Heart Centre, Headingley; St Chad’s Parish Church Hall, Headingley; City of Leeds School, Woodhouse; Ralph Thoresby School, Holt Park; St Joseph’s Primary School, Hunslet; West Grange Church, Belle Isle; Lawnswood YMCA and Wellington House, Leeds City Centre. In addition, day-long promotional events were held on Briggate on the 16th July and on Dortmund Square on the 20th July 2013.

The public reaction to the scheme at these events was very negative. Possibly as a result, Metro refused to publish the results of the consultation. Metro also withheld the results from the documents submitted to the Department for Transport in September 2013 as part of the application for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO). Metro said it would be too costly to collate the information. The documents were eventually released subsequent to a request made at the pre-inquiry meeting on the 4th March 2014. They showed very little support for the scheme. However statements in support of the scheme from Leeds establishment figures were included with the application papers for a TWAO.

The NGT information leaflets released in the Autumn and Winter of 2012 and Spring 2013 stated “modern trolleybus systems are an increasingly common sight in European and North American cities.” [54] Critics of the scheme have pointed out that trolleybus numbers in North America decreased from 1,926 in the year 2000, to 1,312 in 2012, a drop of 32% in 12 years. In Europe, numbers have decreased from 6,375 in 2000, to 4,828 in 2012, a drop of 24% in 12 years.[55] [56] 52,000 of the information leaflets were delivered to properties along the route and handed out at consultation events.[57]


At drop-in events and in documents submitted in support of the application for a Transport and Works Act Order, almost all of the ‘before’ pictures showed leafless trees, overcast skies and very few people. By contrast, most of the ‘after’ pictures showed blue skies, trees in full leaf and crowded streets.[58] An image of the Three Horseshoes pub showed an unusually blue sky.[59] The sky had clearly been added as the same picture minus the blue sky was also used as a 'before' picture.[60] In another 'after' image, trees photographed in Winter[61] had leaves added to them.[62] An image used frequently by the local press showed the Three Horseshoes pub with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds.[63] The bus shelters shown in the image do not have the raised platforms necessary for level boarding. All the images of the trolleybus used by the local press showed a vehicle resembling a modern tram with its wheels hidden from view.[64] Although the image has been published repeatedly, it does not resemble any currently available trolleybus.

The artist's impressions of the trolleybus which appeared in the local press were produced by eQdigital, a Suffolk-based company owned by Ashley Bruce. Mr Bruce belongs to a trolleybus lobby group called 'Tbus.' In August 2010, the Yorkshire Evening Post published an interview with Mr Bruce. The article said of Tbus, "they have spent time working with the planning group at West Yorkshire transport body Metro and view the Leeds project as setting an important precedent for the future of trolleybuses in Britain.” [65] In 2011, Tbus won a trolleybus marketing award at a symposium at Lviv in the Ukraine,[66] [67] “rewarding its continuous and remarkable efforts in trolleybus promotion and their integrated and easily transferable trolleybus concept.” Mr Bruce received the award on behalf of Tbus. In his presentation, he said, "In marketing ‘new’ trolleybuses, it might be useful to conceive the system differently than is usually the case: as the future solution; as a 'new’ technology concept; as a total, integrated system; at the top of the hierarchy of road users; as high quality; with overhead giving a sense of permanence and confidence" Mr Bruce went on to say, "While none of these is strictly true . . .” [68] In an interview with the BBC in January 2006 Tbus spokesman Gary Stevenson (based in York) said that trolleybuses would solve Leeds’ transport problems.[69] The online report of the interview is followed by comments from Tbus members Irvine Bell, Gordon Mackley and Simon Smiler. In a letter published by the Yorkshire Evening Post in September 2012, Mr Stevenson said that the trolleybus's overhead cables would create a "perceived permanence of service." [70] At a public meeting in June 2013 NGT project director Dave Haskins said of TBus, "they point me in the right direction of who I should speak to, to get knowledge.” Mr Haskins also said, "They have no financial interest whatsoever." [71]

