Northern Powerhouse Rail: Bradford named UK's worst-connected major city in rail journey analysis

Renewed pressure is being put on the Government to ensure Bradford is not cut out of the Northern Powerhouse Rail route after new analysis of over 3,000 railway journeys found it is Britain’s worst-connected major city.

Research by the People, Places, Policy and Data Unit of Be The Best Communications agency found Bradford’s lack of direct routes and slow connections made it the worst of the UK’s biggest 20 cities for rail travel - despite being the seventh biggest place in size.

The findings have led to fresh cross-party calls to ensure the Northern Powerhouse Rail project includes a direct link to Bradford after repeated reports the city will be cut out of the route as a cost-saving measure when the Government’s long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan is finally published.

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Responding to the findings, Labour MP for Bradford South Judith Cummins said: “This research shows that Bradford has the worst rail connections of any major city in the country. It really is time for the government to realise that they cannot level up the North without connecting Bradford.

New research has bolstered the case for Northern Powerhouse Rail to include a direct link to Bradford.

“It is time for the government to finally act and invest in our transport infrastructure in Bradford and across the North, which must include Northern Powerhouse Rail with a city centre stop in Bradford.”

Conservative MP for Shipley Philip Davies added: “Northern Powerhouse Rail is absolutely vital for the economy of the North and to deliver on the Government’s levelling up agenda. A station on the NPR line in Bradford is also crucial for the local economy in the Bradford district.

“A city the size of Bradford needs much better rail connections and this is the perfect opportunity to address this – and ensure the Bradford district can thrive economically in the future.”

The research analysed more than 3,000 real-life train journeys between Britain’s 20 largest cities, with the study finding London is Britain’s best-connected city while Bradford is the worst followed by Nottingham and Hull.

It comes ahead of the publication of the IRP, which Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson said last week would be released “very soon”. The IRP will set out how major projects such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will be phased and connected.

The original intention for NPR is 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 but Whitehall sources have suggested the proposals may be delivered “on a shoestring” rather than in their full form.

In addition to concerns about a reduced version of NPR, there have been repeated reports that the HS2 Eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds may be mothballed or severely delayed.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership lobbying group, said: “It’s a huge economic failure that Bradford, despite being sandwiched between the north’s two biggest cities, remains cut off from opportunities and growth due to its poor transport connectivity.

“Bradford has all ingredients for a thriving city: a young, diverse population, world-class universities on its doorstep and ambitious local leadership - but its productivity stands at around 70 per cent of the national average. Cities like Manchester need their talent in order to grow a labour market to match that of London and the south east.

“The Integrated Rail Plan is the government’s chance to change that and to deliver on its promises to level up the north.

“We need a stop in Bradford on the new Northern Powerhouse Rail line between Manchester and Leeds, as well as full delivery of HS2, including the Eastern Leg, to bring jobs, investment and opportunities to people here.”

William Doyle, CEO of rail construction data firm, Raildiary, said the findings highlighted the need for Bradford to be included in NPR.

“While Northern Powerhouse Rail will revolutionise the life, work and leisure opportunities available to people and businesses across the north of England it is true to say that the city which will be most transformed by these better rail connections is Bradford.

“It is imperative that the Integrated Rail Plan address the connectivity challenges faced by Bradford as the worst connected major city in the UK and enables us to unleash the potential of Britain’s seventh largest major city.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Integrated Rail Plan 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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