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Leeds 2023 bosses ‘hopeful’ over bus deal for spectators

Organisers behind Leeds’ 2023 Year of Culture say they’re hopeful of putting on either free or “low cost” bus travel for its big events next year.

Bosses have revealed they’re in talks with an unnamed bus operator over a deal that would help more spectators get to 2023 events cheaply and without a car.

The Leeds Culture Trust revealed last week that First will provide a free shuttle service from the city centre to Headingley for ‘The Awakening’ on January 7, which is effectively the opening ceremony for the year’s cultural programme.

But it’s now emerged a similar kind of service could be offered to spectators across 2023, although it’s not clear if it’s First who would continue to provide this.

Speaking to local councillors at a scrutiny committee on Monday, Abigail Scott Paul, from Leeds 2023 said: “We’re in discussions with one of the major bus companies in the city – I can’t say who.

“But we’re really hopeful we’ll get an arrangement with them that could offer low-cost, if not free, travel for people attending events.”

“We’ve also met with other transport representatives, so that’s an ongoing conversation.”

Ms Scott Paul said arrangements for getting Leeds 2023 volunteers to and from events were also part of those discussions.

There is no word yet on whether or not the shuttle bus service to The Awakening, at Leeds Rhinos’ Headingley ground, will be extended to other northern parts of the city to discourage people from driving in.

Organisers said they were “exploring” that possibility last week, after local councillors suggested the idea at a licensing hearing, where the opening ceremony was given the green light.

Cllr James Gibson

Speaking at the hearing last Tuesday, Labour councillor James Gibson had said: “There’s lots of parts of north-eastern and north-western Leeds – from Armley, Bramley, Horsforth, Chapel Allerton and all the way up to Oakwood and Bramhope – where they’ll be going very close to Headingley to then go into the centre (for the shuttle bus) and then come all the way back out again.

“It’s not going to be practical or sensible for them to do that.

“We don’t want people to drive into Headingley, as the congestion is as bad as it is.

“Is there a case to place those shuttle buses around those northern areas of the city?”

Hector Macpherson Brown, who is part of the team behind the opening ceremony, replied: “It’s certainly something we’re looking at and we’re having conversations with First Bus around the shuttle bus service.

“It’s very much around their capacity as an operator. We’re trying to supply this as a free resource, but the greater the service then the greater the cost.

“But it’s certainly something we’re exploring with them.”

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