Rail engineering expert 'casts doubt' on likelihood of Leeds to Bradford journey time being reduced from 20 to 12 minutes

A government committee is the latest body to question how a rail scheme to cut journey times between Bradford and Leeds would work.

Last November, the Government announced the electrification of the line linking to two cities as part of its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

It was the lone bit of good news for Bradford in the plan, which effectively scrapped the Northern Powerhouse Rail line that would include a new station in Bradford.

Since then local politicians on Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have called for more information on this plan, and have even questioned how feasible it was.

Bradford lost its Northern Powerhouse Rail station when plans were amended

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The IRP said the work would reduce journey times between Bradford and Leeds to 12 minutes. Journeys currently take around 20 minutes.

And now the Government’s own Transport Select Committee has questioned the plans. The committee came to Bradford in February to discuss the IRP with local politicians and rail experts.

The committee’s recently published report on the rail plan said: “We heard some evidence that cast doubt on the achievability of the 12-minute journeys in practice.

Gareth Dennis (rail engineer and lecturer) explained that even a two-minute reduction in journey times could be costly and difficult to realise.

“He said ‘what that means is quite a substantial need to increase average speeds on that line. It is a line that is limited to about 60 mph by physical constraints. It is not just by signalling but literally by the curvature of the railway, and by the fact that there are two railway stations sat between Leeds and Bradford.

“’At the moment, the best journey time without stopping is about 17 minutes. Savings do not necessarily come from increasing the top speed.

“They do not come from going from 60 to 75 [mph]. They are going to come from incredibly expensive work to increase the speeds at the low-speed approaches into Bradford or into Leeds.

“There is no easy way to fix that [at Leeds] because it is an incredibly complicated series of junctions overlaid on top of each other.

“’In the case of Bradford, it will be very difficult to reach those journey time savings without substantial remodelling’.”

The report added: “Bradford Metropolitan District Council said that the 12-minute journey time ‘is considered impossible to deliver without sacrificing existing services on this line’.

“Journey time reductions - albeit not to the same degree as promised by previous plans - are a headline benefit of the IRP.

“We received detailed evidence that cast doubt on the plausibility of the times achievable under the new plans.

“We ask the Government to publish its full technical appraisals of the feasibility of these reductions, so that communities and stakeholders can have confidence that they are achievable in practice.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Department for Transport for a response to the findings.

A spokesman said: “The 12 minute journey time between Leeds and Bradford referenced in the Integrated Rail Plan is based on analysis from Network Rail and refers to the non-stop journey time between the two cities.

“This is set to be achieved through a combination of electrification and track alignment enhancements to make the journey quicker and easier for passengers.”