By Rachel Noon
Claims that the Leeds Trolleybus scheme will create 4,000 jobs were described as “reminiscent of North Korean style propaganda” at the Leeds City Summit panel discussion.
Andrew Batty, managing director at CMS Advertising, spoke in response to the panel after they had shared their views on the trolleybus scheme at the Leeds City Summit in Salem Chapel on the last day of Leeds Business Week (17/10), organised by the Yorkshire Mafia.
Batty initially questioned how a “bendy bus with only one route would create 4,000 jobs.”
He added: “Given that the entire Sheffield tram network was not attributed with achieving anywhere near the same number of jobs, I found the claim at best not credible and reminiscent of North Korean style propaganda and self-belief.”
He later told Leeds Hacks: “The city does need an imaginative transport solution but blowing £250m on a bendy bus on wires on one route is not part of it.”
The proposed New Transport Generation (NTG) Trolleybus would operate along a 14.8km route, with two Park and Rides offering over 2,000 spaces. Its main aims are to reduce traffic, increase economic input and push regeneration into Leeds city and its suburbs.
The route would spread from the north to the south of the city centre; from Holt Park to Belle Isle via Headingley, Hyde Park and the centre of Leeds. The network would cost around £250m. Of that, £173.5m will be paid by the government.
Adam Beaumont, chief executive at aql who was one of the panel members, said he was not sure about the 4,000 new jobs claim but he believed the trolleybus would “help with local infrastructure” and “encourage investment”.
Stephen McFarlane, head of community and stakeholder at HS2, said: “By improving infrastructure in cities it creates a greater workforce, productivity and resilience.”
The plans have been under scrutiny since it was first proposed but McFarlane insists the trolleybus will “achieve significant economic benefits to Leeds”.
In contrast, Helen Oldham, managing director for Johnston Press said: “There has been a vast amount of controversy surrounding the impacts of the scheme such as impacts on house prices”.
She concluded: “A lot of work has to be done to provide a compelling argument”.
Other topics bought up in the City Summit included the possible Leeds bid for European Capital of Culture in 2023 and how it would be beneficial to local businesses; if Yorkshire would vote for independence following the Scottish NO vote in the recent referendum; and whether young people should be learning digital skills for business.
More information on the Leeds City Summit on Leeds Hacks Twitter: @Leedshacks