The Trolleybus Decision

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin (photo courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers)

At 10am on Thursday the 12th May 2016, the Department for Transport announced that Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin had decided to reject Leeds City Council’s and Metro’s application to build a trolleybus system. Here is a summary of the reasons he gave for the refusal:

  • The scheme would deliver improvements to a relatively small part of Leeds and could result in poorer public transport services in other parts of the city.
  • There is little evidence to show that the scheme would serve the most deprived areas of Leeds.
  • The scheme would harm the built and natural environment as a result of the introduction of over-head wires, additional street clutter, and the loss of trees and green spaces.
  • The scheme would not significantly improve access to jobs because of the fewer stops provided, the limited locations it would serve and the relatively poor integration with other public transport.
  • Because the trolley vehicles would share significant sections of the route with other traffic, they could be vulnerable to congestion and other delays making journey times less reliable than predicted by the applicants.
  • The likely high proportion of people having to stand in peak times would be a deterrent to passengers.
  • Surveys indicate a strong preference for new double-decker buses over articulated vehicles or trolleybuses.
  • The scheme would do little to make the route more attractive for cyclists and would result in insufficient improvements in pedestrian facilities and safety to encourage walking.
  • The scheme would not be fully integrated with other public transport as trolley vehicles would not use the same stops as buses and would not access the bus station.
  • By taking patronage from existing buses the scheme would compromise the commercial sustainability and efficient use of the existing bus service.
  • The method used by the applicants to make patronage forecasts for the scheme based on the Stated Preference survey results does not inspire confidence.
  • The demand for the proposed park and ride sites has been over-estimated.
  • The over-head wiring cannot be regarded as a positive feature that could influence investment decisions in the area by its appearance of permanence.
  • The applicants have not properly taken into account evidence that other forms of technology are progressing or that trolley vehicle technology has not been widely adopted in recent years.
  • The promoters have given insufficient weight to the environmental harm caused by over-head wiring compared with other modes of propulsion.
  • The applicants have not fully examined whether there are more suitable corridors for a rapid transit system to meet the scheme’s objectives.
  • The policy support for the scheme at national and local level has to be weighed against the harm which the scheme would cause to heritage assets, green space and biodiversity which contravene other national and local policies.
  • The impact of the scheme in operation on overall air quality including carbon emissions would be negative due to the impact on other traffic and the use of grid electricity.
  • The over-head line equipment would be more extensive than for trams and is likely to have an adverse effect on the character and appearance of buildings and their setting
  • The viability of some businesses is likely to be harmed by implementation of the scheme.
  • There would be a reduction in the overall area of open space as a result of the scheme, some of which is difficult to justify against the likely benefits of the scheme.
  • The need to separate trolleybus stops from other bus stops would make it less convenient for people to use public transport
  • Because the scheme is predicted to take much of its patronage from existing bus services, it could result in a reduction in bus services in the corridor and elsewhere.
  • If bus operators competed with the trolleybus, this could threaten the viability of the scheme.
  • Congestion would not be improved by the scheme, with some junctions having greater queue lengths and an increase in the overall distance travelled annually by cars.
  • The reduction of parking and other traffic restrictions along the corridor could affect the viability of businesses.
  • Parts of the route would be shared with pedestrians which would result in either trolley vehicles not being able to travel at their design speeds or else a risk to pedestrian safety.
  • Cycling facilities were not a priority in designing the scheme and some design standards have been compromised in favour of motor vehicles and trolley vehicles, putting the safety of cyclists at risk.
  • The A660 corridor is not particularly suitable for articulated vehicles.
  • The scale of standing by passengers on the trolley vehicles would be a safety concern.
  • There would be significant adverse impacts on heritage assets and the loss of mature trees and open space along the route.
  • The loss of trees, green space and the impact on the historic environment would not be adequately mitigated.
  • Any beneficial impacts on the character and appearance of areas to the south of the route would not compensate for the severe harm to the character and appearance of conservation areas and listed buildings in the north.
  • The Business Case should have included a monetised estimate for construction phase impacts, which are likely to be significant.
  • The assumed journey times are optimistic and there is insufficient evidence to substantiate them.
  • Insufficient detail has been given to verify the applicants’ cost estimates and to provide assurance that they are unlikely to be exceeded.
  • There is a realistic possibility that the scheme would not attract the necessary funding to maintain it, even with the commitment that has been made to fund its construction should the Order be made.
  • On the basis of the evidence submitted to the inquiry, there is a significant degree of uncertainty about whether the scheme would be operationally viable.
  • There may be cheaper options requiring less compulsory purchase of land that would be more effective in addressing the aims and objectives of the scheme.


Inspector’s Report

Secretary of State’s Decision Letter 12.5.16