Bradford could enjoy a direct rail link to London if high-speed rail goes ahead, experts said yesterday.

The much-criticised £42.6bn project has the potential to transform rail travel by freeing up space on existing lines, the Network Rail study found.

And among 100 towns and cities in line to benefit is Bradford – with a new fast service from Bradford Interchange to the capital.

The route would become possible because existing services between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh and Newcastle would no longer be needed.

Network Rail hailed the potential of HS2 to “fundamentally reshape our railway in a way that incremental improvements simply cannot deliver”.

And it said: “We have squeezed every last incremental improvement out of what we’ve got. As demand continues to grow, this becomes harder and in some places impossible.

“High Speed 2 will deliver much-needed extra capacity on the busiest rail lines and help boost economic growth, by transforming connectivity between our biggest cities.”

But the study was quickly dismissed by Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies – an arch-HS2 critic – who described it as a “bogus argument”.

Mr Davies is among 27 Tories who urged David Cameron to axe the project and spend the billions on congestion-busting local schemes instead.

He said: “Network Rail has been rumbled that HS2 is a spectacular waste of money and is thrashing around for other spurious reasons that have nothing to do with the project. It is a hell of a lot of money to spend just to add a bit of extra capacity to the rail network.

“There is already extra capacity to allow more services to Bradford under the existing network and operators who want to do just that.”

Network Rail said rail journeys had increased by almost 50 per cent over the last decade – with another 400m rail journeys a year expected by 2020. However, the likely improvements for Bradford and the rest of the North will not arrive until phase two of HS2 is completed, in 2033.

And Network Rail stressed that fares on HS2 must be in line with those on the existing network in order for that spare capacity to be released.

HS2 will deliver 225mph trains from London to Birmingham by 2026 – and a Y-shaped network, on to Leeds and Manchester, seven years later.