Westminster must cough up funds for mass transit in West Yorkshire
How did you get to work today? Maybe you travelled in on the tube, or perhaps you used one of London’s world-class buses. If you live in an outer London constituency, maybe part of your journey comprised of a trip on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) or Croydon Tramlink.
Now let’s ask the same question of someone living in West Yorkshire – home to 2.4 million people, and the fourth largest urban area in the United Kingdom. Maybe they stood waiting for a bus which didn’t turn up. Perhaps they were one of the lucky few to live near a rail station, squeezing themselves onto an overcrowded commuter train. Let’s hope it shows up this time.
This is pretty much where public transport options begin and end in West Yorkshire. And it is time to change it. No one should be limited or restricted by where they live. Restricted travel means restricted opportunities – and we have so many opportunities on offer in West Yorkshire.
We cannot wait until the mid-2030s for a promise of money that is not guaranteed
Cities smaller than Leeds and Bradford that have mass transit systems include Nottingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Blackpool. Cardiff is also at the heart of the developing South Wales metro scheme. We want the same for West Yorkshire.
While my team and I are moving ahead with plans to revamp our bus network, our ambitions also extend to a high-tech, seamless and sustainable mass transit network for the whole of the region.
We cannot improve connectivity, combat climate change and support the levelling up of our economy without a form of either tram, tram-train, light rail or a rapid bus system, segregated from traffic as much as possible.
It is not just us saying this; we’ve got the backing of the National Infrastructure Commission, who last month said Leeds should be one of four city regions to receive a share of £22bn for major public transport schemes.
We need mass transit to attract businesses to help shape the future of our regional economy. Investment means better jobs. Better jobs mean higher wages. Higher wages mean better standards of living for everyone.
A frequent, reliable and affordable mass transit system would allow more people from our communities to access these better jobs – which benefits employers too – as well as take up opportunities for skills training and learning.
Our city region plan will connect those parts of West Yorkshire that are not well served at present – driving productivity and regeneration in our centres, promoting sustainable housing growth and providing new economic opportunities for key communities. All the evidence shows that investment in transport drives growth.
We are working tirelessly to get spades in the ground on the first phase of the system by 2028. Combined with our plans for a better integrated bus network and new walking and cycling routes, as well as hundreds of new electric bikes, we want to build seamless travel options across West Yorkshire.
So, what do we need from Westminster?
While we will have to find a local funding contribution to the scheme, we need to work with the government to help pay for the bulk of the project. The Prime Minister’s namecheck for this project in his party conference speech was welcome, but we cannot wait until the mid-2030s for a promise of money that is not guaranteed.
I’ve been clear to both the Conservative and Labour Party that we need the money for mass transit made available in the next Parliament.
Whoever is in government, our region and our nation need this investment if we are to achieve the regional growth both parties are committed to.
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire
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