Light Rail Transit Association - UK Development Group 





After the last Leeds tram had run into Swinegate Depot in 1959, many thought that that was the symbolic end of a transport era. Dispatch by fire would also have been a valid description because many of the tram bodies were unceremoniously put to the torch. If the bus replacement services of the day had been able to hold on to most of the displaced tram passengers by providing a service of equal quality, we could well have been looking at a transit climate very different from what Leeds is now experiencing. To some extent the bus never had a chance because a large slice of the transport funding in the post tram era was channelled into highway construction, a carbon copy of events elsewhere: more cars, more congestion and a run-down spiral for buses.


The first tentative proposals for a light rail system in Leeds came out of the 1977 transportation study by WYTCONSULT, a study that looked at two possible methods of creating a light rail network. One method would have been substantially highway based whilst the other would have made use of existing and former BR formations. Although neither of these methods formed part of the consultants recommendations, there was the suggestion that potential light rail routes should be safeguarded. "Perhaps if the benefits to public transport passengers had been given greater weight, the recommendations might have been different!" (1).


METROLINE was a proposal partly taken up by West Yorkshire PTE (METRO) in 1989 and which basically used York Road to reach various destinations on the east side of the city. Because support was not forthcoming from the Leeds City Council the proposal failed at a very early stage and was eventually abandoned. Its main route across the city would have been via the Headrow with a terminating point near to Leeds Town Hall. A strong but negative point made by the Council about the route was that it failed to integrate with the railway services into Leeds.


(NOTE : This update is a very brief synopsis of the current situation).

Parliamentary powers to permit a Supertram project to proceed in Leeds were granted to METRO and Leeds City Council during July 1993. The route was from Cookridge Street in Leeds City Centre to Tingley via Middleton with a branch to Stourton from Hunslet. A 1998 estimate for this 12km project was 130m. Being mostly in segregated alignments its running time into the city centre was estimated at 23 minutes from the Tingley park and ride site and just 12 minutes from Stourton. As in Sheffield, all stops will be designed to permit level boarding from 35Omm high platforms.

Because the appropriate funding has not been forthcoming the Supertram powers lapsed during July 1998. To persevere with the scheme it became necessary for a fresh application to the Secretary of State which in effect would be a revised compulsory acquisition order under the Transport and Works Act (TWA) 1992. This application, made during June 1998, also included powers to construct and maintain two new works, realignment of Chadwick and Waterloo Streets.


The application to the Secretary of State also included an order for two additional extensions, in a northerly direction through Headingley to Bodington and in an easterly direction towards Seacroft (2). In addition the route would run along Duncan Street, Call Lane and New York Street which would form part of the City Centre Loop.

A Public Inquiry with Sir Norman King KBE as Inspector was held between 18th March and 30th April 1997 to, hear the application made jointly by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) and Leeds City Council (LCC) on 4th July 1996. The Inspector found that improved public transport facilities in Leeds, and especially along the A660, were needed. Headingley, being a prominent conservation area and adjacent to the A660, was well represented by community groups, some of which had been technically advised by a Glasgow consultant (3) who had advised that earlier checks on patronage levels along the A660 were seriously flawed because no account had been taken of the high and low demands of university students. These would best be catered for by a more flexible transit mode than a tramway which the consultant considered as the least flexible. The inspector noted that whilst objectors did not accept that the Supertram would meet the objectives set, there was general acceptance by the Leeds Transport Strategy (4).


NOISEShould be acceptable during construction and in operation. Noise from Supertram would be less than from other large vehicles such as buses and lorries.
VIBRATIONVibration of passing trams should not be a disbenefit.
MOTORISTS, PEDESTRIANS, CYCLISTS AND BUS USERSThe Inspector was not persuaded that there would be disbenefits overall ; rather the benefits would tend to be greater.
SAFETYLikely to improve overall safety for all road users.
FINANCIALFinancially robust and economically viable. Supertram would be more cost effective than an enhanced bus provision.
PUBLIC OPEN SPACEWhen suitable land cannot be offered in exchange it should be accepted in the public interest.
TREESLoss of mature trees should be accepted for the greater public benefit of the scheme. Equivalent tree replacement will replace lost trees.
LISTED BUILDINGSCertain buildings cannot be kept if Supertram is to proceed.
STATUTORY UNDERTAKINGSGovernment policy would apply.
PARK AND RIDEwill follow the usual compensation rules.
CONSTRUCTION TRAFFIC Will be routed by heavy goods vehicle routes.
TRAFFIC CALMINGWill be investigated to reduce RAT RUNNING.
TIME LIMITWork will commence within 5 years.
PROPERTY VALUESThere was no evidence that Supertram would in general reduce the value of properties alongside or close to the route.


PARKINSON BUILDINGAn enhanced tram stop in front of the building might be preferable to the existing bus shelters.
HOAGY'S BARThe Secretary of State agrees also with the Inspector that the proposal to take the tram through the arches at Hoagy's Bar is acceptable as a means of preserving the style and appearance of Eastgate as viewed from the East.
SHAW LANE/OTLEY ROAD JUNCTIONWith the new urban traffic control system in place, in which the Supertram would be fully integrated, together with the reductions of traffic at the critical Shaw Lane/ Otley Road junction, traffic flows could be contained at current levels along the corridors and might even show a slight improvement.


The Inspector believed that Supertram would provide accessible public transport; would serve the local communities where high quality public transport does not exist;. would provide comfort, reliability and shorter journey times, thus providing an attractive alternative to the car, and would support development and job creation by improving access to Employment Centres; the safety aspect would probably be increased, though the poles and overhead wires would not help to improve the visual impact; the Inspector was in no doubt that the overall balance firmly indicated that Supertram would meet its principal objectives in good measure.


  1. LIGHT RAIL REVIEW No 5. - published jointly by Platform Five Publishing Ltd and The Light Rail Transit Association (page 58) - November 1993.
  2. DETR NEWS RELEASE No 785. - December 20th 2000.
  3. HARRISON CONSULTANCY - Maryhill Glasgow.
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