New station for Bradford can be 'King's Cross of the North', rail minister says

A new train station for Bradford will be the ‘King’s Cross of the North’, the rail minister has said during a visit to the city to announce £400,000 of funding to draw up more detailed plans.

The former HS2 minister and current rail minister Huw Merriman said the plans would be a ‘lynchpin’ of a masterplan to redevelop the city, with a focus on new homes, jobs and office space.

But the funding announcement came on the same day as political leaders from across the north met with rail bosses and industry chiefs for an ‘urgent summit’ in Manchester on the future of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

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The Government says its Network North announcement - using funds from the scrapping of HS2 - will go “beyond” the plans of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would have seen new lines linking the east and west of the North - connecting Liverpool to Hull - and several major cities in between.

Rail minister Huw Merriman and the leader of Rochdale Council, Susan HinchcliffeRail minister Huw Merriman and the leader of Rochdale Council, Susan Hinchcliffe
Rail minister Huw Merriman and the leader of Rochdale Council, Susan Hinchcliffe

Instead, much of the Network North proposals focus on electrifying and improving existing lines, alongside the creation of some new track, for example in Bradford.

A considerable amount of the HS2 funding will also be spent on roads and buses, rather than rail.

Speaking yesterday from Bradford, Mr Merriman told the Yorkshire Post: “This is all part of the regeneration of Bradford.

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“They (the council) are really looking to masterplan the city and look at how it currently operates, and how they can use a station to regenerate it.

“We describe it as the King's Cross of the North in terms of the transformative effect it will have on the city, so this isn't just a train station this is an opportunity for new homes, new offices, and to really transform the city centre and how it looks.

“That's why it's so important to them because it's a lynchpin to their entire regeneration.”

The £400,000 announced yesterday is the first tranche of what the Government says will be a total of £2 billion invested to build the station and a new line, which it is hoped will deliver a significantly faster, 30-minute journey to Manchester via Huddersfield - down from the 55 minute current journey time.

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Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe is the Labour leader of Bradford Council, and said: “It is good to see this moving forward, everyone has worked so hard for so long to get this progressed.

“Improving connectivity for Bradford to the rest of the North is so important to enable greater investment, jobs and opportunities.

“There can be no successful North without Bradford being successful.”

The new Bradford station was among the developments that the northern rail summit yesterday demanded, saying there was a need for cross-party consensus on major infastructure projects, as well as more long-term planning.

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A joint statement, issued by several northern mayors as well as the TUC and rail industry bosses after the conference said: “If we are serious about reducing regional inequalities, then we must remove barriers to infrastructure investment.

"Low productivity will drive up debt over coming decades, and only by investing in what is essential for our country can we avoid this spiralling being worse and worse.

“We need a cross-party consensus that investing in infrastructure is essential for our economy and the country. It is vital for driving growth and productivity, and for delivering better jobs and wages in every corner of the UK.

We cannot afford to be held back. Vital upgrades should not be blown off course by short-term political decisions.

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“It is normal in other leading economies for unions, government, employers, and other important stakeholders to sit down together regularly and plan 20-30 years ahead.

“We need the same collaborative approach to industrial strategy here. We owe it to future generations to make the right long-term decisions now.”

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