PUBLIC TRANSPORT CONCERNS RAISED WITH L.C.C.

At a community meeting held at West Ardsley community on the 26th June 2019 attended by Councillor Karen Renshaw and Councillor Ben Garner, the community raised major concerns relating to air pollution and the decline of bus services within the city. Following the meeting West Ardsley Action Group have prepared the attached submission based on comments made by the attendees which we believe highlights major problems which are being experienced nationally and locally together with possible solutions for Council consideration.

We have forwarded the attachment to Judith Blake (Leader of Leeds City Council) and our local ward councillors for their considered response.-

Leeds Public Transport/Air Pollution

The responsibility for public transport in the Leeds area passed to a West Yorkshire region authority in some form or other in 1974. The bus service was deregulated in 1986. The current responsibility is with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which was created in 2014, and the private bus companies. During this time Leeds City Council have been complacent in allowing public transport in the Leeds area to deteriorate to a situation where it is not a viable alternative for private car users.

Public transport in Leeds is provided mainly by First Leeds, who serve the majority of the Leeds public transport system, operating within the confines of the Leeds City boundaries, and Arriva Yorkshire, which serves mainly the southern parts of Leeds. Currently Arriva provide cross country services between Leeds and nearby towns and cities.  Based in Kirklees, they operate mainly from Leeds Bus Station.

These are private companies, answerable to their respective shareholders. They run their bus services on a profit making basis, with potential loss making routes relying on subsidies through the WYCA. At present the major complaints by public transport passengers focus on the reliability, frequency and cost of travel.

The existing public transport system in Leeds needs a radical overhaul. There are some areas which have the luxury of a 10 minute bus service, whilst others have to rely on an hourly service.

The service provided by any Leeds based company should be an integrated network, giving access to all Leeds residents within a short walking distance to any route with easy access to services outside the Leeds boundary, supplemented by the metro rail links.

All cross-country services should be on a radial system probably based in the existing Leeds bus station.

At present there is no government body, which oversees the bus companies to ensure the services they provide operate fairly and to a good quality standard. Leeds City Council need to take responsibility for Leeds area public transport and bring it under their direct control.

One option, which has been shelved by Leeds City Council on many occasions due to the cost implication, is the re-introduction of a tramway system, which would be almost pollution free. When considering the initial cost of implementing this option against the annual cost to the nation, via the NHS, for treating air pollution related diseases this would pale into insignificance. Leeds is one of the largest cities in the country but, unlike neighbours such as Sheffield and Manchester, does not have a tram system. Why not?

Hydrogen powered vehicles are also an alternative, which should be considered for public transport. There would be a pollution free, power source available, which will never run out as long as water is available.

There is national concern regarding air pollution, particularly in inner cities.  Leeds is one of the worst cities in the UK for air pollution from motor vehicles. Whilst Leeds City Council appear to support the concerns regarding air pollution, and are proposing actions to combat the problem, their actions are timid, without foresight and lack a real determination to solve this existential threat.

Leeds City Council is proposing to introduce a pollution tax for certain air polluting vehicles; amazingly private cars are not included in the current proposal. The vehicles targeted at present are polluting commercial vehicles, taxies and public transport, some of which are essential to keep the city running. It would appear the logic is that the tax should encourage these operators to switch to less or zero polluting vehicles.

The current proposal ignores the thousands of private cars, which travel into or through Leeds City Centre on a daily basis. It may be argued that it is unreasonable to introduce this tax to private cars until there is a viable alternative however, this may be counterintuitive. It is very likely this tax will inevitably lead to the private bus companies either increasing prices or reducing services. The net effect being to make public transport even less viable.

Signs have appeared around Leeds advising drivers to ditch their cars in favour of walking, using a bike, or using public transport. Walking and using a bike are fine for the young and healthy but for the elderly and disabled this is not an option. They need a good public transport option.

Has LCC considered using community buses, which remain idle for most of the day, to provide vital links, particularly at off peak times, to an integrated public transport system?

Vehicle emissions, which are not only damaging the health of inner city dwellers, are the main cause of the daily assault on the health of young children all over the Leeds area. LCC could take the lead in promoting and incentivising the setting up of voluntary walking school buses operated by the schools and parents?

Cars taking them on the local school run, which fill up roads outside local schools, leaving their engines running, should be treated as public enemies. Why are Leeds City Council not following the example of York by issuing fines for this?

Why are private cars not being included in the pollution tax? LCC should promote and incentivise car sharing. How else are we going to inculcate a culture of personal responsibility in all of us to address this massive issue of air pollution? From observation, many vehicles travel with only one occupant ie. the driver. One seat on public transport has the potential to remove at least one vehicle from the roads; a filled bus would greatly improve the air pollution problem.

Allowing large housing developments outside the inner city area, with 2 car/household off road parking being a planning criteria; with little or no consideration to good public transport and no easy access to other services, merely exports the air pollution problem to other areas.

This is a contradiction of the air pollution reduction policy. 

Leeds City Council must lead the way in the elimination of air pollution in the city and surrounding areas. Leeds CC have the opportunity to make this happen by restoring the faith in using public transport. What is required is a transport system which is reliable, frequent, easily accessible and low cost, preferably free to all.

In conjunction with charges/taxes of private car users, providing a low cost, low polluting, reliable public transport alternative would encourage persistent car users to use public transport.

One of the buzz words in government is “Northern Power House”.  Over the last two decades the public transport system across the entire country has been allowed to deteriorate, due to privatisation and a lack of investment. Leeds needs an integrated public transport system to benefit from and participate in this.

This will however, require a large financial investment, which will need the backing of central government. Leeds City Council must put the case for this investment on the basis of our health and sound economic reasoning.   

By:

Walter Brekin

(Committee Member)

For and behalf of West Ardsley Action Group.