Leeds won government support for its plan to reintroduce trolleybuses to the UK today, modelled on systems in Athens, Greece and Lyon, France.

The government agreed in principal to provide £235m of the £254m cost almost five years after it dismissed the Yorkshire city’s tram scheme as too expensive.

Leeds’ single-decker trolleybuses would run north and south for a total of 14km from the centre on existing roads powered by overhead electric cables. They are a cheaper alternative to trams, which have made a comeback in many regional cities. The last British trolleybus ran in Bradford in 1972.

Sadiq Khan, transport minister, said today: “This is fantastic news for Leeds. An efficient and reliable transport system is critical to any local community. This is why we’re investing significant amounts of money in infrastructure in towns and cities across the country.

“Today’s announcement seeks to tackle congestion in the city at peak times, whilst presenting sustainable and practical alternatives to the car.

He also announced programme entry for a £15m scheme to help to improve access to Leeds City station, the busiest in the UK outside London, from the south. The growth of the city’s new leisure and business district there has been hampered by the lack of a simple, step-free crossing over the River Aire, which the station straddles.

Rosie Winterton, minister for Yorkshire and The Humber, said: “Both these schemes – the trolley bus and the new station entrance – are a huge boost for the city’s economy and will help to stimulate long-term sustainable growth and prosperity.”

Mr Khan also announced programme entry for a £25m scheme to enlarge York’s park and ride system, which would increase capacity from 3,750 to 5,350 parking spaces.

He also said the government would set aside up to £331m for new roads to reduce congestion around the ports of Hull and Immingham and held out the prospect of tolls on the Humber Bridge being abolished.

Andrew Carter, joint leader of Leeds City Council, said they were the first schemes in three years in the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber to receive programme entry, and thereby pre-qualify for government funding.

The scheme must still pass further hurdles and funding is conditional on it being available when final approval is given. Transport spending in the Yorkshire and the Humber for 2007-08 was £234 per head, below the national average of £326.

Last week the government gave programme entry for a £127m extension to Birmingham’s tram system. This month is also agreed to buy six new trams for Manchester and part-fund the construction of two new lines.

It also unveiled a £30bn high speed rail network to link London and Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

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