Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New funding from West Yorkshire Combined Authority set to improve transport, create new training opportunities, and boost a major music festival

Plans to increase the number of electric buses in West Yorkshire to help lower carbon emissions have been approved at the recent meeting of the Combined Authority.

The new vehicles would be part of the West Yorkshire Zero Emission bus programme and replace older, more polluting diesel vehicles. New electric charging facilities in the region’s bus depots and charging points on bus routes are also planned as part of the scheme.

The programme would be delivered in three phases with the first introducing 111 electric buses in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield. The second phase would introduce electric buses to Calderdale and Kirklees, and the third intends to introduce a further 126 zero-emission buses across West Yorkshire, with the infrastructure to support them.

The programme has the potential to reduce carbon emissions in the region by between 12,000 and 17,000 tonnes per year, during the lifetime of the electric buses compared to diesel vehicles.

It also aims to modernise services, increase the number of people using buses in West Yorkshire and potentially increase the number of green jobs in the region.

At its meeting in Leeds on Thursday (Jun 23), the Combined Authority agreed to begin work on the final business case for the West Yorkshire Zero Emission bus programme, and agreed to indicatively allocate £50m towards the scheme, subject to final approval.

The Combined Authority has also agreed to support Kirklees Year of Music 2023 with £850,000 of funding. The event aims to engage with 400,000 people and includes a year-long programme of online and in-person events, as well as a three-year programme of community projects, to ensure widespread participation.

This will build on the rich musical history in Kirklees, increase awareness of music produced in the area and raise the profile of local artists. The festival is forecast to give a £6.5 million boost to the economy in the region. All events will be inclusive and conform to internationally recognised standards for environmental sustainability.

Meanwhile, £6.5 million of funding for a training scheme which will help more adults learn higher-level skills for better jobs has also been approved by the Combined Authority. The scheme is the latest phase of the Skills Connect programme and will benefit 4,500 people in West Yorkshire up to March 2025.

This new Level three training – equivalent to A Level – has been designed after consultation with businesses in the region and will therefore help respond to current recruitment needs and tackle skills shortages.

It will support people to move to better jobs or make more progress within their current roles and will also help improve business productivity. The scheme is flexible and can respond to changes in the region’s labour market.

Via work with local authority partners, training opportunities will be made available to communities across West Yorkshire who are currently underrepresented in skilled jobs, including older people.

And a project to improve a major road which connects Huddersfield and Bradford has also progressed, after the outline business case was approved at the Combined Authority meeting. The A641 runs through Brighouse and the planned improvements will benefit walkers, cyclists, and motorists.

The outline business case sets out key proposals and objectives for the project. In addition, the Combined Authority agreed to release more than £8 million for the scheme, enabling the development of detailed designs.

The work to improve this key route through Brighouse is being delivered in partnership with Calderdale Council. It also aims to reduce traffic congestion and poor air quality. Proposals include junction improvements, new cycleways and green space and other new transport measures to better connect communities. The next steps for the project involve undertaking further public consultation later this year.

Commenting on the four programmes, Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “This agreement on the plans for more zero-emission buses in our region is a hugely positive step in our vital work to reduce carbon emissions and reach our target of net-zero by 2038.

“And it’s made even more important by recent figures which showed that one in 22 deaths in our region is due to poor air quality.

“We’re working with bus operators through our Enhanced Partnership to increase bus usage and improve all aspects of services and the travel experience. The West Yorkshire Zero Emission bus programme will play a key role in this.

“We’re also pleased to be working in partnership with Calderdale Council on the scheme to improve the A641 between Bradford and Huddersfield which will make it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport.

“It is more important than ever that we continue to modernise and improve our region’s transport networks to respond to the climate emergency and achieve our inclusive growth ambitions by connecting more people with job, training and education opportunities.”

Tracy Brabin added: “Kirklees Year of Music 2023 is a hugely exciting event which I’m delighted to be supporting.

“Along with events such as Leeds 2023 and Calderdale 2024, and Bradford’s time as UK city of culture in 2025, it will highlight that we have some of the finest creative and cultural talent, events, festivals, and destinations anywhere in the UK.

“And the approval for this latest phase of our Skills Connect programme is also a major step forward which widens the access to high-level training for more people and will also support our region’s businesses to find talent they need for skilled jobs.

“The programme will help people to make more progress in their careers and will allow more adults, at all life stages, and from a range of diverse communities to benefit from new opportunities.”

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