‘Connecting Leeds’ completed

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As part of the project, a new park & ride site at Stourton opened and went on to receive a national award. JONATHAN WELCH

A host of projects that formed part of a £270 million investment in the transport network in Leeds have been finished, and promise to deliver a ‘transformational change’ to the city’s communities

The ‘Connecting Leeds’ project encompassed a number of schemes to transform transport and travel around Leeds, and passengers are set to see the full benefits following completion of the £270 million Leeds Transport Investment Programme works.

After the start of the programme in 2018, the vision for Connecting Leeds was to deliver a transformational change in the transport network and connectivity across Leeds and the surrounding region, helping to bring people, places, jobs, learning and leisure closer together. This was to be achieved through improvements to road, rail, bus, park & ride, cycling and walking services and infrastructure, reducing congestion, and improving air quality and accessibility. Building on the £173.5 million awarded by the Government for investment in public transport, Leeds City Council, in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and thanks to further investment by bus operators, has delivered significant improvements to the bus network, enhanced facilities for pedestrians and cyclists and transformed the public realm.

Councillor Helen Hayden, executive member for infrastructure and climate at Leeds City Council, said: “In 2016, we started our biggest-ever transport conversation in which over 8,000 people told us what’s important to them and for Leeds. After working together in partnership for six years and completing this unprecedented number of projects, we’ve come to an end of this phase of our transport development.”

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said: “We’ve invested tens of millions into public transport in Leeds including many miles of cycle and bus lanes and the award-wining, solar-powered Stourton park & ride site. Not only has this investment been delivered on time and on budget, but it has provided a real alternative to cars, and will reduce air pollution. We have also created beautiful, green spaces that everyone can enjoy.

“I’m proud that we’re making similar improvements across the whole of West Yorkshire, so all of our communities can live happier and healthier lives.”

The city council, through Connecting Leeds, has worked in partnership with local businesses, stakeholders, and all transport operators in the city, to deliver the various projects, which included:

  • New and expanded park & ride facilities, including the new site at Stourton with 1,200 spaces, plus expansion of Elland Road and Temple Green park & ride sites, giving a total of over 2,000 additional car park spaces;
  • Improvements along two key corridors on the A61/A639 route to and from Stourton, along Pontefract Lane, Hunslet Road and Great Wilson Street and along the A647 Leeds to Bradford route to reduce bus journey times and improve service reliability, together with cycling and walking facilities. A number of other interventions were implemented along bus route corridors, including traffic light upgrades and bus priority measures;
  • Installation of almost 1,000 new real-time information boards at bus stops, along with a colour coded Leeds core bus network map highlighting 18 core bus routes for services that run every 15 minutes or better. Bus stops have been improved with user-friendly signage, and 2,300 bus stops have received a facelift to enhance the user experience;
  • Bus operators have introduced a fleet of new, low-emission buses with audio and/or visual next stop announcements, free WiFi, improved seating, and contactless payments;
  • Transformation of Leeds bus station to create a more modern, welcoming atmosphere, and;
  • Construction of ‘ambitious world-class gateways’ along the Headrow and at the Corn Exchange – making access to the city more welcoming and appealing for visitors and residents.

On behalf of all bus operators, Paul Matthews, Managing Director of First West Yorkshire, said: “These transformational works are now benefitting customers with new passenger facilities and improved information supported by high quality services and better reliability. There are well over 200 new ultra-low and zero-emission buses now helping to create cleaner air on the city’s streets and reduce carbon emissions.

“Where we provide great service quality supported by bus priority, we know we can offer a realistic alternative to the car, achieve bus passenger growth, and encourage more sustainable travel around the city. This has been a ground-breaking programme in respect of the partnership working and level of investment delivered. This close relationship between all partners is at the heart of what has been achieved.”

The Connecting Leeds Public Transport Investment Programme was describes as having been a challenge to complete within a very constrained timeline, and was affected by the pandemic as well as significant recent inflationary pressures, but was completed on time and within budget.