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Cllr Keith Wakefield: Our progress means people in West Yorkshire & Leeds City Region have more and better alternative journey choices this World Car Free Day

Cllr Keith WakefieldToday is World Car Free Day. That doesn’t mean we’re expecting West Yorkshire’s roads to be deserted today or, apart from perhaps at Christmas and New Year, on any other day.

However, I do think that through some of the work West Yorkshire Combined Authority and its partners have carried out to improve the local transport network, more people have access to improved, alternative ways of travelling.

Trains

In the past two years, West Yorkshire has been unique in opening three new rail stations, at Apperley Bridge, Kirkstall Forge and Low Moor, as well as constructing Leeds Station’s striking new southern entrance.

Numbers of people using the county’s rail network continue to grow, the total now standing at over 30 million.

Devolution of the specification and delivery of high-quality rail services to the North’s 29 local transport authorities has meant the Combined Authority has played an influential role in shaping the franchises that set out how local train services will be provided in the future. Improvements resulting from the £12bn investment will include new, faster trains, staff at more stations and the end of Pacer units by 2020.

Buses

Last year more than 185 million journeys were made on West Yorkshire’s buses making them by far the most-used form of local public transport. The Combined Authority and the county’s bus operating firms have acknowledged the need to find areas where improvements can be made, one result of which was the launch of the joint Bus18 Initiative earlier this year.

Bus 18 includes pledges to make buses easier to use through better information, better punctuality on a number of key routes, reduced harmful emissions through the introduction of more environmentally friendly buses and improved customer satisfaction through greater engagement and consultation with bus users. Bus 18 also means that since March, passengers whose last bus of the day doesn’t arrive within 20 minutes of the scheduled time have been able call a taxi and claim the cost back from First, Arriva or Transdev.

More about Bus 18

Active travel

In addition to public transport, providing safe and attractive routes for cycling and walking, and encouraging people to take up these forms of active travel, are key to our work. As the Combined Authority’s Managing Director Ben Still told the national Living Streets conference earlier this year, active travel is inherently a local form of transport, so it is down to local authorities and their partners to deliver it.

Through our Government-funded CityConnect initiative we have already built the flagship, 14km ‘Cycle Superhighway’ linking Bradford and Leeds, the only one of its kind in the UK, and have plans to build more high-quality cycle routes. Mr Still told Living Streets delegates that West Yorkshire has some of the country’s best walking and cycling infrastructure and stressed the need to develop public spaces that people first.

As well leading the creation of new infrastructure, CityConnect is providing a range of initiatives to help local people go car-free. Supported by grants of up to £5,000, the Bike Friendly Business scheme provides companies with free, tailored advice on how to get more people traveling to their sites. And through Bike Friendly Schools, they help schools situated close to CityConnect infrastructure to give all pupils the experience of riding a bike, and improve cycle parking. Schemes also exist to provide training to lapsed cyclists and adult beginners as well as subsidised access to a bike for job-seekers and apprentices.

Walking initiatives include the opportunity for organisations to sign up as ‘Walk Friendly Workplaces’ that create an environment in which travelling on foot is an easy and convenient option and encourage staff to walk for all or part of their journeys.

More about CityConnect (opens in new tab)

Park and Ride

While they don’t completely remove cars from our roads, park and ride sites have a huge role to play in reducing numbers of cars and congestion in our city centres along with the resulting harmful emissions and cost to our economy.

Opened in 2014, Elland Road Park and Ride has removed approaching ½ million car journeys from Leeds city centre streets, while the Temple Green site has been used by around 20,000 cars since it opened in June.

People are being asked for their view on a new 1100-space park and ride site at Stourton and further park and ride to the north of the city is mentioned in the Leeds Transport Strategy.

There are also around 3,000 park and ride spaces at West Yorkshire’s 69 rail stations, with more currently being created through extension schemes at 17 of them.

Find out more about Park and Ride (opens in new tab)


Supporting business

Our Travel Plan Network team, which provides free advice on travel planning to over 300 member organisations from all sizes and sectors is now part of our Economic Services team, providing a single point of contact for businesses that want to take advantage of our support have.

More about Travel Plan Network (opens in new tab)


Looking further ahead, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail with stops at Bradford, Leeds and York, are vital future developments that will provide a major catalyst for the City Region’s growth.

The future

This is a round-up of some of the work that has been going on across West Yorkshire and the City Region to improve transport and provide people with attractive alternatives to the car. They are key components of our plans to create a comprehensive, integrated transport network that includes buses, trains, cycling walking and metro-style light rail services.

Although improvements for rail services are in the pipeline, we continue to press government and train operating companies to deliver the planned benefits including upgrading and electrifying key routes such as trans-Pennine, Calder Valley and the Leeds Harrgoate line. And, with the Kirkstall Forge development moving on apace and unexpectedly high numbers of people already using the station, we will be pushing for more trains calling there.

And while the Bus 18 measures are a start, the vital importance of buses means we are committed to monitoring constantly the quality of services, both on journeys and in our Metro Bus Stations across the county to ensure journeys are punctual, reliable and affordable.

From the outset the Combined Authority has recognised that efficient, high-quality transport links underpin the local, regional and national economy along with growth and the creation of new jobs and making land available for new housing. In 2014, we used our City Region Growth Deal with Government to establish the £1bn West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund to invest in large-scale schemes that benefit the economy. The Fund is already benefiting people and businesses locally through completed schemes such as Wakefield Eastern Relief Road and Temple Green Park and Ride in Leeds, and others are already underway.

We are also working closely with Leeds City Council on plans to invest £270m in the city’s transport network. This investment will benefit the whole City Region and includes an unprecedented £173.5 million of Department for Transport funding. Planned transport improvements include an airport parkway station and new rail stations at Thorpe Park and Millshaw Business Park, further park and ride facilities, better buses and bus services and measures to reduce congestion.

And looking further ahead, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail with stops at Bradford, Leeds and York, are vital future developments that will provide a major catalyst for the City Region’s growth.

As I have stated, we realise that our roads will never realistically be car free and we recognise the need to invest in our road network for those journeys which do need to be made by car, bus, van and lorry. To help this, West Yorkshire’s five districts have recently made a commitment to even more collaborative working on the 400-plus miles of the county’s mainly A-roads that make up just 7% of local authority roads but nevertheless carry 60% of all vehicles.

So West Yorkshire won’t be Car Free today but, thanks to the work of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and its partners, more local people than ever will be able to choose to travel by train, bus, bike or on foot than they have before.

And even if we all left our cars at home just one day a week, it would have a massive effect.

Find out more about our work  in our Corporate Plan (pdf) 




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