Bradford 'will be left with cul-de-sac status' if Northern Powerhouse Rail link axed, cross-party MPs warn Rishi Sunak

Bradford will be left with “cul-de-sac status” if the city is cut out of the Northern Powerhouse Rail route, cross-party MPs have warned Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak pictured on a visit to Leeds station in 2020.

Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah and Conservative MPs Philip Davies, who represents Shipley, and Keighley and Ilkley’s Robbie Moore have written a joint letter to Mr Sunak following recent reports that Bradford may be cut out of the NPR project in a money-saving bid.

The letter said: “Without the NPR, the Government cannot be true to its levelling up agenda.

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“It is clear to us that Bradford has had a cul-de-sac status compared to Leeds and Greater Manchester despite its historic role in driving economic growth.

“It concerns us that Bradford’s current role in the Government’s levelling up agenda and post-Covid economic recovery continues to be undervalued. We seek a firm commitment from the Government for the completion of the NPR with a Bradford stop.”

The letter has also been signed by Sandy Needham, the chief executive of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and Trevor Higgins, chief executive of Bradford Breakthrough.

The scheme was not mentioned directly in Mr Sunak’s recent Budget and final details are due to be published in the Government’s forthcoming Integrated Rail Plan. The publication of the plan has been pushed back following reported tensions between Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson over the costs of NPR, which could cost around £40bn to deliver in full.

A Whitehall official told the i newspaper the current proposals for NPR - which has been intended to see a new line created between Leeds and Liverpool via Bradford and Manchester and high-speed upgrades to existing lines between several other Northern cities - are a scaled-back version that would only deliver a revised version of the plan “on a shoestring”.

There have been recent suggestions that Bradford could be dropped from the plans in a cost-saving measure.

The letter comes after Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, said in Parliament she feared there will be “a drastic scaling back” of NPR, with Bradford cut from the route.

“I trust that if the Government had positive news for Bradford, they would not keep it secret - they would not be quite so shy or blushing about it,” she said.

“I can only conclude that the rumours are correct, and that there is to be a drastic scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail, with no city centre stop in Bradford.”

The Government has not set a date for when the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan will be published, but Transport for the North said it cannot complete the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail until it is released.

HS2 Ltd is also unable to press ahead with work on the eastern leg and apply for Parliamentary approval for the project until it sees the IRP.

Ms Cummins said: “We still have no firm date for when the IRP will be published. Despite the Government’s promises, they seem happy that transport spending is set to continue to be disproportionately centred on London and south-east England.

“I have no doubt that more promises will come forward, but I fear that we will be asked to settle for just an upgrade of the existing train line, which will be rebadged as Northern Powerhouse Rail - more smoke, and more mirrors.

“Bradford needs and deserves more than that.”

She said the Government must commit to building Northern Powerhouse Rail in full and the eastern leg of HS2, as well as the Trans-Pennine route upgrade.

“Time and again in this House, I have raised the north-south economic imbalance, and time and again Ministers have responded with warm words, but nothing concrete. Let us have no more shallow promises. It is time to deliver,” she said.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The IRP will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.”

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