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Top consultant rubbishes Hyperloop link in Leeds

Hyperloop video screenshot

A top transport consultant has rubbished claims that Leeds is in line for a hyperloop connection. 

Jonathan Spruce, director at Leeds-based transport planners Fore Consulting, said that the technology is not suitable for short distances in West Yorkshire. 

His comments come after West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport committee chairman Councillor Keith Wakefield told the BBC that a 17km hyperloop connection between Leeds and Bradford could be developed.

Wakefield told the BBC: “Ideas of transport will be changing within the next 20 years, we will probably get hyperloop.

“If we’re not careful we will get left behind. It is moving on at such a pace.”

However Spruce has downplayed the proposal, claiming that such a short route is unfeasible and would be too expensive. 

“It’s probably more for long distance, if you’re meant to be going 600mph down a tube, I think it’s for that longer distance,” Spruce said. 

“One of the areas they’re looking at for a trial is Mumbai to Pune which is a four-hour connection down to half an hour. In terms of the hyperloop technology I would suspect it is more applicable to radically changing long distance travel.

“If we are to make the growth of Leeds properly inclusive, there are areas of Leeds that you want to regenerate and raise their aspirations, it is counterproductive to do that if you’re then giving them a very expensive travel option that they can’t use,” he added. 

However, Spruce, who is also Transport for the North interim strategy director, said the former Wakefield council leader was right to consider new and emerging technologies when considering a mass transit system for the west Yorkshire city. 

“What we want to try and do in the centre of Leeds, and in the centre of all our big cities, is look beyond the traditional, and not get hung up by technology. It is beyond just being a tram. 

“It takes so long to get a concept from feasibility to actually on site, technology changes so quickly and exponentially. That is a problem for us. You might then be taking outdated technology to an inquiry or to the market.

“If we are looking at the new liveable cities of the future we should embrace tech from the start, as opposed to finding it is out of date five or six years down the line.”

“Define the outcome and challenge the market to deliver that outcome”, he said. 

Leeds is the largest European city without a mass transit system, after multiple failed attempts to get a tram scheme off the ground. 

A £173.5M funding package given to the city by central government after Westminster scrapped a £250M Trolleybus project in 2016 must be spent on public transport improvements before the end of 2021. This does not allow enough time to develop a new transport system the council said.

The Leeds Supertram scheme was thrown out by then transport secretary Alistair Darling in 2005. 

Council leaders said a mass transit scheme is still on the agenda for the city but did not reveal a timescale or any plans.  New Civil Engineer has contacted Leeds Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority for comment. 

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