Don Townsley : “NGT trolleybuses are likely to be bi-articulated with 200 mostly standing passengers”

Swiss-built Hess LighTram double-articulated trolleybus

swiss built h Swiss-built Hess LighTram double-articulated trolleybus


Regarding the YEP feature on 9 January one particular item does concern me and that is where the ‘Metro spokesman’ in the final column refers to ‘companies interested in building the articulated 200 passenger vehicles’. Now ftr and most other 18 metre two section artic buses are typically reputed to carry 53 seated with 60 standing passengers plus 1 wheelchair and 2 buggies. The terrible artists impressions (no photographs) in Metro literature and press releases so far show 18 metre two section buses but this comment suggests that double artic vehicles are the intention, and have been all along. No wonder they are short on detail and have not published any photographs. The Swiss built Hess LighTram (pictured) of which there are three in Lucerne is a 24.7m long double-articulated trolleybus with a capacity of around 192 passengers of which only 68 have seats. Heaven help us with two of them together down Park Row and along Boar Lane! The standard Volvo/Wright Gemini 10metre long double decker as used in Leeds (standard or hybrid) takes 89 of which all but 21 are seated whilst the 12 metre long 3 axle version will take 125 of which only 44 stand. Two of these either hybrid or fully electric would more than equal the Hess and would be separate to avoid adding to congestion and could run more frequently. Most times in the day you do not need a 200 capacity monster but you do need a regular and short wait frequency.

City Alderman and Transport Consultant condemns NGT

four A four car electric train. The £250m cost of NGT would buy 60 trains like this.


In practice the NGT scheme would produce nothing that could not be achieved by conventional double decker buses in well maintained condition, on good roads, and to a specification at least compatible with that of Yorkshire Coastliner and Harrogate and District (Transdev) vehicles. Bendy buses, diesel or trolley, increase congestion because of their 80% increase in length with no increase in payload and a diesel bendy bus is roughly twice the cost of the double decker. The trolley bus is dearer still, partly on account of the smaller production volume. Mainly used in former Russian and Eurasion states the penalties in this country of using small isolated fleets with regard to spares and operating costs should not be under estimated. There are none currently in Britain and relatively few in Western Europe.

I am amazed at the promoters’ claims that the scheme will result in a projected increase in the annual GDP of Leeds of £176million, creation of 4,250 jobs and a substantial reduction in the City’s carbon footprint. At best these figures are nebulous and at worst economical with the truth. Five years on from its conception and at least six years estimated before completion it should be rebranded Next Generation Transport. These timescales are ridiculous for the solution of a problem that exists now. Surely it cries out for some highway improvements and a small injection of new up to date off the shelf buses to give benefit now without dipping into and wasting the DfT funding which would better be transferred to a sensible light rail scheme on the right route as allowed for in the Early Day Motion submitted to Parliament on 4 July. Thorpe Park to Leeds City Centre suggests itself as an easily realisable cost effective high speed tramway from a catchment point with great park and ride and local development potential for which the major cost could come out of the trolley bus funding. Couple this tramway and park and ride facility with a railway station at Thorpe Park (not Micklefield) and the combined effect on relieving traffic congestion would be enormous. Thorpe Park, at Junction 46 on the M1 with existing and expandable access to the M1, is not only an already committed growth area in itself but is the one place most ideally situated to absorb traffic heading into Leeds from most other areas of high population. Motorists will leave their cars for a fast frequent tramway service into the city centre or for a train to other destinations but they will not do so for a bus, diesel or trolley, which then stops every few yards to pick up the locals or serve the local hospital. There is no such thing as a fit all solution as hinted at by NGT.

A sobering thought is that the cost suggested for the NGT scheme would alternatively buy 60 four-car (240 vehicles) 100mph electric trains. I know which would produce the best return on capital and the greenest footprint. Under present operating conditions to replace NGT the bus companies would provide the standard buses as a normal part of their everyday business and take the commercial risk.

There are more opportunities available now for easing the transport difficulties than have been possible for some time. What is needed is a more pragmatic approach.

Don Townsley


As well as being a former Leeds Councillor and now an Honorary Alderman, Don Townsley is a Chartered Engineer and Transport Consultant with a proven track record over more than fifty years.


NGT – shiny photo opportunities


From left to right: Stewart Golton (Leader, Leeds Lib Dems), Mehboob Khan (Leader, Kirklees Council), Keith Wakefield (Leader, Leeds City Council), Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister), Peter Box (Leader, Wakefield Council), James Alexander (Leader, York Council). Photo courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers.


In my estimation the Arena is probably a better use of the money. The NGT scheme will encourage people to live even further away & drive even greater distances by giving them a mistaken idea that they are being ‘green’ by using allegedly renewable energy for the last few miles. It does nothing about curbing car use.

