FirstGroup has proposed a vehicle concept based on the New Routemaster as an alternative to “outdated 100-year-old” trolleybus technology

FirstGroup has revealed a radical alternative to controversial plans for the introduction of trolleybuses in Leeds. Its own scheme would see 200 vehicles, modelled on London’s New Routemaster, deployed on routes across the city.

In a swipe at the New Generation Transport trolleybus scheme, proposed by Metro, the West Yorkshire PTE, and Leeds City Council, Dave Alexander, First’s regional managing director for the North of England, said that the NGT scheme as proposed was unlikely to meet the aspirations of First and the NGT partners of achieving a “radical improvement in public transport that enhances its image and boosts its status”.

First says that the NGT scheme as proposed would lock Leeds into “outdated 100-year-old trolleybus technology for decades to come”. It claims that bus technology has made great strides in the last few years with fully electric buses due to be introduced in York in the coming months.

“Further significant advances are certain to be achieved by 2019, the forecast date of the first trolleybus, let alone by the end of the 30 years life of the scheme,” the operator adds. “Through having committed £250m to NGT, with further hoped for routes elsewhere in Leeds, the city will be deprived of investment in much more advanced, better value and more flexible alternatives.”

Alexander added that First’s vehicle proposals, which the group has dubbed the ‘New Bus for Leeds’ and based on the New Routemaster with multiple-door open boarding backed by smartcard technology in order to significantly reduce bus stop dwell times, will bring radical improvements to far more passengers and in a much shorter time frame. The proposal also brings with it significant cost savings when compared to the NGT proposals.

First says that the high quality New Bus for Leeds vehicles would use the latest hybrid engine technology, avoiding the unsightly infrastructure issues that have met much opposition from some local residents on the proposed NGT corridor. In time, fully electric vehicles would be introduced once the technology had evolved to a suitable level.

Alexander concluded: “We are keen to work with the council and Metro on our proposals that we believe align far better with the proposed West Yorkshire Transport Fund arrangement.”

However, Metro chairman James Lewis said First’s plans failed to make any meaningful efforts to tackle the issues of traffic congestion in Leeds.

“First can deliver new vehicles tomorrow and I would welcome it, but they have failed to set out how they would deal with congestion and how they would put in the infrastructure to make transport run freely,” he said.

“I give them two out of 10 for the idea. So far they have not actually delivered anything.”

Many local residents on the NGT corridor, between Holt Park in the north of the city and Hunslet and Belle Isle in the south, remain opposed to the proposed scheme and in the north of the city the North West Leeds Transport Forum has issued a series of objections.

It highlights a number of deficiencies with the consultation process, in particular that the publicly-announced support for the scheme is on the basis of an opinion poll that does not reflect the finalised scheme.

It also claims that there has been a lack of awareness about the consultation process by some local residents and businesses and that the NGT scheme, as proposed, will not be integrated with other transport links.

The objectors also claim that other transport improvements have been rejected by promoters in preference to the controversial trolleybus scheme.


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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