Kieran Preston, Metro's director general for over 20 years until he retired in January 2014.[72]

Someone who appears to have been persuaded by Tbus's arguments is Kieran Preston, Metro's director general for 25 years until he retired in January 2014. Interviewed by Yorkshire Evening Post columnist Rod McPhee in March 2009, Mr Preston described the importance of the trolleybus's overhead cables, "We call it the sparks effect . . . Well, it's hard to pin down but you see it in other cities where they have transport systems of this kind . . . When you install these overhead cables you install a sense of permanency, some sense of a reliable and unchanging system that's in place with clarity about where they run from and to . . . And the overhead cables just add a sense of a big city feel to the place, it's something you can't quite quantify but it works." [73] Interviewed by Rod McPhee again in January 2010, Mr Preston continued in the same vein, "Whenever you see a drama or a TV show featuring a big American or European city they always include some kind of footage of an overhead cable transport system, and why? Because it just gives the ambience of some kind of important metropolis . . . And that matters. It matters to businesses wanting to invest in a city, they want to know what else is in place that can attract consumers, visitors and employees." [74] Writing recently in the Yorkshire Evening Post, columnist Grant Woodward seemed unconvinced, "Trolleybus convinces no one that it will make a significant dent in congestion. The bus is no good because for the most part it travels in the same lanes as car traffic." [75]

In October 2012, the Daily Telegraph's property pages reported that Mr Preston had said, "It is generally accepted that the introduction of a rapid transit scheme like NGT has an immediate effect on property prices along the route . . . This increase in value of people’s homes is in addition to increased levels of inward investment, the 3% boost to the local economy and the 4,000 local long-term jobs that NGT is forecast to deliver." [76]

In June 2007, in an interview published in Transit magazine,[77] Mr Preston explained that the trolleybus option requires a Transport and Works Act Order, which he saw as a distinct advantage. The article quotes Mr Preston as saying, “TWA means we can get into the market place with a proper offer and franchise opportunity, and generate competition and interest. If we can get TWA, we can specify the system and route.”

After over 20 years as Metro's director general, Mr Preston took early retirement in January 2014,[72] and so could not be cross-examined about his views on the "sparks effect," property prices, job creation and the need for a TWAO.


The scheme is supported by senior councillors within Leeds City Council and by the Metro Board. In order for the scheme to proceed, there has to be a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO). This was applied for in September 2014. The decision to apply for the order and the decision to confirm the application were made by votes of the full council on the 1st July[78] and 13th November 2013.[79] Before the July vote, the Labour council leader told councillors they’d be "the laughing stock of Europe" if they didn't support the scheme.[80] An examination of the votes shows that no Labour councillor voted against (Labour is the ruling group on the council). In an interview with the head of Metro, Councillor James Lewis, that was published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on the 8th January 2014, Councillor Lewis admitted that the votes had been whipped.[81] In the same article, former leader of the council and Labour MP George Mudie claimed that it was a three line whip that was imposed.

In addition, the scheme is supported by the following Leeds establishment figures and groups: Leeds Civic Trust, Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Allied London, Leeds University, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Opera North, Hammersons, Jones Lang LaSalle, Yorkshire Design Developments, Leeds Rugby Ltd, Allied London, Bruntwood, SMG (operators of the First Direct Arena), and night-club owner Peter Connolly.[82]


The main opposition group is the A660 Joint Council.[83] It comprises most of the community groups along the proposed route and individuals from across the city. It has a membership of just over four hundred. Other opposition groups include the Green Party,[84] the Federation of Small Businesses,[85] the Leeds Cycling Campaign,[86] North West Leeds Transport Forum,[87] and Hunslet against the Trolleybus.[88]

There have been over 240 letters critical of the scheme published in the Yorkshire Evening Post since the scheme was given programme entry approval in July 2012.[89] Only a handful of letters have been supportive of the scheme.