NGT will, I believe, actively disadvantage those living in the inner parts of Leeds & who are doing the right thing by being close to where they want to pursue their daily activities. It will hobble growing cycling on the A660, also make it more difficult to go east-west on foot, as well as slice into public space on Woodhouse Moor, as examples.

Those interested in local politics ought to stand up and put the locality first…

I wonder what modelling has been done of total, i.e. cradle to grave, resource use; e.g. carbon, public amenity, money etc. of the gimmicky NGT scheme …. including that of the ‘urban flight’ which it will cause….. versus alternatives.

…I rather think some LCC types will be more focussed on ‘shiny photo-opportunities’.

NGT – where the electricity would come from

Because the trolleybuses proposed for Leeds would be using electricity from the national grid, and because 72.5% of the electricity generated in the UK comes from burning fossil fuels, trolleybuses on the streets of Leeds would be no less polluting than diesel buses. All they would do is transfer pollution produced by buses, from the streets, to the areas around the power stations.

And because the Leeds trolleybus system would create several vehicle stacks to facilitate the movement of the trolleybus, any reduction in bus pollution on the streets would be offset by an increase in exhaust fumes from stationary cars, vans and lorries.

(photo courtesy of freefotouk)asd

John Bale calls for the trolleybus scheme to be scrapped

Former councillor John Bale is calling for the trolleybus scheme to be scrapped. In a letter published in today’s paper, he describes the trolleybus project as a “timid and parochial approach.”

He says that we need a “steel on steel transport system” which will decongest the roads. He ends by saying:

The need now is for political leadership of the kind demonstrated by Councillor Procter, not humble acceptance of second-best solutions.

As well as being a former councillor, John Bale is Emeritus Professor of Construction Management at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Councillor John Procter calls for the trolleybus scheme to be scrapped

Photo courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers


Councillor John Procter is calling for the trolleybus scheme to be scrapped. In a letter published in Monday’s Yorkshire Evening Post, he says that in the wake of the news that the scheme is faced with a £20 million funding gap, the project should be abandoned.

He describes the trolleybus as a compromise, and argues that instead of pursuing it, we should be applying for money from the government’s new £50 billion infrastructure fund to build a tram system.

He says that what’s needed is vision and ambition, and that to continue with the trolleybus scheme would be a wasted opportunity for Leeds.

Call for tram system to be restored


Kieran Preston, the head of Metro, recently wrote in to the paper placing the blame for the city’s transport ills at London’s door. Correspondent Hannah Johnson wrote a feisty response, pointing out that if Mr Preston was serious about solving the city’s transport problems, he could improve things cheaply and quickly by restoring the city’s original tram network. Dan Laythorpe wrote in reply to say that there would be practical difficulties. G Geapin wrote in to point out the advantages that trams have over trolleybuses. Hannah Johnson wrote a letter in reply to Dan Laythorpe to say that the difficulties he raises are just suppositions.

The above photograph taken in 1955 shows two trams crossing Woodhouse Moor on their way from the city centre. The tram in the foreground is a Chamberlain 105 and the tram in the background is a Horsfield 202.

NGT – Trees to be replaced by tarmac at West Park

The central reservation of the A660 is lined with mature trees all the way from the West Park roundabout to the junction with Otley Old Road. The trees have been there for as long as anyone can remember and help to make the A660 one of the greenest and most beautiful avenues in Leeds

The people behind the NGT trolleybus scheme want to bulldoze the central reservation and its trees. In its place, they will lay tarmac. In addition, the trees to either side of the road will be cut back to make room for gantries from which wires will be suspended to supply electricity to the trolleybuses.

So, if the people behind NGT get their way, the current leafy view will be replaced by one of a broad expanse of hard tarmac with gantries and overhead electric wires.

My objections to NGT

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For me, the most important objections to NGT are

  1. The ban on discussing an alternative route
  2. NGT doesn’t appear to complement existing bus services, but rather competes with them.
  3. The possibility that unchecked it will create a dividing wall through the whole area – the “York Road” effect
  4. Locals will suffer more inconvenience than benefits.

NGT must be discussed alongside the new powers giving the “Leeds City Region” powers to control their own transport. Local media took this to mean a tram/train from LBA which would join the main train line at Horsforth. Why not switch all NGT plans to a park’n’ride at that Horsforth junction? To introduce a trolley bus into a scheme that is supposed to be county-wide would be foolish.

NGT – Funding Gap

It was reported in today’s Yorkshire Evening Post that the NGT trolleybus project has a £20 million funding gap. Metro’s chairman, Councillor James Lewis claims to be unfazed by the news. When the gap was announced in a report to his colleagues on the council’s Executive Board, he said that it could be made good by re-valuing upwards land that had been acquired by the council years ago. He also said they wouldn’t have to find the money all at once, and that the scheme might cost less that the estimated £250 million.