The entire project, which is expected to cost more than £2bn, aims to improve transport for around 675,000 people by linking towns and cities across West Yorkshire, including Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), which is running the project, said it wants construction to begin in 2028 and the new network to be built in three phases.
It has not decided whether buses, trams or tram-train vehicles will run on the line yet, but has said “one or more” could be used.
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Under the latest proposals, phase one, will open to passengers in 2031, phase two will be completed three years later and the entire network will be up and running by 2040.
The “candidate option” for phase one is a route that would link Leeds, Bradford, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Dewsbury.
After a consultation, in which around 80 per cent of the 7,800 respondents expressed support for the project, WYCA is aiming to submit a business case to the Department for Transport before the end of the year, to try and secure funding. In March, it agreed to spend £199.9m of funding, provided by the Government, on “development and initial delivery” of the mass transit system over the next five years. The following month, Kevin Murray, who has previously worked on the Edinburgh Tram Project and the Jubilee Line Extension, was appointed as Interim Director of the project.
The Government reaffirmed its commitment to the project, when it published its £96bn Integrated Rail Plan in November, and said the “cost for the initial network, over 10 years, is expected to exceed £2bn”.
But it is not yet clear whether the next Prime Minister and their Cabinet will want to take the plans forward.
At a meeting today, WYCA is due to sign off on plans to create a Mass Transit team, which can “accelerate development” and work to ensure construction begins in 2028.
In a new report on the project, WYCA stated: “It will help us meet the demands of growing capacity and increased connections so our communities can better access jobs, education and opportunities.
“This high-tech, seamless, sustainable mass transit system will connect West Yorkshire’s cities, towns and district centres, serve areas of new housing development and employment growth, and provide links to inter-city rail services.
“Mass transit will help our communities to thrive and our economy to flourish, bringing people and places together. It will improve the look and feel of our towns and cities and reduce pollution.”