THE Transport Secretary has thrown his weight behind the campaign to re-open Queensbury Tunnel - and even suggested that it could be used for light rail and not a cycle route.

In a visit to Bradford yesterday, Grant Shapps also said the city would benefit from the Government’s plans to level up the national economy and connect communities across the North.

He said he was keen to progress Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester and Leeds and had come to Bradford to talk to city leaders about the project and other transport projects.

Mr Shapps said: “Bradford has a lot going for it and I’m very keen to make sure Bradford benefits from it.”

He said he had rejected the official advice to fill in Queensbury Tunnel and instead told Department for Transport officials to find a way to bring it back into use.

He said: “Queensbury Tunnel, I’ve taken a specific personal interest in it.

“The plan and official advice was to fill it in but I have specifically prevented that from happening to work with local leaders and the Combined Authority to come up with a better solution.

“That’s an asset but at the moment it’s unclear what a tunnel from here to Halifax would do and what would run through it and is that bicycles or a light train or a tram.

“But if we’re talking about connecting communities then I think we ought to be thinking about what we do with that and that’s something I’ve just been discussing in Bradford this morning.”

He arrived in Bradford from Manchester where he met the new people in charge of Northern, which came under Government control on Sunday.

He said he was encouraged by the fact that his train across the Pennines had arrived on time as the publicly-run company introduced new measures to improve its performance.

Mr Shapps, who said he drove an electric Tesla 3 model after replacing his fuel inefficient 15-year-old car, said the bosses of the new public operator Northern Trains Limited would be presenting him with a framework for the future of services in 100 days.

He said as a start all of its trains had been deep cleaned and Sunday services would be improved, as would the relationship with the workforce.

He said: “Changes will take time to get this to be a railway that people will be proud of, can rely on, the trains turn up on time, clean trains and the rest of it.”

He said he had no new announcements on the local rail system but said he had consulted with local leaders on proposals for a Bradford station on one of the Northern Powerhouse Rail route options which could be included in the forthcoming consultation document.

Among the other improvements he said the Government were implementing or looking at were a £5 billion pledge to improve buses, the possibility of including Bradford in a Leeds mass transit system, backing an expansion of Leeds-Bradford Airport as long as carbon emissions were cut, re-opening the Skipton to Colne rail line and improving the A65 at Kex Gill near Skipton which is prone to landslips.

He said he believed the Government were committed to greener transport plans for the airport after a High Court ruling last week that plans for a third runway at Heathrow were incompatible with newly-introduced laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions and go carbon neutral by 2050.

“The Government remains in favour of airport expansion if it’s within the 2050 target,” he said.

He added that the aviation industry knew that it had to get to zero carbon by the target date, including cutting CO2 for travellers getting to the airport.

Mr Shapps added: “This is a Government that is all about levelling up and connecting communities that sometimes feel that they have been left behind and when I hear that I think of Bradford because you have two rail stations that come to buffers and that’s something that this Leeds-Manchester line could resolve.

“The Prime Minister has made the Northern Powerhouse job one for a full member of cabinet and that reveals that we are very keen to level up and connect communities.

"Not surprisingly because we have won a lot of seats in the north we would say have been forgotten about for far too long.

“I understand that people have lent us their support and would expect to see that support repaid and that’s what this Government plans to do.”