Light Rail Transit Association - UK Development Group 

 Discussion Document No 031

This document is published to stimulate discussion and does not necessarily represent the views of the LRTA

July 2005 

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As the former head of West Yorkshire's PTA commented when confronted with the stark reality that Supertram may be lost if Leeds refuses to introduce some form of congestion charge to enter the city, "A charge would be foolish before the right public transport infrastructure was in place" (1). He went on to explain how arduous the task had been for Leeds city Council with plans first drawn-up in the 1980s but not given the go-ahead from Central Government until 2001. The Transport Secretary then withdraw funding for the project early last year after deciding that its estimated cost of around £750-m was "unacceptable".


An attempt was made by the project leaders, Leeds City Council and METRO, to lower costs and after eliminating the branch to Tingley via Middleton, and its park and ride site at Tingley (close to the M62 Motorway), submitted a revised bid. The need to recalculate a new figure could be regarded by Leeds as unnecessary expense. After answering about 70 requests from Whitehall for additional information, the civic leaders are still awaiting to be told the scheme's fate. (This DD was written mid-June).

For the record, this latest bid was for a 21 km network to serve Whinmoor (East), Lawnswood (North) and Hunslet (South). It is somewhat ironic that early in 2005 the Transport Secretary gave details of road widening schemes in Yorkshire (3), one of which passes close to this abandoned Tingley park and ride site.


Editorial opinion columns left no one in any doubt about the anger felt by most people in Leeds in what the Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP) described as a "Classic blackmail plan" (4). "If Leeds Council agrees to pilot his dream of taxing city motorists off the roads, it will have its Supertram". Although Supertram is only a small part of a city-wide public sic transport improvement for Leeds, Mr Darling has continually halted its progress at every turn and to offer this exchange package is insulting to the intelligence of the people of the city. "It makes you wonder what kind of bad experience the Transport Secretary has had in Leeds to make him want to punish it so Harshly" (5).


This sub-heading may seem incongruous in this Supertram/congestion tax fiasco but the YEP opinion editorial attacked the Nation's abysmal lack of interest in public transport in the north, "London's precious Olympic bid" has taken precedence over the rest. To a certain extent there may be some credence in this suggestion as a look at the Athens bid and also the promises by Paris and Madrid do create a sharp contrast when viewed against London's bid. Athens not only promised to build a new urban tram system but kept to its word and strengthened its effect by borrowing 15 low-floor trams from Berlin. Paris on the other hand started its tramway revival in 1992 and coinciding with its Olympic bid is planning a 20 km tramway (Tram des Gares) to link together a number of its mainline stations (6). Not unlike Athens, Madrid also will be able to boast several new tramway routes and has ordered a fleet of 70 new low-floor trams (7). Despite the example of a good public response to TRAMLINK in Croydon, London appears to be hesitating somewhat with its proposed Cross River Transit and extended link into the City and further extended link to Stratford for the Games (8). Could our light rail apathy be spreading? Only a few weeks away from its construction phase, Liverpool is seriously affected by an inflation problem that has struck hard at every other British scheme.


Recently published policies affecting both road tolls and light rail (9) will not take effect for about 12 to 18 months but so much is already known about tramway type light rail schemes that even this short delay could be catastrophic to some of their known benefits and put them at risk for something less costly but with fewer advantages. Inflation could be described as light rail's worst enemy.


Other places throughout the world with urban tram schemes have also suffered from inflation. Their attitude is strikingly different, not with our attitude of : Can we afford to build it but instead :

Can we afford not to build it.


  1. Rod McPhee - YEP - Page 10 - 10th June 2005.
  2. Discussion Document No 30 - June 2005 (for further details).
  3. LOCAL TRANSPORT TODAY Page 2 - 31st March 2005.
  4. Editorial - YEP Page 10 - 7th June 2005.
  5. Editorial - YEP Page 10 - 6th June 2005.
  6. TRAMWAYS & URBAN TRANSIT (T&UT) Page 232 - June 2005.
  7. C J Wansbeek - T&UT Pages 224-6 - June 2005.
  8. LOCAL TRANSPORT TODAY - 3rd June 2004.
  9. LOCAL TRANSPORT TODAY Page 4 - 26th May 2005.
FOOTNOTE : After this Document was prepared came news that a decision on Leeds was imminent. If the bid fails it could spell the end of Supertram.
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Prepared by F A Andrews for the LRTA Development Group - July 2005

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