The improved A65 in Leeds was officially opened today marking the completion of a new £21million public transport scheme, which is set to deliver a range of benefits to bus users, cyclists and pedestrians.
Transport minister Norman Baker visited Leeds to see the improvements for himself, travelling on a new low emissions bus from the city centre to Kirkstall lights and then back to the Willow Road junction, where he unveiled a commemorative plaque.
With over 45,000 vehicles travelling along it each day, the A65 was at maximum capacity. Without intervention congestion was set to worsen, with heavy traffic extending beyond peak travel periods.
Construction work to provide a high standard bus service on the route started in April 2010. And despite problems with bad weather earlier this year, the scheme was completed on time and on budget in August 2012.
The improvements to the A65 between Kirkstall Lane and the Inner Ring Road, will help to ease congestion and make journeys to and from the city centre quicker and easier, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours.
Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for the economy and development said:
“The A65 Quality Bus Scheme is undoubtedly one of the most significant transport improvements in Leeds in recent years. It will provide a massive boost to our transport system, vastly improving bus journey times and reducing congestion around the city centre.
“I am delighted that the scheme is now completed and was done so on time and on budget. It has been exceptionally managed throughout, and is a great credit to everyone involved.
“It will make a positive difference to commuter traffic coming in and out of the city centre along one of our most congested routes.”
Local transport minister Norman Baker said:
"It is great to be in Leeds to see the completion of this congestion-busting scheme which will transform travel on the A65 and help to boost growth in the city.
"The project will deliver more reliable journeys and attractive, state-of-the-art bus facilities – it is a win-win for local residents, commuters and businesses. I am also pleased that Leeds have managed to bring the scheme in on budget.
“Investment in important schemes like this across the country demonstrates the Coalition Government’s commitment to making sure that the infrastructure is in place for the economy to grow both regionally and nationally, while also cutting carbon by encouraging greater bus use.”
Councillor James Lewis, chair of Metro said:
"This project shows how, by working together, we can deliver high-quality transport solutions which benefit not just bus passengers but also cyclists and ordinary motorists. I'm obviously delighted that we have been able to deliver the scheme on time and on budget and it shows that, locally, we have the skills and expertise to manage major schemes like these.
"Earlier this summer came confirmation that a new, combined authority would be formed covering not just transport but other areas to help stimulate economic and employment growth, and the announcement of the City Deal for Leeds City Region, including the launch of the West Yorkshire-Plus Transport Fund, which will lead to more major schemes such as this one."
Giles Fearnley, First UK Bus managing director, said:
“This is fantastic news for all bus passengers travelling along the A65 to and from Leeds. They will now be able to rely on more reliable, and in many cases, shorter journey times.
"First is investing £20m to replace 25% of its Leeds’ fleet with 98 new low emission buses. These will be in service in the next four weeks on services across Leeds, including those operating along the A65.
"We are confident that the combination of more reliable journeys and new, modern buses will attract even more passengers."
The A65 improvements include:
4km of new dedicated bus lane covering inbound and outbound journeys
Six additional pedestrian crossings making the roads safer and linking communities
11 new passenger shelters with real time travel information
Provision for cyclists to use the new lane and enjoy a safer and easier ride
New buses from the London 2012 Olympics, with low level access (arriving in October)
The A65 Quality Bus Scheme was delivered in partnership by Leeds City Council, Metro and bus operators First, Transdev and Centrebus. The council was awarded grant funding of almost £21m by the Department for Transport to construct the improved A65.
For more information about the A65 Quality Bus Scheme, please visit the Leeds City Council website http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/A65kirkstallroadbuscorridor.aspx
For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578