Introduce free bus services across Leeds, says leading academic at the University of Leeds

Policymakers at Leeds City Council say they are confident the council will achieve its goal of a zero-carbon economy by 2030, adding that the authority is investing in a number of ways to make cycling and public transport easier to use.

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But a University of Leeds professor warned the city was running out of time to meet its ambitious targets and called on city leaders to quickly introduce free electric bus services on all routes to encourage motorists to get out of their car.

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Professor Chatterton wants the city to have a fleet of free electric buses.

He added that an ambitious home insulation retrofit program should be offered to all households in the city to reduce heating emissions, and that all of this could be paid for by taxing hundreds of millions of pounds from largest employers in the city.

Leeds City Council had announced plans to turn the city into a net zero carbon economy from 2030, following its announcement of a ‘climate emergency’ in 2019, following this it introduced a transport strategy to help make cycling safer and bus services more reliable.

“We are all stuck in our cars because there is no alternative. We need the fastest possible alternative.

“I would call for a free bus service everywhere, fully electric, with full routes. I would say to motorists ‘look, sorry, you have to drive less, but here’s a free bus’.

“Climate scientists say we need immediate and quick long-term action. We need to come up with something immediate – every year counts. Not five years, not two years, that’s what we’re doing this year. “

He offered another solution to the city’s other carbon-intensive area, home heating.

“Thirty to 40% of emissions come from heating homes, so the other quick fix is ​​to insulate homes. You would insulate as many homes as possible. – insulation of houses along the street. »

So how would Leeds pay for all of this?

“Unfortunately the council has no revenue raising powers, so we need some sort of municipal bond, into which businesses in the city can contribute to raise the millions of pounds we need to insulate the people’s homes.

“It’s an emergency – it’s not just something that would be ‘nice to have’. If we don’t, we don’t just go ‘oh, we lost, whatever’ – it’s not a football game where you try again, the planet becomes dangerous.

“We need to look to the business world and say we need to raise hundreds of millions of pounds – we have Sky Bet, we have Yorkshire Water, we have multinationals in Leeds, I would levy a wealth tax on local businesses and I would say ‘you hold the keys to the future.’ There’s enough money in this town, it’s just not going to the right places.”

Leeds City Council’s portfolio holder for transport and the environment, Councilor Helen Hayden, said she was still confident the city would reach its net zero target in eight years, adding that Leeds had the largest the country’s electric vehicle fleet, as well as electricity production. park-and-ride.

“I’m confident,” she said. “We are working towards 2025, when we will see how far we are. We have reduced carbon emissions by 40% since the year 2000, and we are doing good things like investing in the renovation of social housing and in the private . sector.”

The council has spent millions improving roads to better accommodate cyclists and buses in recent months, so what does it think of the public response?

“I see it a lot on social media, people say ‘I never see cyclists’ and stuff like that. It gets very frustrating, but I’m a big believer in ‘build it and they will come’.

“Nobody will get into cycling in the numbers we need if they are not sure they will, and if we don’t put the infrastructure in place, nobody will be cycling.

“These cultural changes take time, and it wouldn’t happen if these facilities weren’t in place. We saw the rise of the pandemic, when the roads were clearer and safer – many more people were traveling by bicycle .so if we can make it safe for people, the number of cyclists will increase.”

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