New Bradford station is 'incredibly high priority', minister says

A government minister has said that options around a new station and better connections for Bradford as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail is "incredibly high priority".

Huw Merriman, a transport minister, yesterday told MPs that it will deliver a verdict after previous suggestions that the plan for the Yorkshire city would be scrapped.

Responding to Dan Jarvis for transport questions this morning, Mr Merriman said: “As well as committing to the core integrated rail plan, the Prime Minister this summer set the Department the challenge of assessing options for Bradford with regards to a new station and to better connect Bradford.

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“That is work that I am doing. It is an incredibly high priority for me,” he said, adding that he will come forward with further details once plans are ready.

Minister Huw Merriman officially launching the west London spoil conveyor at HS2's Old Oak Common siteMinister Huw Merriman officially launching the west London spoil conveyor at HS2's Old Oak Common site
Minister Huw Merriman officially launching the west London spoil conveyor at HS2's Old Oak Common site

Dan Jarvis, the Barnsley MP, told The Yorkshire Post: “Northern Powerhouse Rail will shape the future of railways in the North for generations to come, so we need to be ambitious, and we need to get it right for the long-term.

“For too long the North has been held back by a failure to deliver the transformative rail connectivity we desperately need.

“Now more than ever, we need to show some Northern solidarity and stick together to get the best outcome from this Government, who frankly have just not made any progress.

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“I welcome the new Minister’s response and await a further more detailed follow up. I’m not prepared to settle for second best for the North.”

Mr Merriman has previously said that he has a “personal” commitment to Bradford.

“I said that we’re committed to the Integrated Rail Plan – we are – but we’re also committed to seeing how we can take trains further to Leeds, and I can tell you that I have a personal commitment to Bradford,” he told the Rail Industry Association conference earlier this month.

It comes after months of speculation over the future of Northern Powerhouse Rail, with calls from both industry and politicians to press ahead with plans.

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Last week Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist said the plans were key to bringing growth back to the UK.

“Staying the course on R&D spending and major infrastructure, including Sizewell C, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, will give a major boost to communities and the country,” he said.

In last week’s autumn statement, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the country’s three main rail projects will go ahead, including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

This is despite weeks of speculation that they could face being scrapped or heavily scaled back to find savings in the public finances.

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“The Autumn Statement recommits to the government’s transformative growth plans for our railways,” he said.

“These include EWR, core NPR, and High Speed 2 to Manchester. These will provide fast, more reliable services and connect people to new job opportunities.”

However, the plans for the “core” of Northern Powerhouse Rail could now not include a line connecting Hull to Liverpool, with a station in Bradford, as suggested by Liz Truss.

Labour former minister Dame Diana Johnson has previously pressed Mr Hunt on the Prime Minister’s promise to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, saying: “With the Chancellor’s announcement this morning Hull remains excluded from Northern Powerhouse Rail for the next 30 years, in stark contrast with the go-ahead for the Oxford to Cambridge line.”

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The MP for Kingston upon Hull North added: “Could the Chancellor just explain to me and my constituents why are the last areas to see investment in infrastructure the first areas to have it ruled out when this Tory Government crashes the economy?”

The Department for Transport was contacted for comment.