Secretary of State rejects Leeds trolleybus application

by Bill

Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin (photo courtesy of Coventry Telegraph)

Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin (photo courtesy of Coventry Telegraph)

On the 12th May 2016, the Department for Transport announced that Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin, had decided to accept the recommendation of Inspector Martin Whitehead and reject the application by Leeds City Council and Metro to build a trolleybus system. Here is a summary of Mr McLoughlin’s decision:

  • The scheme would improve public transport in a comparatively small area of Leeds and could result in worse public transport elsewhere in the city.
  • There is only slight evidence that the scheme would serve the most disadvantaged areas of Leeds.
  • The scheme would damage the natural and built environment as a result of the introduction of overhead cables, more street clutter, and the loss of green spaces and trees.
  • The scheme would not appreciably improve access to employment because of the relatively small number of trolleybus stops, the limited places it would serve and the comparatively meagre integration with other public transport.
  • Because the trolley vehicles would share significant segments of the route with other traffic, they could be susceptible to congestion and other delays making journey times less dependable than predicted by the promoters.
  • The high percentage of people who would have to stand in peak periods would be off-putting for passengers.
  • Polls indicate a strong preference for new double-decker buses as against bendy buses or trolleybuses.
  • The scheme would do little to make it a more attractive route for cyclists and there would not be enough enhancements to pedestrian safety and facilities to encourage walking.
  • Because the trolleybuses would not use the same stops as buses and would not go anywhere near the bus station, the scheme would not be fully integrated with other forms of public transport.
  • By taking patronage from existing buses, the scheme would jeopardize the commercial viability and efficient use of the existing bus service.
  • The manner in which the promoters made patronage predictions for the scheme based on the results of the Stated Preference poll does not inspire confidence.
  • Demand for the planned park and rides has been over-estimated.
  • The overhead cables cannot be seen as a positive element that could influence investment decisions because of its appearance of permanence.
  • The promoters have not taken into account evidence that other forms of technology are advancing or that trolleybuses have been used less frequently in recent years.
  • The promoters have given insufficient weight to the environmental damage caused by overhead cables compared to other methods of propulsion.
  • The promoters have not fully considered if there are more appropriate routes for a rapid transit system to meet the scheme’s aims.
  • Policy support for the scheme at local and national levels must be weighed against the harm that the scheme would cause to green space, biodiversity and heritage assets which would be contrary to other local and national policies.
  • The scheme’s aggregate impact on air quality including carbon emissions would be negative due to the use of grid electricity and the impact on other traffic.
  • The overhead cables would be more extensive than for trams and would be likely to have a negative effect on the appearance and character of buildings and their settings.
  • The viability of some companies is likely to be adversely affected by the implementation of the scheme.
  • The scheme would cause a reduction in the total area of open space, some of which is hard to justify weighed against the scheme’s likely benefits.
  • The need to isolate trolleybus stops from other bus stops would make it less easy for people to use public transport.
  • Because the scheme is expected to take a large part of its ridership from existing bus services, it could result in reduced bus services in the corridor and beyond.
  • If bus operators engage in competition with the trolleybus, it could threaten the scheme’s viability.
  • The scheme would not improve congestion, and would cause some junctions to have longer queue lengths and an increase in the total distance travelled each year by cars.
  • Reduced parking and other traffic restrictions along the route could affect the viability of companies.
  • Trolleybuses would share parts of the route with pedestrians which would lead either to the vehicles being unable to travel at their design speeds or a risk to the safety of pedestrians.
  • Provisions for cyclists were not a priority when the scheme was being designed and standards have been compromised in favour of trolleybuses and motor vehicles, risking the safety of cyclists.
  • The A660 is not well suited for articulated vehicles.
  • The number of standing passengers on the trolleybuses would be a safety concern.
  • The impacts on heritage assets, mature trees and open space would be both significant and adverse.
  • The loss of open space, trees and the impact on the historic environment would not be sufficiently mitigated.
  • Any positive effects on the appearance and character of areas south of the route would not offset the serious harm to the appearance and character of listed buildings and conservation areas in the north.
  • There should have been a monetised estimate for impacts of the construction phase, which are likely to be substantial.
  • The supposed journey times are optimistic and there is not enough evidence to substantiate them.
  • There is insufficient detail to substantiate the promoters’ cost estimates and to provide assurance that they won’t be exceeded.
  • Even with the assurance that was made to finance the scheme’s construction should the Order be made, there is a reasonable possibility that the scheme would not attract the funding needed to maintain it.
  • Based on the evidence, there is a high degree of uncertainty as to whether the scheme would be viable operationally.
  • There may be cheaper alternatives that require less compulsory purchase of land that would more effectively address the scheme’s aims and objectives.


Inspector’s Report

Secretary of State’s Decision Letter 12.5.16