05 Oct, 2022 By Rob Hakimian
Connecting Bradford to the revived Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) line across the North will require a new through station in the city centre, according to experts.
With the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) last November, the government scaled back on the previously promised NPR high-speed line and removed any possibility of a new connection in the city, saying there was “no demonstrable business case”.
This was despite Bradford having been named as the worst-connected city in the UK, the government’s engineering consultant Mott MacDonald having said that a Manchester-Bradford-Leeds connection was “essential” for delivering economic growth and regional development and Arup, which had designed the potential new £500M Bradford station, saying that the benefit would outweigh the cost by 60 times.
This week, prime minister Liz Truss put a Northern Powerhouse Rail link from Liverpool to Hull back on the agenda – specifically singling out a connection in Bradford as a guarantee.
While Bradford already has two train stations, neither would be suitable to connect to this new train line. Railway engineer and writer Gareth Dennis explains: “Both existing central Bradford stations are terminal stations and are oriented such that extending them or burying a station beneath them would be either impossible or not useful.”
Aside from modernisation and economic benefits, a new station in Bradford makes logistical sense too. “A new station could be constructed in an orientation that avoids a big kink in the alignment of a new railway, maximising throughput and minimising journey times,” Dennis said. “The station itself would be oriented approximately east-west and would have enable the most use of existing railway corridors and industrial land to avoid undue impacts on properties.”
Dennis believes that the ideal location for the new station in Bradford remains at St James’ Wholesale Market, which is in the city centre and would integrate with the existing bus and rail stations. “It would form part of a wider regeneration of that part of the city, and would be integrated with other transport modes that the council and wider city region has been planning for,” he added.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority is currently working on proposals for a mass transit system in the region, and a new station would make integration between the two modes of transport more seamless.
This could mean a return to the £500M station designed by Arup, which was intended to be built on the St James’ Wholesale Market site. The land is owned by Bradford Council, which still has it earmarked as the location.
Speaking to NCE about the new Bradford station design last year, Arup cities advisory director Tom Bridges said it would be “much more than a railway station”.
He continued: “It could connect in with the new transit system being developed in the region and with local bus routes [and] the position of the transport hub also opens up a 100ha regeneration area for advanced manufacturing facilities and also some residential development.”
This station would accommodate both NPR services and the Calder Valley Line. It would replace the existing Bradford Interchange station.
The IRP downplayed the St James’ Market location as an option as it is separated from the city centre by the six-lane A650 Wakefield Road. However, with the distance from the station to the city centre being a mere 650m, there is ample justification for a bridge or underpass to be included as part of the plans. With the large-scale development that would be needed for the station – not to mention the development of the mass transit system – a crossing of some description seems a minor addition.
In fact, the location’s proximity to Wakefield Road and the M606 link to the motorway would make it relatively accessible by road for a city-centre station.
The development on the St James’ Market site would form the heart of a new city centre, where Bradford Council is already planning a major regeneration known as the Southern Gateway. It would increase the public realm network, while the existing rail corridor into Bradford Interchange could become a major linear park.
Mott MacDonald UK and Europe regional business managing director Richard Risdon told NCE: “As we said in our paper, delivering the whole of Northern Powerhouse Rail including the link between Leeds, Bradford and Manchester, is the way to truly unlock the potential of the region.
“We found that this connection alone could increase productivity by 6%, raise the employment rate by 1.5% and increase gross value added (GVA) in the north by about 8% over 10 years – equivalent to a £22bn uplift in GVA by 2060.  As a company with a strong heritage in the North and many colleagues based here, we are delighted that the Government has said that it will now deliver this transformative investment.”
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