Fresh hope for new through railway station for Bradford

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has held out fresh hope that Bradford could win a new through railway station, after a meeting with a delegation of business leaders from the city.

More than a dozen members of Bradford Breakthrough, which represents big business and organisations across the district, along with the district’s five MPs, three Bradford peers and the President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, met the Chancellor at the House of Commons.

They argued dropping the proposed station was a “huge mistake” that could cost the district up to £30bn in growth and investment and 27,000 extra jobs by 2060.

During the meeting, the Chancellor committed to “looking in detail at the report from the Select Committee” reviewing the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) which visited Bradford in February.

He invited the delegation to set up a follow-up meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Breakthrough’s chief executive, Dr Trevor Higgins, told Sunak that some years ago the district’s Parliamentarians agreed to work together with Breakthrough on tackling the issues that were in Bradford’s best interests to resolve.

“Bradford’s terrible transport infrastructure was right at the top of the list and it remains there all these years later,” he said.

“In November 2018, we met with the then Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, who said  ‘Bradford has a third world transport infrastructure that is simply not acceptable today.’

“He promised to take action but was replaced soon after, so nothing got delivered and here we are again.”

Higgins said the decision to ditch the Eastern leg of HS2 had been a “huge kick in the teeth” to Northern leaders, adding that Bradford had accepted “that ship had sailed.”

He said: “We were pleased to hear of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, until we heard a speedy route across the Pennines had been downgraded but, worst still, it didn’t include a through station for Bradford.

“This despite the fact that a new city-centre station on a new mainline trainline connecting us to Manchester would secure £30bn in growth and investment to the district, generate £3bn in additional GVA and create 27,000 additional jobs by 2060.

“Not to build a station is a huge mistake given Bradford was recently named as having the worst rail connections of any major British city.”

Breakthrough chairman Dr Bob Gomersall told the Chancellor the fact the IRP’s list of proposed journey times from Manchester to various cities did not even mention Bradford – the UK’s fifth largest city – was “an outrageous omission.”

“Most journeys from Bradford to Manchester and London go via Leeds and direct journeys are slow and infrequent,” he said. “Essentially Bradford is on a branch line to Leeds, and this has to change for Bradford’s economy to really lift off.

“We don’t care about the details of the solution, and see that as the job of government and local government. Our role is to grow and create wealth and jobs, and we think it is reasonable to expect the infrastructure to keep up with us.”