I ALWAYS thought the way to encourage people not to take their cars into city centres was to focus on improving public transport.
Leeds City Council appears to have decided on a more cost effective approach.
Dig up the city’s main square, make diversion instructions unintelligible and put roadworks and temporary traffic lights on most major routes that lead into the city itself.
All these conspire to make driving into Leeds city centre a cross between a game of Pacman and Super Mario (sorry about that analogy, if I knew an up-to-date computer game that was more relevant I would use it).
When I was dropping off a traveller getting a 7am train from Leeds railway station a couple of weeks ago the traffic congestion at 6.40am on Queen Street, Wellington Street and Whitehall Road meant a journey of a few hundred yards took the best part of 20 minutes.
The pick up and drop off area at the station is completely inadequate.
But look on the bright side, at least the chaos created for motorists, train passengers and taxi drivers provides some entertainment for the massed ranks of drinkers vaping outside the Wetherspoons pub that stands at the entrance to the station.
They always say judge a city’s success and growth on how many cranes you can see on its skyline.
Everywhere you look in Leeds there are tall buildings being constructed.
The odd one is an office building but most are either apartments for students or build to rent schemes aimed at young professionals.
Given that many of these projects are being built on former car parks it is probably a good thing that most of those that will inhabit them will not own cars.
But we can’t all live in smart apartments in the city centre.
For those of us that don’t, the journey into the city centre is fraught with challenges.
And when you do arrive if you can find a parking space near to your destination you will pay a premium for it.
After hitting several sets of roadworks and temporary traffic lights, I was charged 11 quid to park for three hours after 5pm the other evening.
Walking through City Square, the main gateway into Leeds, yesterday, I struggled to negotiate it as a pedestrian.
The city’s Christmas tree is almost completely obscured by fencing, diggers and construction workers in high viz jackets.
I understand that sacrifices have to be made to ensure progress is made, but is digging up the city’s main square in the run up to Christmas really the best idea?
Mind you, this is a decision made by a council that was happy for its German Christmas market to resemble a Brazilian favela.
If anyone can explain the thinking behind all this, I’d like to hear it.
At a time that employers are struggling to encourage their staff back into offices in city centres here are further hurdles that make a difficult job even harder.
After two years of the Covid pandemic and with the cost of living rocketing, those already reluctant to venture into their place of work don’t need any further excuses to remain in front of their laptop in the spare bedroom.
And let’s not blame the current wave of industrial action by those working in public transport for the problems.
I’ve lived and worked in Leeds for over 20 years and for the whole of that period – and many years before – the city was talking about the idea of a rapid transit system.
There was supposed to be a supertram, then when that fell by the wayside, there were proposals for a fast bus network and then bendy buses were touted as the answer to our problems.
We got none of those due to a combination of local politicians failing to focus on key projects and to convince central government to back them financially.
While those in power in Leeds congratulated themselves on what a fast growing and vibrant city they were creating, those running Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham delivered tram systems to their cities.
The skyline of Leeds has been transformed in recent years and further high rise developments are currently being added.
OK, it isn’t Fifth Avenue in Manhanttan, but when you walk (or dare to drive) around the city centre you get a feeling of scale that wasn’t there before.
But to sustain such a growing city and to help it thrive, people need to be able to get into it and get out of it as simply, quickly and cost effectively as possible.
I don’t get the feeling that much thought has gone into that bit.
Even the tramp that plays a tin whistle in City Square has found a new pitch.
He told me the other day between tunes that he had done a cost-benefit analysis and it wasn’t worth his while staying outside Mill Hill Chapel for the festive period.
I still can’t recognise anything he plays, but at least he does it with gusto.
VETERAN stockbroker Keith Loudon called the other day.
He had news that his firm, Redmayne Bentley has won four awards at the Investor’s Chronicle and Financial Times Celebration of Investment Awards.
“But you don’t really do news any more do you?” he said.
Which is true but I said it was worth a mention in my blog.
Among the accolades, the Leeds-based national stockbroking firm which was founded more than 145 years ago was named Wealth Manager of the Year and Stockbroker of the Year at the awards, which were voted for by readers of both the Financial Times and Investor’s Chronicle.
Traditional stockbroking is the first service the firm offered when it was established and Redmayne Bentley has now received the ‘Stockbroker of the Year’ accolade at the IC/FT annual event for the fourth time, having taken this award home in 2011, 2014 and 2018.
The firm also received the ‘Self-Select ISA of the Year’ and was named the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award, after readers were asked to nominate firms who went above and beyond to provide excellent service for clients.
Keith’s son David, the joint chief executive of Redmayne Bentley, said: “The expertise within the firm, coupled with the effort and commitment we put into building personal client relationships, is what we believe sets us apart from our competitors.
“The recognition of these awards at this time of significant economic challenge is particularly pleasing, and we are well positioned to continue supporting optimal outcomes for clients.
“Everything we do at Redmayne Bentley is based upon our traditional values of excellence, respect, integrity, responsibility and teamwork. This is what enables us to be as relevant now as we were nearly 150 years ago when our firm was established.”
Keith, who suffered a stroke several years ago, told me he is celebrating his 90th birthday next year.
He continues to display his natural vim and vigour and even texted me a headline to use on my piece about Redmayne Bentley’s awards success: “Leeds firm beats the lot”.
I told him I’m still saving up to take out an ISA with them.
WHEN I wrote about indifference to the World Cup in Qatar a couple of weeks ago I asked the question whether things would change once the football started.
Well yes, they have a little but a winter tournament just doesn’t engender the same excitement, anticipation and fan involvement as one held during the summer months.
A number of people commented on what I wrote and among them was property investor Ian Elsworth.
Ian runs Ilkley-based Dynamic Capital and Investments and is a decent footballer, having assumed the role of ‘midfield general’ at many charity football matches organised by members of the Yorkshire property community.
He told me he was heading out to the World Cup with his son and they flew to Qatar yesterday.
Although they have been fortunate enough to secure tickets to watch England all the way to the final, although pre-tournament he had booked the return flights on December 12th which perhaps didn’t show total confidence in the England team given the final is on December 18th!
Although given the performances against Iran and Wales, perhaps Ian’s flights have now been changed.
Ian told me: “This will be my third World Cup having been to Italia 90 and Russia four years ago, taking in semi finals at both too.
“I promised my son I’d take him to this one but we are in the same camp as Gabby (Logan, the BBC broadcaster who outlined her misgivings about holding the event in Qatar before the tournament).”
Ian went on: “I’m slightly excited but nervous about this tournament which quite frankly should never have been awarded to Qatar. The timing of it is also a nonsense.
“My son thought it fitting to have a large St George’s flag printed with his beloved Leeds United logo, England Logo, Guiseley Cricket Club and a portrait of the Queen as homage to her memory.
“I have to say – Flying Colours of Knaresborough did us proud.”
You might have read that the company, which has been making flags for the Royal Household since 2000, produced the standard that was draped over the Queen’s coffin.
However Ian and his son’s tribute to the late monarch won’t be happening.
He said: “We heard back this week from Qatar that our flag approval request was rejected due to the image of a (former) head of state being too political!
“Coupled with the announcement on alcohol bans at the stadia, this could prove to be a very different kind of trip!”
I hope the football more than makes up for the disappointment of not being able to display the flag.
Have a great weekend.