Transport committee to consider worldwide feedback on developing mass transit

Responses from as far afield as Switzerland and Japan

4 March 2020

At their meeting next week, members of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee will be asked to consider a report containing a summary of the responses to its recent worldwide appeal for ideas and experience for the development of a mass transit system for the Leeds City Region.

Included in the report, Advanced Urban Transit Technologies: Market Testing, is a range of responses under the main themes of Propulsion Technologies, Autonomously Operated Mass Transit Systems and Mass Transit and addressing the Climate Emergency.

Latest techniques and technologies

Around 120 organisations from around the world responded to the Combined Authority’s joint call, with the University of Huddersfield’s Institute for Railway Research and University of Leeds’ Institute for Transport Studies, for companies and consortia across the globe to tell it about the latest techniques and technologies that could help meet the City Region’s future transport needs.

The questions for discussion included whether new Urban Transit systems should be designed for autonomous vehicle operation and the prospects of using hydrogen or battery power to deliver a zero-emission system to help meet the Combined Authority’s commitment to combating climate change.

Battery technologies were suggested as likely to be the most viable option to power a system in the short to medium term. This would make it possible to develop a system without the requirement for overhead wires although the feedback advises considering overhead wires as they represent effective and proven technology that can reduce carbon and cost.

Without a significant change in Government policy Hydrogen is seen as a being an unlikely solution over the next decade although it is at the early stages of being utilised in mass transit and is readily available by-product of industry.

Autonomous vehicles

On Autonomous vehicles, respondents suggest while fully segregated driverless systems such as the Docklands Light Railway are in operation, where there is interaction with other traffic, drivers will be required for the next decade. There were some suggestions that 5G technology would make it possible for mass transit vehicles to be controlled remotely from a control centre, but that safety challenges would need to be addressed. Autonomous cars are considered likely to make congestion worse.

All respondents acknowledged Mass Transit as an element of combating climate change but emphasised that segregation from other traffic is key to delivering the faster journey times and reliability required to persuade people out of their cars and reduce congestion. A combination of bus, light rail and heavy rail as part of an integrated transport strategy, was identified as the way all major cities with comparable populations are addressing climate change.

Switzerland and Japan

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “This market testing process, which has prompted responses from as far afield as Switzerland and Japan, has provided us with invaluable information on the very latest and emerging conclusions for mass transit systems, which we can use to further the development of our plans.

“If West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region is going to achieve its full economic potential and we are, at the same time, going to achieve our ambitious environmental targets, it is vital that we can progress the development of a mass transit system as part of our integrated transport plans.

“Before the December election, Boris Johnson promised to 'remedy the scandal' that we have no mass transit system and it was highlighted as a key Conservative manifesto pledge. In addition, the Conservatives announced a £4.2 billion fund for mass transit in December, which referenced the Leeds City Region as a potential beneficiary and our Transforming Cities Fund submission included a £20 million ‘ask’ for mass transit development funding.

“It is vital the Government now gives us the backing and funding that enables us to take the valuable information contained in this market testing report and use to move forward with the development of the high-quality, state-of-the-art mass transit system we need and deserve.”

Next week’s Transport Committee meeting takes place at 11am on Friday 13 March at Wellington House, 40-50 Wellington Street, Leeds. It is a public meeting, and all are welcome.

Link to the agenda and papers for the meeting.

More about our plans for Mass Transit