A trans­for­ma­tion is on the line as new sta­tion would breathe life into city

Yorkshire Post - Business - - BUSINESS / VOICES - Dave Bald­win Chair­man of the Brad­ford Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Burn­ley Foot­ball Club

Politi­cians are of­ten crit­i­cised for not giv­ing a straight an­swer. So it was re­fresh­ing to hear Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling get to the point at the Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence last week: “I re­ally want to see North­ern Pow­er­house Rail come to Brad­ford and I am com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure that re­ally does hap­pen.”

His en­dorse­ment was per­haps the strongest yet from a se­nior politi­cian for the pro­posed North­ern Pow­er­house Rail (NPR) sta­tion in Brad­ford city cen­tre. As chair of the Brad­ford Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship, I wel­come the words – now an NPR that works for Brad­ford has to be de­liv­ered.

The York­shire Post’s

read­ers will be fa­mil­iar with NPR: a mod­ern rail net­work to link New­cas­tle, Sh­effield, Leeds, Hull, Manch­ester and Liver­pool as well as other eco­nomic cen­tres. NPR would cre­ate around 850,000 jobs by 2050 and de­liver a £100bn eco­nomic boost to the coun­try. We are cam­paign­ing for a stun­ning new Brad­ford sta­tion to be con­structed on a pur­pose-built line be­tween Manch­ester and Leeds; the for­mer would be 20 min­utes away from Brad­ford and the lat­ter a mere seven.

Brad­ford is the largest city in the UK not to have a through rail line. Get­ting to and from our great city is made so much more dif­fi­cult by hav­ing a sin­gle rail route in and out, de­ter­ring in­vest­ment and op­por­tu­nity. It shows decades of un­der­in­vest­ment in the city’s in­fra­struc­ture.

Now is the time to change it. It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that an NPR sta­tion in Brad­ford would be trans­for­ma­tive.

Trans­port is so im­por­tant be­cause busi­ness needs clear, easy ac­cess to cus­tomers and mar­kets.

In my role, I’m clear that a sta­tion would open up new busi­nesses and in­vest­ment and bring peo­ple to the city: it would re­new our ap­peal as a fan­tas­tic place to live and work. Re­search has sug­gested that an NPR sta­tion would tur­bocharge the econ­omy, de­liv­er­ing an an­nual £1.3bn eco­nomic boost to the Brad­ford re­gion.

Brad­ford has a rich busi­ness com­mu­nity which stands proud on its own. But im­proved rail links would bet­ter place us to ben­e­fit from – and con­trib­ute to – the eco­nomic suc­cess of cities like Leeds and Manch­ester.

The NPR brings the arms and legs of the North closer to­gether; an NPR sta­tion in Brad­ford joins us at the hip.

Im­prove­ments are also planned at an­other trans­port hub, Leeds-Brad­ford Air­port (LBA). Last month, it set out pro­pos­als to in­vest £12m in a new ter­mi­nal build­ing to en­able larger air­craft to use the air­port, open­ing up new des­ti­na­tions. A park­way sta­tion on the Leeds to Har­ro­gate rail line is also planned. LBA pas­sen­ger num­bers are ex­pected to reach 7 mil­lion per year by 2030 ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment for Trans­port, mak­ing it the UK’s fastest-grow­ing air­port.

To my mind, the rail link can’t come soon enough.

An im­proved air­port, com­bined with NPR would boost York­shire’s econ­omy. High-Speed Rail 2 (HS2) is an­other im­por­tant part of the plan. HS2, the new net­work be­tween Lon­don, Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester and Leeds, seems to have been with us for an age: it ac­tu­ally got the green light back in 2012. Progress since has seemed slow, but things are hap­pen­ing.

Work got started last week when work­ers broke ground at the HS2 build­ing site in Birm­ing­ham.

Peo­ple moan about the con­cen­tra­tion of busi­ness, jobs and op­por­tu­nity in the south east. But the fact re­mains that’s where so much of the money is and we need bet­ter ac­cess to it.

This is a cru­cial time for NPR. Trans­port for North (TFN) is fi­nal­is­ing its NPR plans to send to the Trea­sury in De­cem­ber. I will watch with in­ter­est: Brad­ford needs NPR. Com­mit­ments have been made, and should be kept.

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