‘We have to change as a country’: West Yorkshire’s mass transit network to improve the environment

Buses entering a bus station

Leading councillor in West Yorkshire’s transport plans deems environmental change ‘necessary’.

A mass transit network plan has been revealed for Leeds and West Yorkshire, which could include the construction of light rail, electric bus lanes and more bike and walking lanes.

This transport network will connect large areas of West Yorkshire, including Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford continuing to build the Northern Powerhouse.

Councillor Kim Groves and Director of Leeds Civic Trust, Mark Hamilton, spoke to us about how important a transit network is.

Councillor Kim Groves, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority or WYCA said: “We want the very best for West Yorkshire, something that other regions can look to and give the city something our people can be proud of.”

This connectivity plan, which WYCA has been working on for two years, is aiming to remove barriers to employment and education and will take Leeds and West Yorkshire one step closer to the Zero Carbon goal.

Leeds City Council has been on a consistent mission to improve the environment and they hope that more and better quality transport links will encourage people to ditch their cars and reduce their carbon footprint.

Mark Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust, believes that to reduce car use, “the alternatives must be more attractive.”

“In 20 year’s time, we won’t have petrol cars or diesel cars and it’s important to plan for that now.”

It is not the first time Leeds Council have encouraged environmental improvements in the city. In early November, the council began trialling a controversial scheme to encourage residents to reconsider their ways of travel.

Hyde Park residents pushed over the planters in reaction to their placement.

David O’Donoghue, an engineer working with the Active Travel Neighbourhood scheme, explained that with the planters diverting traffic from residential areas, “people are more likely to walk to the shops or cycle rather than drive those short journeys.”

Though this trial scheme caused backlash from residents, Leeds City Council are clearly working hard to improve the environment.

In October of last year, the council also reviewed the Clean Air Charging Zone (or CAZ) and deemed it ‘no longer required’ due to the decline of air pollution in the city. CAZ was one example of a scheme which improved quality of life and the environment.

However, it is not all going to be this easy, with a few challenges needed to be overcome for the transit network to go through.

Leeds City Council has been working on improving transport and the environment over the past few years.

Councillor Groves acknowledged that the growing desire for private cars will be the biggest challenge to move to public transport, with more young people than ever applying for driving licenses.

In regards to funding, the WYCA has bid for a share of the £4.2bn transport fund announced by Rishi Sunak. If this funding is denied, Councillor Groves said that it would be: “a massive message to the North that their needs are not being supported by the government.”

“There will be no stone unturned in the search for funding” she added, deeming a developed transit network ‘necessary’ for the people of West Yorkshire.

The mass transit network will bring together large areas of the North and help rural areas of Yorkshire get the employment and education opportunities they need. Leeds City Council deem this as an “opportunity for inclusive growth, with nobody being left behind.”

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