A new report written by former Greenhead College student Martha Storey has found that the state of public transport in West Yorkshire makes young people more likely to leave the region.

Martha researched and wrote the report – called ‘Graduate Retention in West Yorkshire – for Huddersfield-based think tank Same Skies.

In the report half of all respondents had a negative view of the state of public transport, with fewer people expressing satisfaction than for any other aspect of life in the region.

Martha’s research aims to understand why West Yorkshire is seen as less desirable than places such as London and Manchester when graduates come to choose where to live after completing their studies.

The think tank asked respondents to rate the importance of a number of factors in their decision including housing, transport and job prospects, and compared perceptions of those factors to the actual situation in the region.

In the report, which will be launched on Monday February 26 at a public event in Leeds, more than 80% of respondents said public transport was an important factor in their decision but comments were overwhelmingly negative, with despair about services in West Yorkshire and in comparison with other regions.

In a typical survey response, one person said: “Really poor travel connections within Leeds are one of the main reasons I struggled to live there beyond graduation – travelling anywhere via public transport is a nightmare. Travelling to Leeds, from Sheffield, is easier than travelling within Leeds.”

Another respondent compared West Yorkshire unfavourably to Greater Manchester in this respect, saying: “The reason I think West Yorkshire isn’t quite up there with Manchester yet is because the transport links are horrific.

“They have a tram. We do not. The buses are shockingly bad. And that’s not good for people coming into a graduate job.”

These perceptions are borne out by reality, with overwhelming evidence of under-investment in public transport compared to London and of inadequate and unreliable services.

However, the research also had some good news for West Yorkshire. The region is perceived as being good for arts, culture and nightlife, although respondents had mixed feelings about the local authority-run ‘Year of Culture’ style events, with a preference for alternative, independent and local events and organisations.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found that the availability of jobs and future career progression was the most important factor in choosing where to live.

In this aspect the news for West Yorkshire was mixed: the jobs market is worse than London but is better than graduates perceive it to be.

This gap between negative perception and more positive reality gives local and regional institutions an opportunity to act, and the report makes several recommendations.

Martha, one of the two co-authors, said: “Our report makes low-cost and actionable recommendations that could have a big impact.

“The Mayor of West Yorkshire is best placed to take the lead on behalf of the region, and we have invited Tracy Brabin (pictured below) to a discussion about the way forward.”

The authors of the report are careful to point out that factors such as transport, housing and jobs are often affected by national political decisions over which local and regional leaders have little control.

They have invited author Alex Niven to join them for the launch event to put their findings in the wider context of regional inequality in England.

Alex Doyle, the other co-author of the report, added: “The issue of graduate retention and attraction in West Yorkshire is a symptom of a long and debilitating history of de-industrialisation, under investment relative to London, and regional inequality.”

The report is launched at a public event on Monday, February 26 2024 at 6pm at Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds.

To register for the event go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/report-launch-why-do-young-people-leave-west-yorkshire-registration-723891818917