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Greg Mulholland

Tram trains for Leeds City Region

Why Tram-Trains is the only way the Leeds City Region can now catch up with other cities

Why does Leeds need to pursue a tram-train network, starting with one line?

  • Leeds has suffered because it has never got started at all with any line of a light rail system, so whilst other cities that started with a line have since added and developed networks, Leeds has nothing - so to ever get started we need to start with one line.
  • Other light rail systems, notably the successful and self-sustaining Manchester Metrolink, started with conversion of heavy rail lines (in the case of Manchester with two lines and city centre street running in between).
  • Now that the Government has agreed to still provide the £173 of funding to Leeds for transport improvements there is central funding for the right solution - and it must be a transformative one, it is realistically the last chance for Leeds to get started with a modern network.
  • So the only realistic way we will get started in Leeds is by converting an existing rail line that runs from/into the city centre.

Tram train 2

Why Tram Train?

  • The geography in the Leeds City Region and the desire to connect key conurbations (Leeds, Harrogate, York, Bradford, Wakefield etc.) means tram-train is ideal over such distances.
  • Tram train technology and systems are in operation and work all over the world. They are a good way of developing an integrated network over these sort of distances e.g. Karlsruhe in Germany which now has over 500km of tram train network.
  • Tram-trains, like all light rail (and unlike trolleybus) have proven impressive 'modal shift', in others words the key congestion reducing thing - getting people, especially commuters, out of their cars and onto public transport and improving air quality.
  • Tram trains can operate on the same lines as trains and also can use street running (and longer term, can operate alongside light rail vehicles if, as a network is developed, some parts are served by pure light rail).
  • There are different sorts of tram trains: electric, diesel, hybrid and therefore there is flexibility according to the scheme.

Tram train Harrogate Line

So why is the Leeds-Harrogate-York line the obvious line to start?

  • It serves the very congested corridors served by the A65 and A660 (two of the most congested roads in the area) and would serve many of the same commuters targeted by Supertram and NGT and the line would serve three key conurbations in the Leeds City Region.
  • The line would come off the current line and go along the A65 and Wellington Street and into Leeds City Centre to City Square, to connect with Leeds station. So finally Leeds would have street running modern trams, then a city centre loop could be developed - and this also then opens up the possibility for lines running out of the city in other directions, to be developed longer term.
  • The quality of the current rolling stock on the line is very poor and the line is earmarked for electrification (though this has been put on hold, it will have to happen which will require Department for Transport and tram-train conversion).
  • Frequency of service would be improved to 4-6 per hour, there would be a mix of services stopping at every station and express services (express ones could decrease current journey times between Harrogate and Leeds).
  • Additional stations could be put in (including potentially Arthington and Horsforth Woodside as well as others towards York and Harrogate).
  • Tram-train trains run on the same lines as 'heavy rail' i.e. trains, so the Harrogate to London trains could continue to operate, with the right scheduling.
  • Converting the line will allow the short tram-train link to Leeds Bradford Airport to be constructed as the line is converted, which would deliver this important fixed link from Leeds City Centre to the airport, which is only just over a mile from the line.
  • The airport tram-train link should therefore be done rather than the controversial and expensive road link proposals and the money earmarked for this should instead be rolled into the funding for line one of the new Leeds City Region. This also would avoid the need for a 'parkway station' which would still require passengers to travel to the Airport by bus, when a fixed rail link is clearly preferable and much more likely to encourage travellers to travel to and from the airport.

Conclusion - key points

  • The current funding (the £173 of Department for Transport funding, up to £81 million of funding from Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Transport Authority, the £40-£75 million earmarked for airport road link, plus the money for electrifying the line) means the money is there NOW and so NOW is when we need to get our act together and propose a long term, transformative network.
  • Leeds' history of public transport failures show such a network will only happen by converting an existing rail line.
  • The Leeds-Harrogate-York line is the obvious line to start.
  • This delivers street running trams in Leeds City Centre and the fixed rail link to the city region's airport, LBIA.
  • Once one line is built, then other lines will follow, these can serve the Five Towns and Bradford (in the latter case, also linking Bradford City Centre direct with Leeds Bradford Airport). Other corridors can be looked at and developed over time.
  • This vision was proposed by Metro (the then West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority) and backed by senior figures at Leeds City Council before they were forced to pursue the ill-fated trolleybus scheme. We now all need to get behind now - and have central funding to FINALLY get started!