Tram system essential to combat Leeds’ reputation as “pollution city”, summit hears

By Matthew Brannen

Leeds residents will continue to suffer in the UK’s “second city” of pollution unless the City Council invests in a new mass transit system, say industry experts.

At the Light Rail Leeds summit held on Monday at Leeds Town Hall, Jim Harkins of Light Rail UK, a not for profit industry advisory group, passionately encouraged council leaders not to forget the moral dimension of their decisions.

He said: “We cannot forget the moral implications of continuing to pursue high pollution road options.”

Mr Harkins asked those attending the summit whether they thought there was much difference between being shot with a high calibre shot gun or a smaller handgun?

This, he argued, is the difference between high polluting buses and the proposed less polluting buses which will be purchased by Leeds City Council in their £250 million transport plans which include the new buses and three new rail stations including the proposed ‘parkway station’ near Leeds Bradford Airport.

The summit was organised by Liberal Democrat, Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West in response to what he described as Leeds City Council’s failure to consider the Light Rail option.

The summit was also attended by Conservative Alec Sherbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell, along with Conservative Cllr Ryan Stephenson of Harewood ward.

Cllr Ryan Stephenson described his frustration at council transport plans: “We have a vision for what we want our city to look like, but we keep banging our head against a brick wall.

“The Leeds Transport Conversation was Leeds City Council talking to themselves.”

Many of the day’s speakers, who represented tram companies from across the world, argued that the City of Leeds should spend the £250 million ring fenced for a Leeds Transport Plan on a light rail system.

One exhibitor suggested that the budget would easily buy a 15-30km-starter tramline that could then be built upon later.

Labour Cllr Neil Walshaw, who represents Headingley ward, said on Twitter that he had not been invited to the summit in a twitter spat that took place during the summit.

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