Next stop, Bradford

Source: RTM April/May 2018

The impact of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) on Bradford will be immense. It’s vital that the opportunity is capitalised on in order to transform travel and leave a lasting positive legacy for years to come, writes Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council.

When Transport for the North (TfN) launched its draft Strategic Transport Plan in early 2018, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated announcement, certainly for Bradford, was the emerging vision for NPR.

With the aim of transforming the north through faster and more frequent transport connectivity, NPR would be game-changing. It will connect major towns and cities across east to west, from Liverpool to Hull and beyond. For Bradford, NPR would be transformational.

Moving away from the branch line

With a GVA of £10bn, Bradford is the fifth largest city in the UK, with a young, diverse and growing population of over 530,000 people. It is home to market-leading companies, world-renowned cultural attractions and a growing retail offering.

But Bradford remains the only major UK city on a branch line. Years of underinvestment in the railway infrastructure has led to slow journey times and inadequate connectivity across the north.

Currently a journey to Manchester takes over an hour, with an average speed of 42mph, and the seven-mile trip to Leeds takes over 20 minutes and averages just 33 mph.

But with NPR, Bradford to Leeds could be the equivalent of a Tube ride from London Waterloo to Oxford Circus – just seven minutes. And a journey to Manchester would reduce to 20 minutes.

The campaign, a year on

Reducing journey times is just one of the major benefits NPR would bring to Bradford, and that is why in early 2017, Bradford Council – alongside key business and community figures across the region – joined forces to launch the Next Stop Bradford campaign to bring NPR to Bradford city centre and demonstrate the wider impact this could have.

When TfN revealed the emerging vision for the NPR network, this marked a major milestone for the campaign. On the map was a new railway line between Manchester and Leeds, via Bradford.

This was a welcome announcement, but there is still much to be done to demonstrate the huge economic and social benefits and secure this investment in our city.

A transformative effect

We’re making the case to government and TfN that the country can’t afford not to include Bradford on the NPR network.

In March 2018, we launched two new CGIs to show how NPR could transform the city and the Interchange (pictured). We shared emerging research by analysts at GENECON, the specialist economic development consultancy, which for the first time revealed the full economic impact potential of a city centre station on NPR on the northern economy – up to £15bn in additional GVA by 2060.

The research also estimates that investing in a revamped Bradford Interchange, serving traditional rail and bus services as well as a new east-west high-speed link, could generate up to 15,000 new jobs across Leeds City Region. But only a city centre station will realise these immense benefits for Bradford’s population.

It goes without saying that the economic prize at stake is immense.

Reducing journey times, getting Bradford off the branch line and onto a mainline network, adding billions to the economy, creating thousands of jobs and giving people and businesses wider access to employment and leisure opportunities are just some of the economic opportunities NPR in Bradford could bring.

What’s next?

TfN’s consultation closed on 17 April 2018 and a decision on the final NPR network is expected at the end of the year.

Bradford Council continues to work in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the private sector to demonstrate the vast economic and social benefits NPR will bring through land value capture, increasing passenger numbers on the network, impact on inward investment, regeneration and access to skills.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get Bradford off the branch line and leave a positive legacy for Britain’s youngest city. An opportunity worth fighting for.


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