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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Bradford interchange closure: unveiling the concrete crisis and safety concerns

Liberal Democrat Leader Councillor Brendan Stubbs pointed out that the closure has led to the temporary loss of the Jacob’s Well pay and display car park.

The collapse of a section of concrete at Bradford Interchange happened two weeks before the station was shut for safety reasons – Councillors have been told.

The bus station in the centre of Bradford was closed by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on 4 January due to safety concerns.

But details of what led to the closure have only been revealed in the past week with the publication of the agenda to Monday’s WYCA Transport Committee.

That agenda says the closure followed “a degree of concrete fall.”

And on Tuesday evening Bradford Councillors were told that this fall – into an underground car park at the station – happened on 22 December.

The details were revealed by Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe at a meeting of the Council on Tuesday, during which representatives of all political parties heavily criticised the Combined Authority for the lack of communication around the issue.

Although the rail section of the Interchange remains open, the bus station, facilities and shops/cafes inside remain closed. Last week WYCA, which runs the station, said it would remain closed for at least two months while surveys are carried out on the building.

Jacobs Well car park, run by Bradford Council, is being used as a temporary bus station.

At the meeting, Cllr Hinchcliffe, who has called for the issue to be discussed at a meeting of WYCA’s Transport Committee, told Councillors: “To be clear the closure of the Bus Interchange is hugely inconvenient for residents and bus operators at a time when the City of Bradford is in the middle of the biggest regeneration programme the city has seen in decades.”

She revealed what she had been told so far by WYCA, adding: “WYCA advised me that on 22 December a piece of concrete (20 cm x 50 cm) fell into the underground car park underneath the Bus Interchange.

“WYCA closed the car park for public safety and alternative parking arrangements were made for users. Further inspections took place as a result and in view of the heavy rainfall which could be putting a strain on the interchange’s internal drainage system, a decision was made on 4 January that as well as the closure of the car park the whole Bus Interchange should be closed as well.

“Work has been ongoing on the bus facility since an £8.5m business case was approved by the Combined Authority in December 2021 to improve the resilience of the bus station and reduce the adverse impacts associated with the age of the asset, which has been in operation since 1974. That work at the interchange included the commissioning of survey work and the findings had informed the work undertaken at the Interchange. These works have now been halted.”

Surveyors will assess the damage to the station, but Councillors were told that the current RAAC concrete crisis had led to a delay in finding surveyors able to carry out the work.

Cllr Hinchcliffe added: “I have asked whether the Bus Interchange has RAAC and have been advised that it does not.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Councillor Brendan Stubbs pointed out that the closure has led to the temporary loss of the Jacob’s Well pay and display car park. He said: “Is there any detail on whether we will get some of the money we’ve lost back? It is not reasonable with all the problems we’re facing as a Council to have to pay for the failed maintenance of the Interchange.”

Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “WYCA have said they would provide any out-of-pocket costs we incur, and they have paid us to use the Jacob’s Well car park.”

Councillor Matt Edwards, Leader of the Greens, raised concerns that the report on the Interchange was going to a meeting of the Combined Authority, and not Bradford Council. He said: “They will get the chance to ask questions and we will not. We need to be able to ask questions to WYCA, it is not right that Councillors from Calderdale and Kirklees can ask questions when I’ve been trying for weeks to get WYCA to brief Bradford Councillors.”

Cllr Hinchliffe said she had requested the report as she was chair of the Transport Committee at WYCA, and suggested chairs of Bradford Committees could make a similar request.

Conservative leader Rebecca Poulsen said: “I have to say I’ve been left exasperated trying to get any information from WYCA. I asked for a detailed update two weeks ago and only got something on Sunday. It is not good enough when this is having a huge impact on our district.”

Cllr Hinchcliffe said there seemed to have been a reluctance to reveal information until more surveys were done, but added: “When there is a vacuum of information people think there is more going on than there is. WYCA is looking to resolve it, but doesn’t have the full information to give people. I’m hoping as time goes by we’ll get more info, but the surveying will take weeks, not days.

After the meeting, Simon Warburton, Executive Director of Transport at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “Contractors are continuing their assessment of the damage at Bradford Interchange bus station after some concrete fell into the basement of the bus station.

“Extreme weather over the last few months is believed to have exacerbated ongoing issues with water infiltrating the building and creating damage.

“Public safety remains our top priority and we will not open the bus station until it is safe to do so.

“It would be irresponsible to speculate further until we have the full results of the surveys that are underway onsite. We will provide more information when we can, and will continue to assess with our partners at Bradford Council what work will be needed before safely reopening the bus station.”

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