At a meeting of the North West (Outer) Area Committee of Leeds City Council on the 25th March 2013, the following motion was carried by a vote of eleven councillors to one, "This Committee remains to be convinced that the NGT scheme represents any substantive improvement on present transport arrangements in Leeds.” [90] At public meetings held on the 27th February 2013 at Heart in Headingley,[91] the 25th March 2013 at Heart,[92] on the 11th May 2013 at Leeds Civic Hall,[93] on the 5th June 2013 at Heart,[94] and on the 14th July 2014 at St Joseph’s Club in Hunslet, almost everyone who attended was opposed to the scheme.

There have been public protests along the A660 on the the 23rd September 2013,[95] outside the Civic Hall on the 17th October 2013,[96] outside Metro headquarters on the 11th April 2014,[97] on the Whitfields in Hunslet on the 15th August 2014,[98] at a picnic on Belle Isle Circus on the 25th April 2015,[99] and at a picnic on the part of Woodhouse Moor nicknamed "Monument Moor" on the 26th April 2015.[100]

In addition, the Department for Transport received 1,880 formal objections to the scheme,[101] an online poll of over 7,000 Yorkshire Evening Post readers found that over 70% considered the scheme would be bad for Leeds,[102] and a survey of almost 2,000 Yorkshire Evening Post readers found that just 24% support the scheme.[103]

At a Leeds City Council Executive Board meeting in March 2013, the head of Highways, Councillor Richard Lewis said about opponents of the scheme that it was just as important to respect the views of those who had not expressed their opinion.


Critics of the scheme say that the £250 million would be better spent providing the city with 800 battery powered buses or 1,000 hybrid buses.[104] They say the scheme is not rapid transit.[105] They say that the time savings achieved by the trolleybus do not warrant the expenditure of £250 million and the environmental damage that the scheme would cause.[106] [107] [108] Some ask how trolleybuses can be considered suitable for Leeds, when they were considered unsuitable for London.[109] Others ask why Leeds is willing to settle for a trolleybus system when several other UK cities have acquired tram systems.[110] There is scepticism about the so-called "sparks effect" [111] Some have dubbed the scheme “Follybus.” [112] An opponent of the scheme has produced a version of a famous photograph from history, and other images to illustrate how he and others view the scheme.[113] "Why use out-of-date technology?" is a question asked by many.[114] Some fear that if the scheme goes ahead, it would rule out any chance of Leeds getting a tram or underground system.[115] Estate agent Michael Moore is sceptical about the claim that the scheme would increase house prices.[116] MP George Mudie has said the scheme is "lacking ambition." [117]

Media Coverage

There have been almost 100 articles about the scheme published in the Yorkshire Evening Post and elsewhere.[118] In addition, there have been several talk shows and phone-ins on Radio Leeds and Radio Aire.[119] There has also been coverage of the scheme in editions of Calendar and Look North.

Public Inquiry

A public inquiry into the scheme took place over 72 days from the 29th April 2014 until the 31st October 2014. It was chaired by Inspector Martin Whitehead. Mr Whitehead's report was given to the Department for Transport at the end of May 2015. A decision on whether or not the scheme will go ahead will be taken by under-secretary of state Lord Ahmad. These are some of the facts that were established during the inquiry:

