First proposes scheme to oust Leeds NGT

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Reports suggest First has proposed its own ‘New Bus for Leeds’ project

FirstGroup has unveiled plans aimed at delivering greater benefits than the proposed and controversial NGT (New Generation Transport) trolleybus scheme and at a fraction of the cost.

First confirmed to CBW that it has proposed its own NBfL ‘New Bus for Leeds’ – a project outlined in its submission to the forthcoming public inquiry aimed at deciding the fate of the public sector-backed trolleybus plan. The proposal would see up to 200 ‘futuristic’ buses (depicted as green-painted New Routemasters) introduced to services in Leeds.

First also wants to introduce Oyster card-style fare payment to encourage cashless transactions with the intention of reducing bus stop waiting times. The package of improvement measures would require road and infrastructure improvements alongside traffic signal priority measures to speed up journeys. First is proposing to provide the vehicles, with money for infrastructure and signal work potentially coming from the £1bn West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund – although it is uncertain how much would be required. Despite this, First claims the scheme would offer “huge savings” compared to NGT – the pet project of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro.

First says its scheme has the benefit and advantage of operating citywide to benefit the maximum number of people – whereas the proposed trolleybus would initially only have one north-south route to show for the required £250m system. First claims its bus-based masterplan could be delivered faster than “outdated” NGT, which would not go live until 2020.

Dave Alexander, Regional MD First in the north of England, said: “A common objective between First, the council and Metro is for Leeds to have a radical improvement in public transport to enhance its image and boost its status.

“We are concerned the trolleybus scheme will not achieve this. On the other hand the ‘New Bus for Leeds’, combined with other measures, will bring radical improvements to far more passengers, in a much shorter time and with huge savings to the public purse compared with the trolleybus proposals.”