THE Transport Minister has explained "active travel" is a key component of the Government's focus on "levelling up" the North.

Andrew Stephenson MP, who is responsible for HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Transpennine route upgrade, cited the Government's recent £1 million business case for the Queensbury Tunnel as an example of how this is taking effect in Bradford.

Earlier this month, The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, offered funding to transform the tunnel into a greenway cycling and pedestrian link between Halifax and Bradford.

Mr Stephenson outlined that better rail networks and "active travel" will help people become better connected and so have more opportunities to enhance their lives.

He said: "Major rail investment will help significantly improve lives.

"We've heard that, when we were here, from businesses in Bradford and Leeds, before lockdown.

"It's about investment in buses and active travel too.

"There's the £1 million for active travel with the Queensbury Tunnel.

"There's similar projects and larger projects across the breadth of the country."

The T&A interviewed the Minister as part of the Government's announcement that £589 million of investment would be used to kickstart rail upgrades across the North.

Mr Shapps revealed the money would be used to improve the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester.

The most congested section of the route will be doubled from two to four tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the North.

Most of the line will be electrified, with an ambition to turn the route into full electrification.

This, alongside digital signalling and more multi-tracking, are under consideration as part of an "Integrated Rail Plan" due to report in December.

Those improvements would allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, bring longer and more frequent trains, and create significantly more local capacity along the line.

The T&A asked Mr Stephenson how these improvements and funding would specifically benefit Bradford.

There is no specific plan for the city at this point, but the development is fluid and discussions are constantly happening.

He said: "At the moment we're looking at a whole range of investments.

"I have spoke to the Leader of Bradford Council, about the Northern Powerhouse Rail.

"Plans are being brought together."

One of the pillars of Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister was a commitment to supporting towns and cities that have been left on the periphery for far too long, according to Mr Stephenson.

Bradford fits this mould - a young, bustling city, waiting to be connected and awoken.

Mr Stephenson said: "One of the main layers was levelling up left behind towns."

The Minister also believes the investment gives the country, and particularly the North, something to focus on as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and comes out of lockdown.

He said: "I think it's a real confidence boost for industry and the supply chain.

"Many firms are based in the North of England, which will help."

One of the main aims is to build-up the infrastructure so that "we can get freight off our roads", according to Mr Stephenson.