RAIL minister Huw Merriman says the announcement that £2 billion will be spent on a new rail station in Bradford is different from other recent false starts for the city’s rail network.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced numerous transport investments in the north – using money from the scrapped Manchester leg of HS2.

This included a £2 billion investment in a new rail station in Bradford.

And today, Mr Merriman and Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, visited the city to discuss the proposals with local politicians and the press.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Rail minister Huw MerrimanRail minister Huw Merriman (Image: Newsquest)

They also hinted that another announcement could soon be made regarding improvements to Bradford’s existing rail stations.

The government says the new station pledged at the Conservative Party Conference will increase rail capacity for the city – acknowledged to have the worst rail connections of all major cities in Britain.

It will also halve journey times to Manchester, according to the government. 

The announcement was met with scepticism in some quarters.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Transport secretary Mark Harper with Bradford Council leader Susan HinchcliffeTransport secretary Mark Harper with Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe (Image: Newsquest)

In recent years, Boris Johnson's government suggested Bradford would get a stop on the Northern Powerhouse Rail line, only for much of the line to then be scrapped.

After becoming Prime Minister Liz Truss gave interviews saying she would re-instate the plans. But after her short time at the top came to an end, the Rishi Sunak-led government shelved the plans once again.

A subsequent report by the Transport Select Committee urged the government to look again at the need for a new station in Bradford – even if it is not on the high-speed Northern Powerhouse Rail line.

Plans for the new Bradford Station proposed by Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority would see it built on the St James Market site off Wakefield Road.

It would be a key part of the 'Southern Gateway' – an area of the city that has been targeted for development. It would be anchored by the new station.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Politicians discuss the announcement Politicians discuss the announcement (Image: T&A)

After a tour of Bradford Interchange today Mr Merriman told the Telegraph & Argus he had supported a new Bradford station for some time.

He said: “It is not just about a station and new transport links – it is a chance to regenerate the city and wider district of Bradford. How do we get Bradford better connected and how do we use that as a platform for regeneration?”

He said the Bradford station was a high priority for the government, adding: “The Secretary of State and I are both here in Bradford the day after the Prime Minister’s announcement.

“We’re here with local leaders to listen and learn.”

After the tour of Bradford Interchange Mr Merriman attended a meeting of the Southern Gateway Board – a group of local politicians and officers tasked with developing the plans for that area.

The Telegraph & Argus asked why people in Bradford should take this announcement seriously when previous station plans have been agreed and withdrawn twice before in recent years.

He said: “In the past there has been a lot of talk, but nothing was ever officially confirmed. In terms of the new station there was discussions and assumptions, but nothing ever officially announced.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Huw Merriman speaks to the pressHuw Merriman speaks to the press (Image: Newsquest)

“That is the change this time, we all heard yesterday about how we’re going to take the £36.5 billion we’re saving from HS2 and spending it elsewhere. £2bn has been put down to deliver the new station in Bradford.”

Asked about details of the scheme, including timetables, he said: “It is not for me to come up here and tell people where their station should go. We always want to collaborate, get everyone in the room and come up with ideas for how to sort this.”

Pointing out that any new station would be years down the line, the Telegraph & Argus asked what the government could do to help Bradford’s long-suffering commuters in the more immediate future.

Mr Merriman said: “City of Culture won’t wait. We know full well what is needed in Bradford, including at Forster Square. I’ll just say watch this space.

"Nothing announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will mean any short-term plans are taken off the table.”

He said although he could not make any announcements at the moment, there was likely to be an announcement soon that would help boost rail travel in Bradford before City of Culture in 2025.