The inquiry was held on the 5th floor of the Regus Building, 2 Wellington Place.
  • The section of the A660 that would be served by trolleybuses currently has the best bus service in Leeds.
  • For the trolleybus service to make a profit, the existing bus service would need to be halved. This would involved halving the bus service to Cookridge, Adel and Tinshill, as these areas are further out from Leeds than the proposed trolleybus terminus at Holt Park.
  • Instead of blending in with their conservation area settings, the trolleybus stops would be highly visible to fit in with the promoters' branding strategy.
  • By giving trolleybuses priority at junctions, other traffic including buses, would be delayed. As a result, there would be increased congestion and CO2 levels. Therefore the scheme would not be a “congestion buster” and reduce CO2 emissions as originally claimed. In the trolleybus business case there is a spreadsheet assessing the key impacts of the scheme.[120] At the bottom, it states that the public purse would be hit by a £20million reduction in revenue from regular bus fares, as passengers switch from buses to trolleybuses. But it explains that this loss would be made up in part from increased fuel duty resulting from additional congestion.
  • The Department for Transport has stated, “The scheme is forecast to cause delays to general traffic leading to approximately £110M of disbenefits to highway users, with the vast majority of this affecting business travellers.” [121]
  • Leeds City Council’s Director of Development didn’t know until just before he gave evidence, that an application for a Transport and Works Act Order to build a trolleybus scheme in Liverpool was rejected in 1999 by the Secretary of State for Transport.
  • Since trolleybuses are slower than other buses in mixed traffic,[122] and since just 37% of the Leeds trolleybus route would be segregated, trolleybuses would be slower than diesel buses on the proposed route.
  • When calculating the numbers who would use the proposed Bodington park and ride, it was assumed that people would drive north to catch a trolleybus that would take them south.
  • The trolleybus run-times don’t account for the lower operating speeds required in the proposed areas of Shared Space.
  • Because trolleybuses can’t easily overtake each other, there could never be an express trolleybus service from the park and rides into town.
  • Any more than the proposed 20 trolleybuses on the route would cause excessive delays to other traffic.
  • Since less than half of the proposed route would be segregated (37%), Institute for Transportation and Development Policy guidelines state that the scheme should not be termed “Bus Rapid Transit.”[123]
  • A trolleybus system was chosen because it requires a Transport and Works Act Order. (a TWAO would give control to Metro).
  • The business case assumes that there would be no competition along the trolleybus route.
  • There was never any survey of opinion to establish whether people would prefer trolleybuses.
  • Bendybuses are unsuited to narrow roads like the A660. Double decker buses are a better option.
  • One of the reasons bendybuses were scrapped in London was because of the high number of injuries they caused to cyclists and pedestrians.[124]
  • Metro’s Landscape Assessment assigned greater importance to road users than to park users, contrary to guidance contained in the Landscape Institute’s Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (2nd Edition).
  • Statistics from the United States show that a cyclist is twice as likely to be injured by a trolleybus as by a diesel bus, and that a pedestrian is three and a half times as likely to be injured by a trolleybus as by a diesel bus.[125]
  • Trolleybuses have not run in Leeds since 1928 when they were scrapped owing to their inflexibility and cost relative to motor buses.[126]
  • Between 1980 and 1990, the local transport authority, Metro, tried to re-introduce trolleybuses first to Bradford, and then to Bradford and Leeds, in a scheme called Electrobus.[127] The scheme was abandoned when a private bus operator announced plans to run a diesel bus service along the proposed first trolleybus route.

At the pre-inquiry meeting on the 4th March 2014, a member of the public asked if Leeds City Council or Metro would record the inquiry hearings. The response was that it would be too costly. The person who asked the question subsequently recorded the entire proceedings of the inquiry and made them available online on a daily basis.[128]

During the cross-examination of Leeds City Council’s Deputy Chief Planning Officer Steve Speak by Gregory Jones QC, when Mr Jones asked Mr Speak if he accepted that the trolleybus isn’t fast, Mr Speak replied, “It may not be fast, but it’s rapid.” In his closing statement, Mr Jones remarked that Mr Speak’s statement had "an Alice in Wonderland quality about it.” [129]


The decision on whether or not to grant a Transport and Works Act Order so the scheme can proceed was to have been taken by transport minister Robert Goodwill. But following concerns expressed by Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland about comments made by Mr Goodwill which indicated support for the scheme, the responsibility for making the decision was taken away from Mr Goodwill and given to Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.[130] Lord Ahmad has said that in reaching a decision, he will be guided by advisers from the Department for Transport. He also said that these advisers will not be the same people who in 2012 recommended that the scheme should be given programme entry approval.

