Ambitious £100 million proposals for a cross-rail link through Bradford to put the city back on the map and generate economic growth have been unveiled by a group of businessmen.

The proposals would replace the rail Interchange and Forster Square stations with a new glass-sided four-track central station on a new viaduct across Leeds Road providing views of the Cathedral quarter and linking into the planned Westfield retail mall.

Movers behind the plan include two prominent businessmen Andrew Mason and John Pennington, who is also a Bradford councillor.

They say that linking less than one mile of rail track to join up the two halves of the city would put Bradford at the heart of West Yorkshire’s rail network, including links to a proposed new rail route to Leeds-Bradford International Airport, and enable the district to benefit from a predicted surge in rail travel.

The plan would take about five years to complete and they will lobby local and central government to back it as part of an integrated transport strategy.

The campaigners believe the development would encourage new investment and boost job creation, including attracting civil service jobs from London because of cheaper office space in Bradford.

The cross-rail link would run from the Interchange under Bridge Street, cross the site of the former Exchange Station in a 38ft wide strip passing between the Law Courts and Vicar Lane.

It would sweep across Hall Ings at the bottom of Leeds Road on an arched viaduct, navigate Well Street before descending near St. Peter’s House, Forster Square and Lower Cheapside. Gradually the lines would reach ground level to the east of the present Forster Square station and join the existing Shipley line.

The redundant lines to Forster Square would be retained as sidings for freight traffic which is expected to grow. The campaigners say the new station would become ‘Bradford International’ as part of the national railway network and extending to Europe.

It will also incorporate the already planned new magistrates’ Court centre in Exchange Square.

Andrew Mason, managing director of Shipley-based Newmason Properties and chairman of the Bradford Property Forum, said: “The case for a cross-rail link between the two existing stations is overwhelming. Bradford must be on the national railway network rather than two cul-de-sacs.

“One central station will provide a new 24-hour gateway to the city centre and join a district divided by two halves where one cannot reach the other without re-direction through Leeds – and all because we are one mile of track short.”

The cross-rail group has involved architects and civil engineers in drawing up the technical details of the plan.

They have been assured that the route is capable of carrying ‘heavy rail’ and the drop between the Interchange and Foster Square would not be an issue.

They say that 80 per cent of the land needed was already in public ownership. The central station development would mean using some of the land earmarked for the Westfield shopping site and the group has been speaking with the Australian developers whose plans are on hold.

They believe that when the Westfield development does proceed, it would be scaled down to meet changed trends and economic conditions.

John Pennington, who used to own Bradford’s Midland Hotel and Pennington’s night club in the city, said: “With the fastest growing population in the UK we should re-visit our ‘model city’ with the old blinkers removed. In a local economy where entrepreneurship remains, where the youth need hope and jobs, we must provide the tools to enable success.

“Bradford is at the bottom of its cycle and worth a punt by investors, but only if the infrastructure allows people to come and go cheaply, efficiently and conveniently.

“We are the sixth largest city in England yet have a dead end motorway at the M606, two dead end stations and an inner ring road that finishes at a T-junction. We must recover from a cul-de-sac of decline.”

The group also includes Paul Mackie, chairman of Bradford quantity surveyors RPP Ltd, and Roger Owen, former property director of Morrisons supermarkets.

The idea has also won support from Gerry Sutcliffe, MP for Bradford South, and Shipley MP Philip Davies.


Why the cross-rail group says the time is right for the development. * Rail passenger journeys in the district have risen by 60 per cent in the past decade and are forecast to grow by another 45 per cent by 2050. * Network Rail will spend £530m for a 40 per cent increase in trains in the north with 700 extra services. * This will carry 3.5 million extra passengers and provide better services from Leeds and Sheffield to the north east and north west, but only pay ‘lip service’ to Bradford. * Cross-rail would make Bradford an attractive proposition. * It would be greener by encouraging more rail travel with shorter journey times and cheaper travel. * It would provide an uninterrupted circular route from Bradford to Shipley, Leeds, Wakefield, and Halifax in both directions and link Ilkley and Skipton to Halifax and Huddersfield. * It would provide direct access to Transpennine services, including Manchester Airport, Harrogate and York and national routes to Scotland and London. * With improvements at Baildon station it would link into the proposed new Leeds-Bradford Airport rail link.