A MULTI BILLION pound plan to create a new mass transit system linking areas of West Yorkshire could use abandoned rail routes.

For the past two years, West Yorkshire Combined Authority has been working on a mass transit scheme for the region, and today more details about the hugely ambitious plans were revealed.

Although exact locations of stops on the various routes have yet to be decided, the scheme would likely see a mass transit interchange in Bradford city centre as well as stops in areas without rail stations, including Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton, Junction 26 of the M62, “South Bradford” and Laisterdyke.

There would be additional stops in areas with existing rail stations such as Low Moor, Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square and Pudsey.

The full network could eventually include a line linking Bradford to Baildon, Guiseley and Leeds Bradford Airport, one linking the city to Halifax, Elland and Brighouse and one linking Bradford to Dewsbury - as well as the direct Bradford to Leeds link.

At a briefing by West Yorkshire Combined Authority this morning, members acknowledged that it was a long term scheme - the document says the plan is a vision for 2040. And it was in such early stages that the exact type of mass transit being used, whether it be tram or a new technology, had not yet been decided.

£2m funding to draw up mass transit plan

Similarly, the exact locations of the stops are not set in stone.

The Authority hopes that the proposals will help reduce car usage and create "an integrated network including walking and cycling, bus, mass transit and rail."

The most likely funding source for the network is a £4.2 billion pot of cash that West Yorkshire will be able to bid for once it becomes a Mayoral Authority in May.

Yesterday the Authority published the Connectivity Infrastructure Plan and Mass Transit Vision 2040 today and is now asking people across the region to have their say.

At a briefing yesterday Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and Chair of the Combined Authority, said: "This is a really exciting piece of work.

"It is important that throughout this Covid 19 crisis we look to the future. Getting transport right as well as skills and culture is a key element to create a thriving West Yorkshire economy.

"Connectivity between towns and cities in West Yorkshire is not good enough."

She said more commuters pass between Bradford and Leeds than any other two cities in the UK. Around 73 per cent of these journeys are by car, and Cllr Hinchcliffe added: "That is not sustainable - we need to make public transport easier."

Leeds Councillor Kim Groves, who has been developing the scheme for two years, said it was important the network was accessible to all people in West Yorkshire. She said: "We want them to be able to step out of their door and be able to connect with different forms of transport."

She said the plan had identified the areas of West Yorkshire that created the most journeys - and that the network would take into account new business/industrial sites, as well as emerging housing areas.

She said West Yorkshire was years behind other big cities when it came to mass transit systems - but that meant there was the opportunity to incorporate the latest technology.

She said: "Road schemes in the past have favoured the car - we need to make it that the public transport system is the first choice for journeys."

The route could involve some of the region's disused rail lines

Cllr Groves told the briefing that no exact cost of the scheme had been decided yet, but a business case for the plan needs to be prepared by 2022 to be able to access the £4.2B government funding.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said the network would be built in stages, not all at once.

When asked when more detail of the locations of stations and stops would be revealed, Cllr Hinchcliffe said: "We have to do a full feasibility study first, looking at things like how the technology might work. The Government will expect to see all of this before they consider funding anything."

When asked why this scheme would succeed where Leeds mass transit plans had failed in the past, Cllr Groves said West Yorkshire becoming a Mayoral authority gave it more powers. And the Government's push to tackle climate change would also help any push for public transport investment.