Former Lib Dem transport minister Norman Baker has said that if Lord Ahmad is busy when he receives the inspector’s report and advice from Department for Transport officials, he might approve the application for a Transport and Works Act order without looking at either the report or the advice. Mr Baker added that if either the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne or Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin were to ring Lord Ahmad and say that they want the scheme to proceed, then the application would be approved irrespective of the contents of the inspector’s report or advice from senior officers.[131]


Further Developments


Following reports from local residents in June 2015 that a traffic survey was being carried out along the A660, MP Greg Mulholland discovered that it was one of several, and that they were to prepare the way for building the trolleybus line.[132] The survey was carried out by London based firm Traffic Survey Partners and cost £160k.

An article published in January 2015 on the Bus and Coach website[133] revealed that the NGT to Aire Valley extension agreed to by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority in December 2014,[134] is really the first step in a planned expansion to Wakefield.




  1. Citaro G standing density calculation
  2. 2.0 2.1 "WYPTA Leeds/UK – Breakthrough with trolleybus technology in the UK!" Trolley Motion 12 November 2006
  3. "Stanley King's History of the Trolleybus" DAVideo
  4. "Tributes paid to former Bradford Lord Mayor and respected councillor Stanley King" Telegraph and Argus 9 October 2012
  5. Interview with Stanley King
  6. Tbus Expo 2005
  7. Tbus Expo 2006
  8. "Letter from Stanley King" Yorkshire Post 16 November 2005
  9. "22nd Swiss Trolleybus Convention August 31st, 2006" Trolley Motion 11 September 2006
  10. "Trolleybus plan shows new mood of pragmatism" Buses magazine, Issue 622, January 2007
  11. Comment made 16 October 2012 on "Swell of support for Leeds underground plea" Yorkshire Evening Post 12 October 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 Initial Business Case March 2007
  13. "Proposal for Leeds Bus Rapid Transit" Regional Transport Board Meeting 15 June 2007
  14. "Plan for city trolleybus comeback" BBC News Channel 15 June 2007
  15. "Minister hints at go-ahead for trolleybus plans" Yorkshire Evening Post 28 July 2009
  16. Major Scheme Business Case October 2009
  17. "Leeds trolleybus gets go-ahead" Yorkshire Evening Post March 2010
  18. "£100m cuts as flagship schemes and transport face the chop" Yorkshire Post 11 June 2010
  19. Best and Final Funding Bid September 2011
  20. Programme Entry Business case March 2012
  21. "Green light for Leeds's electric trolleybus scheme" Yorkshire Post 6 July 2012
  22. "£300m bill for city's Supertram alternative” Yorkshire Evening Post 17 November 2006
  23. NGT leaflet November 2008
  24. NGT questionnaire November 2008
  25. Steer Davies Gleave report January 2009
  26. NGT Summer 2009 consultation events
  27. Statement of Consultation paper 2.20, September 2013
  28. NGT leaflet Summer 2009
  29. NGT Summer 2009 consultation questionnaire
  30. Steer Davies Gleave report October 2009
  31. "Public views sought on trolleybus link" Yorkshire Post 13 may 2010
  32. Report by Metro on Holt Park consultation
  33. "Leeds trolleybus system gets green light at last" Yorkshire Evening Post 5 July 2012
  34. "New blow over city trolleybus funding" Yorkshire Post 7 February 2011
  35. “Leeds to get UK’s first modern trolleybus network” Leeds City Council Press Release 5 July 2012
