‘Always neglected’: Bradford braced for bad news in rail plan

“We’re out of it … again,” said retired yoga teacher Jane Ayers, as she walked out of the railway station concourse on an unseasonably mild Wednesday morning. “As per usual. Bradford is always neglected.”

Ayers, 82, was talking about Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the plan to transform trans-Pennine services between Liverpool and Leeds, which many fear will now not happen.

The government will announce its much anticipated integrated rail plan on Thursday. Reports have suggested it has dropped its commitment to the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds and may not fully go ahead with NPR, which would go through Bradford.

The government has insisted it will be the biggest ever public investment in the rail network, costing £96bn, and will transform journeys across the Midlands and the north. “If we are to see levelling up in action now, we must rapidly transform the services that matter to people most,” the prime minister has said. But local politicians are braced for bad news.

“It was never going to happen,” Ayers said. “It is all just a game this shower of a government play all of the time.

“I’m not a dyed in the wool Bradfordian. I’ve only been here 55 years … I am just sorry for Bradford.”

Bradford is Britain’s seventh biggest city but according to a national data analysis of rail journeys it is the worst connected major city in the UK.

The problem is a lack of direct routes and slow trains. Incredibly, campaigners say, it was quicker to travel to places from Bradford on steam trains than it is today. Leeds takes about 20 minutes. That’s two minutes longer, campaigners say, than it took in 1910. The Edwardians could get on a train from Bradford to Wakefield and it would take 30 minutes. Today it’s 48 minutes.

Slow trains and bad connections were mentioned time and again by travellers at Bradford’s dated Interchange station.

Student Amani Alhajri, 22, gets the train from Leeds to Bradford. “I’m getting used to it,” she said. “It quite often gets cancelled and it is busy most of the time. I have missed lectures because the train has been cancelled, which is awful.”

Haleema Usamot, a 17-year-old student, goes the other way and said it was “always packed. The past two weeks have been really bad. It’s been late all the time because of train works at Leeds.”

She said the problem was connections. “There’s not many places you can get the train to. If you want to go anywhere you have to take the train to Leeds.”

Chris Oakley said it was a problem having two stations in the city. He was travelling from his home in Skipton to his office in Manchester and it involved a train to Forster Square, a walk, and then the hour journey to Manchester. It takes two hours.

“The trains are slow but to be honest as long as they are frequent and the trains are decent then I don’t mind. I can do work on the train. All this stuff about speeding things up by 10 minutes is over-rated. It’s frequency and comfort which is more important.”

Tracy Shaw, a civil servant who lives in Bradford, said her frustration was short trains. “I got the train to Manchester and there were only two carriages and there were people heading to the football. So it’s 10.30 in the morning and you’ve got people drinking around you.”

Paul Shearon, a retired IT manager who lives in Brighouse, said: “It is a city of half a million and it’s got the same service as Halifax. It probably is the worst connected city and I would like to see it brought up to the status of a city this size.”

If he wanted to go to Scotland he would always go from Huddersfield. “That’s not even a city. Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield are all miles better than here.”

Melissa, from Todmorden, who declined to give her surname, uses local train services regularly. “They are a bit crap. There is all this talk about HS2 but they haven’t invested in local networks. What has always irritated me tremendously is that the trains stop really early in the evening. If I want to go to Manchester or Bradford it is really hard to get back on public transport later in the evening.”

Taxi driver Mohammed Khan said NPR should happen but wouldn’t. Most people drove rather than relying on trains. “The roads are congested all the time. Any accident on the M62 and it has an effect on everything and everyone. There is too much traffic.”

Campaigners argue that NPR would boost the Bradford district economy by £30bn over 10 years, create 27,000 jobs and cut 44,000 daily car journeys between the city and Leeds.

Not everyone was gloomy about Bradford’s rail issues. Josie and Steve Brown from Gildersome are retired and have mobility issues and don’t mind how slow the trains are. “I suppose if you’re chasing your arse to work, it matters,” said Steve. “It doesn’t matter to us whether we get to Chester at 12 or 2pm.”




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