Plans to build two new railway stations for commuters in Yorkshire face stiff competition from across the country after the Government revealed its funding competition has been massively oversubscribed.
Transport Minister Norman Baker told MPs his department has now received 14 bids from across England and Wales for its £20m New Stations Fund, which was launched last month to help get plans for new railway stations off the ground.
Two of the bids are for new stations in Yorkshire – one at Low Moor, Bradford, and the other in the village of Haxby, near York.
They face 12 rival bidders, including a £7m parkway station near Worcester and a £5m station at Kenilworth in Warwickshire.
With each one of the 14 bids targeting several millions of pounds of funding, local transport chiefs are now calling on Chancellor George Osborne to increase the size of the fund in the Budget later this month as part of his commitment to increase capital spending on “shovel-ready” projects.
Coun James Lewis, chairman of West Yorkshire transport authority Metro, which is behind the Low Moor bid, said: “Although the £20m New Stations Fund sounds a lot, you’d only be able to build five, possibly six new stations.
“The high number of bids received will give an indication to the Department for Transport just how many new stations could be built if the money was there, so I hope more funding will become available in the future.”
Low Moor and Haxby were both home to stations in the early part of the 20th century, and replacements have been discussed for years locally without either scheme getting off the ground.
Work was finally due to begin on the Low Moor project this year, but it has been repeatedly delayed due to funding shortfalls and changing safety regulations.
Metro has already set aside £5.5m for the scheme and wants an additional £3.5m from the Government to get work under way in December next year.
Coun Lewis said the scheme has “a strong business case” and the added benefit of being “largely funded locally”.
The bid from York Council is significantly higher, with the authority asking for around £6m from the Department for Transport (DfT) towards the £7.5m cost of the Haxby station.
Julian Sturdy, the Tory MP for York Outer and a Parliamentary aide in the DfT, said he supported calls for a larger funding pot if other projects would be as beneficial to their local area as Haxby would be to York.
“The proposed Haxby station has been on the agenda for many years now,” he said. “It’s important we grasp this opportunity.
“The congestion on the roads around York and into the city is getting worse, and is a cause for great concern.
“Haxby is ready to go and that’s why I’m pushing it hard.
“But if there are other schemes from around the country that are ready to move then I would certainly support putting more money into the pot, because it’s a way to invest in infrastructure that will get the economy moving.” It is thought that Mr Osborne may use his set-piece Budget speech on March 20 to announce the successful bids.
In the meantime the DfT has defended the size of the fund, saying it is only one aspect of a wider investment programme.
A spokesman said: “The New Stations Fund is just one small part of the multi-billion pound improvements to our railways.
“Widespread electrification, major improvements to the East Coast main line and, in the longer term, HS2 will all deliver a major boost to regional economies and passengers’ experiences – including those in Yorkshire and surrounding areas.”