  36. Green light for Leeds trolleybus 5 July 2012
  37. “Supertram’s leftover land headache” Yorkshire Evening Post 3 April 2006
  38. History of Leeds City Council's Headingley Bypass Ambition
  39. Cllr James Lewis on 12 May 2013 at the Leeds Civic Hall Public Meeting
  40. Programme Entry Business Case Submission March 2012, para 6.3
  41. Number 1 bus journey times 2013
  42. Leeds trolleybus ‘could save commuters two hours a week’ Yorkshire Evening Post 19 June 2013
  43. “£20 million hole in funding for Leeds trolleybus.” Yorkshire Evening Post 27 October 2012.
  44. Inquiry core document A-01-11, Estimate of Costs, September 2013
  45. “Revealed: Demolition list for Leeds trolleybus” Yorkshire Evening Post 16 October 2013
  46. Trees facing axe for Leeds trolleybus ‘worth £14m’ Yorkshire Evening Post 20 November 2013
  47. “Images spark fresh criticism of Leeds trolleybus scheme” Yorkshire Evening Post 16 October 2014
  48. Listed Building Consent & Conservation Area Consent Covering Letter
  49. Open Space Appropriation
  50. Leeds City Council's Parks and Greenspace Strategy, p. 59
  51. Hyde Park and Woodhouse Greenspace Position 2015
  52. NGT Board Minutes
  53. Legal Opinion on Open Space Appropriation
  54. Metro promotional leaflet Autumn 2012
  55. UITP Trolleybus Committee Profile, Malatya, October 2015
  56. Murray, Alan (2000) "World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia" Trolleybus Books
  57. NGT Business Case Review January 2014, para 4.16
  58. Inquiry core document B-7-2 Photomontages
  59. Photomontages, p. 9
  60. Photomontages, p. 7
  61. Photomontages, p. 1
  62. Photomontages, p. 2
  63. "Inquiry into Leeds trolleybus rumbles on" Yorkshire Evening Post 1 July 2014
  64. "Revealed: Sky-high costs of public inquiry into Leeds trolleybus plans" Yorkshire Evening Post 21 August 2015
  65. "Leeds trolleybus: Just the ticket?" Yorkshire Evening Post 12 August 2010
  66. "TROLLEY award for best practice trolleybus marketing approach" Lviv, Ukraine, June 2011
  67. TROLLEY Marketing Symposium in Lviv (UA), 29-30 June 2011
  68. "Innovative marketing strategies for trolleybuses" Tbus June 2011
  69. BBC interview with Gary Stevenson 2006
  70. Letter to Yorkshire Evening Post 17 September 2012
  71. Extract from transcript of meeting held at Heart in Headingley on 5 June 2013
  72. 72.0 72.1 "Train gift for retiring travel boss" Telegraph and Argus 25 January 2014
  73. "Bright sparks solve our transport woes" Yorkshire Evening Post 27 March 2009
  74. "Great expectations" Yorkshire Evening Post 7 January 2010
  75. "What's the point of HS2 when I can't even get into work?" Yorkshire Evening Post 3 December 2015
  76. Daily Telegraph 13 October 2012 as reported by Transport Works 16 October 2012
  77. "Trolleybuses offer Leeds life after Supertram" Transit Magazine 29 June 2007, p 14
  78. How our councillors voted on the 1st July 2013
  79. How our councillors voted on the 13th November 2013
  80. Transcript of Leeds City Council meeting 1 July 2013, p 9
  81. "Campaigners battling to beat the Leeds trolleybus” Yorkshire Evening Post 8 January 2014
  82. “Businesses show their support for Leeds Trolleybus” Yorkshire Evening Post 18 September 2013
  83. A660 Joint Council website
  84. Leeds Green Party : Trolleybus Juggernaut
  85. "Businesses want inquiry on Leeds trolleybus plans” Yorkshire Evening Post 2 November 2013
  86. Leeds Cycling Campaign “New Generation Transport (NGT”
  87. North West Leeds Transport Forum
  88. Hunslet against the Trolleybus
  89. Letters to the Yorkshire Evening Post
  90. Minutes of meeting of the North West (Outer) Area Committee 25 March 2013
