Barry White, the outgoing chief executive at Transport for the North, said a “comprehensive Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) network” including a new line from Leeds to Manchester is the one thing policy-makers could do to improve the North’s transport infrastructure.
And he said a city centre stop in Bradford “would put right a historic wrong by properly connecting Bradford and unlocking what I think is a great city’s untapped potential”.
Earlier this week a site at Yorkshire’s biggest wholesale market was earmarked as the preferred location in Bradford for a station on Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), a proposed network connecting the major cities of the North.
The development at St James Wholesale Market would host a station which would slash journey times to Leeds and Manchester and eventually replace the city’s Interchange site.
Bradford council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said she was “concerned” that government may U-turn on its plans for the high speed rail line due to its huge cost, and could leave Bradford off the route to save money.
Mr White, who yesterday had his last TfN board meeting as chief executive, said the strategic transport organisation had a “big year ahead” in aiding the North’s economic recovery and getting passengers back onto trains after the pandemic.
TfN, which faces an uncertain future after having its core budget cut and seeing a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council set up by the Government to deliver major projects, had hoped to submit its business plan for NPR to Ministers early this year.
But it has been told to wait until after the Government has published its Integrated Rail Plan setting out its vision for how NPR and HS2 will link together, which will not now be until after the local elections in May.
Mr White, who joined TfN shortly after it came into being in 2017, said lots of “big and small projects” had progressed in his period in charge, including the modernisation of the region’s ageing train fleet and improvements to the A59 at Kex Gill in North Yorkshire.
He said: “In this job, many times I’ve been asked, what is the one thing you would do to improve transport infrastructure in the North.
“For much of the last three years I’ve been saying improve the Green Book [which sets out the Government’s criteria for spending decisions] and move the Treasury to the North.
“I’m actually glad to say that up to a point, both those things are happening and I hope the Treasury move to Darlington, or elements of the Treasury, includes senior members of the senior Civil Service, it’s really important the decision-shapers and policy formers are there.
“If I was asked that question today, I’d say the one thing was ‘let’s commit to build a comprehensive Northern Powerhouse Rail network, and in particular to build a new line between Manchester and Leeds via central Bradford’.
“That link is the big strategic choice to be made and could form the central backbone of Liverpool to Hull, the new Treasury building in Darlington to Manchester and onto Liverpool, and would put right a historic wrong by properly connecting Bradford and unlocking what I think is a great city’s untapped potential.
“And that’s something that people would look back on in 30 years and say that was a good decision made back in 2021 that was far-sighted at the time.”