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West Yorkshire Combined Authority's Head of Transport Policy joins our Infrastructure forum this month

Leeds - which made a pledge in the 1970s to become 'the Motorway City' - has now closed its historic City Square (pictured above in July 2022) to motor traffic as the city progresses plans to improve pollution and congestion and move towards a 'people first' environment

Future Cities Forum is delighted that Helen Ellerton, Head of Transport Policy at West Yorkshire Combined Authority, will be contributing to our April forum 'Infrastructure, construction and energy'.

She will join the Infrastructure & Projects Authority, EDF Renewables and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Grimshaw among other contributors to talk about transport measures to increase transport connectivity across the WYCA region and more broadly the north of England.

In recent news, a new multi-million-pound investment to improve walking and cycling routes in West Yorkshire has been welcomed by Mayor Tracy Brabin. Announced by Active Travel England, the £5.5 million investment will help to make travelling on foot, wheeling and cycling, a more attractive option for people making local journeys.

Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin said:

“This investment is a great vote of confidence in our region and will allow us to build on the improvements we’ve already made. 

“It will help more people to live healthy, active lifestyles, whilst supporting our mission to tackle the climate emergency. 

“We’re making it easier for people to get around in a greener, more vibrant West Yorkshire.”

Over half of the investment (£3 million) will fund six new projects, with communities set to benefit from wider canal towpaths and improved crossing points, as well as improved facilities and infrastructure in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Leeds.

An additional £2.5 million ‘Capability Fund’ has been awarded to support behaviour change campaigns and network development across all five West Yorkshire districts, over the next 18 months.

The Mayor has also decided to take control of the buses in the biggest shake up to public transport in the region for decades. 

In a landmark move, the Mayor decided to bring buses under local control - through a process known as franchising - as recommended by the Combined Authority. 

Routes, frequencies, fares and overall standards for buses in the region will be set by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority – not private operators, who will instead be contracted to run services on the Combined Authority’s behalf. 

Buses are the most widely used form of public transport in West Yorkshire and provide a crucial public service, connecting communities and enabling people to get to work, school and meet family and friends.

But the current deregulated system has seen a decline in patronage over many years and the increasing use of public funding used to support services.  

Despite the action the Combined Authority has taken through its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), bus services in the region remain too infrequent and unreliable to meet passengers’ needs, with West Yorkshire ranking bottom for customer satisfaction according to a survey released by Transport Focus.

A franchised model will allow the Mayor and Combined Authority to better deliver on ambitions for a greener, joined-up and easier to use transport network as part of a better-connected West Yorkshire. 

 The Mayor’s decision follows a three month consultation which revealed that nearly three-quarters of the people and organisations which responded supported franchising. 

 Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin commented:

"I’m delighted to announce that we are taking back control of our buses in West Yorkshire, empowering the public to hold me to account for better services.  

"For too long, buses have been run in the interests of private companies, not passengers. Franchising will help us build a better-connected bus network that works for all, not just company shareholders.  


"But we know that change will not happen overnight - the hard work we’ve been doing to improve the bus network continues while we work at pace to bring this new way of running the buses to our 2.4 million residents."

To ensure a smooth transition, franchising will be introduced in phases, with the first franchised buses up and running in parts of Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield from March 2027. 

In the meantime, the Combined Authority will continue with its BSIP, which has seen the introduction of the £2 Mayor’s Fares, increased frequencies on key routes, investment in bus stations and shelters and new bus services launching across West Yorkshire.

A new package of bus improvements for services across the region is also set to be announced in May 2024.

Below: Calls Lane in central Leeds, where pedestrians and cyclists enjoy a 'people first' environment


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