  91. Alderman Townsley’s talk on NGT a big success
  92. Large turnout to Don Townsley's second talk
  93. Public meeting at Leeds Civic Hall on 11 May 2013
  94. Public meeting at Heart on 5 June 2013
  95. Human Placard Protest 23 September 2013
  96. Civic Hall Protest 17 October 2013
  97. Stop the Cover-Up Protest
  98. Whitfields Protest 15 August 2014
  99. Belle Isle Circus Picnic Protest 25 April 2015
  100. Monument Moor Picnic Protest 26 April 2015
  101. West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee Report 5 December 2014
  102. YEP readers give Leeds trolleybus scheme the thumbs-down 21 February 2014
  103. "You’ve had your say and now it is time for Leeds’s leaders to listen” Yorkshire Evening Post 27 October 2014
  104. "Stop destructive scheme by using rechargeable buses" Yorkshire Evening Post 21 September 2013
  105. "rapid transit will be slower" Yorkshire Evening Post 7 November 2013
  106. "Costs outweigh the benefits" Yorkshire Evening Post 20 January 2014
  107. "The folly buses" Yorkshire Evening Post 7 May 2013
  108. "Spending £250m . . . to save three minutes" Yorkshire Evening Post 22 April 2013
  109. “Capital advice on trolleybuses” Yorkshire Evening Post 6 September 2012
  110. "Minister backs “modern, 21st century” transport system for Leeds whatever NGT inquiry concludes" Greg Mulholland 5 November 2014
  111. "Not saved by wires" Yorkshire Evening Post 23 October 2012
  112. "New buses offer route out of this trolley folly" Yorkshire Evening Post 31 October 2014
  113. Follybus
  114. "Trolleybuses are out of date" Yorkshire Evening Post 17 march 2014
  115. "Make better use of the £250m" Yorkshire Evening Post 1 October 2014
  116. "How New Generation Transport Scheme May Affect Property Prices in Leeds" Michael Moore 6 February 2013
  117. Leeds city chiefs accused of 'lacking ambition' Yorkshire Evening Post 8 October 2012
  118. Articles about the Leeds Trolleybus Scheme
  119. Radio Talk Shows and Phone-Ins
  120. NGT Appraisal Summary Table
  121. Department For Transport Slide Presentation 15 may 2012
  122. Section 3.4: Speed and Acceleration: European Transport Conference 2000, Dr Athanasios Matzoros, Athens Public Transport Authority (OASA)
  123. The BRT Standard 2014
  124. "Bendy buses - the fatal facts" London Evening Standard 7 June 2007
  125. Trolleybus Injury Statistics
  126. Trolleybuses in Leeds website
  127. Soper, James. 'Leeds Transport, Volume 5, 1974 to 1986. Amadeus Press, 2011, p. 1808.
  128. Public Inquiry Audio
  129. Closing Submissions of First West Yorkshire Limited
  130. "DfT replace Minister making NGT decision" Greg Mulholland 30 September 2015
  131. Norman Baker on the trolleybus decision 4 November 2015
  132. "Residents shocked at Council squandering taxpayers' money on NGT scheme which remains in the balance" Greg Mulholland press release 18 June 2015
  133. "Plans for second W Yorks trolleybus route" Bus and Coach 7 January 2015
  134. "£1.4bn programme of transport improvements agreed for West Yorkshire and York" Leeds City Council press release 16 December 2014



  • Soper, James (2011) 'Leeds Transport, Volume 5, 1974 to 1986' Amadeus Press,
  • Murray, Alan (2000) 'World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia' Trolleybus Books,



  • Google Maps (for the NGT route map)
  • Thinkstock (for the Citaro G diagram)
  • Yorkshire Post Newspapers (for the photographs of Nick Clegg, Kieran Preston, Robert Goodwill, Greg Mulholland and Lord Ahmad)
  • The Telegraph and Argus (for the photograph of Stanley King)

External Links