The trolleybuses will need overhead power cables but do not run on rails making the scheme cheaper and faster to construct.
When the trolleybus system is completed it will run from Holt Park in the north to Stourton in the south, linking with two Park-and-Ride sites. It will operate in exclusive designated road lanes along more than 40%of its 8.7 mile length.
Two new railway stations at Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge and a new southern pedestrian entrance to Leeds railway station are also tied into the scheme.
The project was today granted “programme entry status” allowing West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to apply for the statutory consents necessary for the scheme.
Subject to these being granted, work will start in 2016 with the trolleybus fully operational in 2018.
Transport secretary Justine Greening said: “Leeds will have new state-of-the-art trolleybuses that will be faster, more reliable and greener than their predecessors.
“They will make public transport in Leeds more accessible and attractive than ever before and I know trolleybuses will be transformational for growth and jobs in West Yorkshire.
“Investment on this scale in precisely this kind of infrastructure is a recognition of how crucial Leeds and Yorkshire are to the long-term success of the British economy.
“It is also a great example of what this coalition government and West Yorkshire partners can achieve when we knuckle down together and stick at finding a real solution to today’s challenges.”