'London-style' funding will help West Yorkshire's new mayor develop tram scheme

The new elected metro mayor for West Yorkshire could finally make the dream of a mass transit system a reality after being granted ‘London-style’ funding to develop local plans, according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

West Yorkshire, the Sheffield City Region and six other areas with devolution deals will get access to a £4.2bn fund to come up with plans for transport schemes to links their towns and cities.

According to the Treasury, the five-year funding settlement from 2022-23 could be used to support schemes “such as the renewal of the Sheffield Supertram, [and] the development of a modern, low-carbon metro network for West Yorkshire”.

The development was announced in the Budget on Wednesday, shortly after Mr Sunak revealed that a devolution deal worth £1.8bn over 30 years for West Yorkshire had finally been completed.

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Speaking in Leeds, where the MP for Richmond met local leaders to sign the devolution document, Mr Sunak said West Yorkshire can now “negotiate with government for their own intra-city transport settlement”.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “That’s what London currently enjoys and our view is that all of our big city regions with mayors should enjoy exactly that same arrangement.

"That means they will have control of the funds to invest in the intra-city transport solutions that they want, for example, a tram in Leeds is something that has been long mooted. This new approach, this new funding will mean that those kind of things can now become a reality.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak signs the devolution deal in Leeds. Pic: PA

According to the Budget Red Book setting out the details of Mr Sunak’s speech, the new funding will build on the existing Transforming Cities fund which has helped fund schemes developed by areas with devolution deals.

It says: “While it will be for elected mayors to put forward ambitious plans, the Government would welcome the opportunity to support a range of schemes, such as the renewal of the Sheffield Supertram, the development of a modern, low-carbon metro network for West Yorkshire and tram-train pilots in Greater Manchester.

“As a first step, the government will open discussions with Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands in the coming months.

“The new West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Sheffield City Region, Tyne and Wear, West of England and Tees Valley will also receive settlements, subject to putting in place appropriate governance to agree and deliver funding, including anelected Mayor for their city regions and transport networks.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to Leeds General Infirmary to show how yesterday's budget is supporting those affected by COVID-19. PA Photo.

It said resources to support the city regions with planning and delivery of these settlements will be set out at the comprehensive spending review later in the year.

Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his newly-elected government will “remedy the scandal that Leeds should be the largest city in Western Europe without light rail or a metro”.

Council leaders on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority have written to the PM asking for £20 million in development fundingso that construction can start from 2023/24 on the first phase of the scheme, as well as “agreement to work with the Combined Authority to fund delivery of mass transit proposals”.

In 2016, plans to build a £250m trolley bus network in Leeds were rejected by the Government. The Department for Transport accepted a report from a planning inspector who said the scheme was “not in the public interest”.

And in August, transport bosses in West Yorkshire appealed for experts from around the world to come forward with ideas in the aim to develop designs for an advanced urban transit system that could be delivered by 2033.

The Budget also revealed some of the schemes to benefit from the Transforming Cities Fund, including a new ‘bus rapid transit’ link in Barnsleyand a new tram stop on the Tram-Train line to Rotherham at Magna.

A total of £317m is being handed to West Yorkshire, including £39.9m for Halifax delivering a new bus station and other improvements.

Hull and East Riding go it alone:

Political leaders in Hull and the East Riding will pursue their own devolution deal after efforts to reach a ‘cross-Humber’ arrangement were abandoned.

The move was announced by Hull council leader Stephen Brady and East Riding leader Richard Burton after a meeting with Local Government Minister Simon Clarke.

They said in a statement that they were “keen to progress a cross-Humber deal, as was the Government, and have been making this case both regionally and nationally”.

But they said: “Local authorities cannot be compelled to join a particular geography and, because North and North East Lincolnshire Councils wish to focus on Greater Lincolnshire devolution, a Humber agreement is not possible.”

They said Hull and East Riding have “extremely strong economic and social links and opportunities and we are now focussed on ensuring that these are maximised through our deal, for the benefit of all our residents and businesses”. Both councils were originally part of the coalition of councils backing a ‘One Yorkshire’ arrangement.