Bradford Council is “wrong” in not supporting “vitally important” high-speed HS2 rail scheme, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said.
He said there were clear local benefits to the £46 billion project, during a visit to the area yesterday.
Last week, it emerged that Bradford Council had refused to back HS2 in an official consultation, with Council leader Councillor David Green saying the authority had seen no conclusive proof that it would benefit the Bradford district.
But Mr McLoughlin, a Conservative minister in the coalition Government, said: “I think they are wrong in that.”
He said the Government was investing £38.5bn in the existing rail network between 2014 and 2019, but the capacity needed to be widened to cope with increasing passenger numbers and freight demand.
He said: “HS2 is the first railway line we are building north of London for 120 years and I think it’s vitally important.”
He added that just as the “vastly improved” services at London’s Kings Cross and St Pancras stations had led to a wider regeneration of those areas, so HS2 should bring similar benefits to West Yorkshire.
Mr McLoughlin yesterday visited Pudsey to see improvements under way at New Pudsey Station as well as a £3.4m congestion-busting scheme on the Thornbury Barracks roundabout between Leeds and Bradford.
In its submission to the HS2 consultation, Council chiefs called for Government investment in the local rail network, including electrification of the Caldervale line between Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Manchester.
When asked about the prospects for the line, Mr McLoughlin said the Government was funding the electrification of more than 850 miles of track nationally. He said: “One of the biggest challenges to us is where else can you get that kind of investment and look at other areas that need electrification.”
Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew (Con), who accompanied Mr McLoughlin on his visit, said he was pressing the case for electrification on the Caldervale line.
Metro chairman Councillor James Lewis (Lab) said he too was pushing the case for electrification.
- The North will be condemned to decades of economic failure without the HS2 high-speed rail project, the project’s chief has warned. Only days after the Council refused to back the scheme, Sir David Higgins argued that “Labour areas” will benefit hugely from 225mph trains to London. And he hinted his report next month will call for the Northern sections of the line to be built at the same time as the London-Birmingham stretch. That would deliver the full benefits to West Yorkshire much earlier than the current date for completing phase two, which is almost 20 years away.