The Transport Select Committee has railed against the Government decision to exclude the new Bradford station from its half-baked plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Successive Conservative Governments talk almost consistently of ‘levelling up’, forced to address the long-standing historical problem of the UK’s geographical inequalities in wealth, power, and opportunity.
The Integrated Rail Plan has been hailed as “one of the biggest single acts of levelling up in history” and has seen personal endorsements by Johnson and other Ministers. And yet, this is all it has amounted to – talk.
The promise of a Bradford stop is nowhere to be seen as Government abandons its commitment to build new rail networks, and instead retires to upgrading existing lines. Indeed, the recent report published by the Transport Select Committee reaffirms that Bradford has been short-changed, calling on the Government to rethink to avoid a “missed opportunity”. Let me be abundantly clear. Bradford deserves better.
The report illustrates that there is no rhyme or reason to the Government’s betrayal of Bradford.
The Integrated Rail Plan points to the small numbers of Bradford residents who commute by train. And yet, this can be directly attributed to the poor quality of train services currently available – as my constituents are forced to grapple with slow speeds and inefficiency. The Transport Select Committee report rightly calls this a “circular argument” which lacks the forward thinking and innovation required to truly ‘level-up’. Conservative Governments appear unwilling to connect the dots, just as they are unwilling to connect the North.
Indeed, the Committee also visited Bradford back in February, refuting Government claims that the distance of the potential location of the station, St James’s Market, from the city centre meant that it was fruitless from a business perspective.
One thing is for certain, there cannot be a ‘levelling up agenda’ without Bradford.
We are the fifth largest city district in England, as well as the youngest – with a significant student population.
The University of Bradford is ranked as one of the Top 20 Universities for Chemical Engineering, Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Bradford will be the UK’s City of Culture in 2025, with its wide range of cultural assets, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kala Sangam Arts Centre, as well as the annual Bradford Literature Festival, which attracts over 70,000 people.
The Transport Select Committee acknowledged that Bradford has huge potential to be the “engine room” of the Northern Powerhouse. However, its capacity for growth and development will be squandered if Bradford remains unconnected.
There is much research that deems that Bradford is the highest priority for levelling up, being ranked as the second most deprived local authority in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
Ultimately, better connectivity means better opportunities. The report affirms that a Bradford station as part of the Northern Powerhouse Railway would increase access to the wider labour pool, as well as allowing other cities access to the variety of talent and skill harboured by Bradford’s residents. There is the potential to create 1.3 million jobs, facilitating further investment into the city we love.
And this is not a Bradford issue alone, but one that concerns the whole nation. If Bradford is left standing at the edge of the railway track, eventually the train itself will stop. Improvements to Bradford’s rail services would unlock a large-scale regeneration, funnelling £30 billion back into the economy.
The Transport Select Committee have rightly accused ministers of not completing a “full analysis of the wider economic impacts” of the Integrated Rail Plan. A train is only as strong as its weakest link.
Ultimately, this report does not come as a surprise. The truth is, ‘levelling up’ has never aligned with the Conservative ideology.
This is the party that has consistently left the North behind, delivering corporation tax cuts whilst working class taxes increase, as well as taking public goods out of public hands. Over the last few years, there has been scandal after scandal – as the Government partied whilst millions could not say goodbye to their dying relatives.
Time and time again, they have promised and not delivered. This is why we need a fresh start for Britain under a new Labour Government. Bradford is ready for a rail revolution, ripe for investment, opportunity, and growth.
The only thing standing in its way is this Conservative Government, and its unfulfilled promises.