Ministerial bias in favour of trolleybus

by Bill

Photo courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers

Photo courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers

In a letter to Greg Mulholland MP, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill has confirmed that he will be the minister responsible for deciding whether or not the trolleybus scheme is given the go-ahead.1 The minister told Mr Mulholland he was “replying as the Minister responsible for decisions under the Transport and Works Act (TWA) on local transport schemes such as this.”

It’s a cause for great concern that the Secretary of State has given the responsibility for making this hugely important decision to someone who has publicly expressed their desire that the trolleybus scheme should go ahead.

During a parliamentary debate on the 11th March 2008,2 then opposition MP Robert Goodwill said:

Leeds is now considering a trolley bus scheme — a second best scheme — which will share the same infrastructure as the cars and buses.

But a year later, Mr Goodwill had changed his mind about the trolleybus. At a meeting on the 29th October 2009 of the Parliamentary Yorkshire and Humber Regional Grand Committee3 attended by fellow MP Greg Mulholland, Mr Goodwill said:

Leeds is the largest city in Europe that does not have its own rapid transit scheme. In 2001, the Government gave provisional approval for a supertram scheme in Leeds. In the light of that, work was undertaken on assessing bids, procurement and roadworks to provide the necessary infrastructure. However, the Government called a halt to the project in 2005. Despite being cancelled, significant public funds were spent on the project. On 20 December, the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), stated:
“Around £39 million of public sector finance has been spent on Leeds Supertram. Of this, around £5 million has been spent on construction costs with around a further £14 million on land and property purchase. In 2004–05 the Department provided £6 million to the promoters of Leeds Supertram for scheme development costs, including advance works.”—[Official Report, 20 December 2005; Vol. 440, c. 2916W.]
That is money down the drain because of the inability of the Government to deliver the funding for a project that they encouraged Leeds city council to go ahead with. Leeds is now looking at—I hope it will go forward with this—a trolley bus scheme. Why was it not given the signal that it should go ahead with a trolley bus scheme from the start, rather than all that money being wasted?

Is it right that someone who has already said that he hopes the trolleybus scheme will go ahead, should be the person who decides whether or not it does go ahead?