Preparations should be made for the likely case that Bradford Interchange needs to be closed for longer than two months – a meeting has been heard.
Bradford’s main bus station has been closed since the start of the month after falling concrete led to major safety concerns.
It had been announced that the station would close for at least two months while surveys were done to see the extent of the damage.
But at a meeting this morning one Councillor acknowledged that the closure was probably going to be much longer than two months – pointing out that the survey was not likely to find that everything had been fine all along.
The closure of the Interchange was discussed at a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee on Monday.
It was the first time that officers from WYCA, which runs the Interchange, have given a briefing about the issues at the station in a public meeting.
A report to members said on December 22 a section of concrete fell into a car park area in the Interchange basement, leading to the car park being closed.
Early into the new year, the decision was taken to close the entire station – with buses instead directed to temporary stops in the city centre.
Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe, who chairs the committee, had requested officers update Councillors, and said: “This has been a massive inconvenience, and the sudden closure has caused confusion for members of the travelling public.”
Simon Warburton, Executive Director of Transport at WYCA, said the decision to close the bus station was “regrettable but necessary.”
He said the decision was made due to the collapsed concrete and the dangerous weather conditions early in the new year.
He added: “We considered public safety, and to make sure no members of the public were placed into danger instigated an emergency operation.”
He pointed out the station had recently been subject to an £8.5m scheme to repair the structure – which Mr Warburton described as “unusual.”
He said: “Buses are on an elevated area supported by a concrete slab, above a cavity basement.”
He told members it was difficult to find people to carry out the surveys on the concrete – as so many people with the expertise needed were working on buildings discovered to have RAAC concrete.
But he said there was no evidence of RAAC at the Interchange.
He said the early inspections “confirmed we were right to take the decisions we took.”
Members were told that WYCA was working with Bradford Council and bus operators to minimise disruption to passengers.
Mr Warburton said many passengers were now used to the temporary measures.
Cllr Hinchcliffe added: “People who are regular bus users might be used to it, but people getting the bus to Bradford for the first time won’t be.”
Mick Bunting, Director of Transport Operations and Passenger Experience, told members he could not say how long the disruption would last.
Referring to the temporary bus interchange at Jacobs Well, he said: “That will be there for two months, potentially beyond that.
Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Transport, Regeneration and Planning, said: “You’re saying two months – presumably the survey is not going to come back and say ‘everything was all alright.’
“There is going to be time after that survey period where work needs to be done. It is important that is acknowledged. People are sensing, because it’s not being framed appropriately, that something else is going on.
“Reading between the lines this might take much longer than two months.”
He said there was a general “frustration” at the lack of information.
Cllr Ross Shaw said it was important the problem did not delay the Transforming Cities Fund work being done in the city centre.
That Government-funded work will see the section of Hall Ings – a short distance from the Interchange, pedestrianised and the former Hall Ings car park demolished to create a new entrance to the station.
He said: “Time scales are already tight.”
Referring to the time the repairs could take, Mr Warburton said: “You are absolutely right – at this stage, we don’t know for certain the nature of the works that will be will be needed to put right whatever issue is found there. We need to plan for a series of outcomes.
“This two-month period gives us time to work out how we can respond to these different outcomes while safeguarding the presentation of the city centre for Bradford 2025.”
Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “This needs to come back on a regular basis – it will require a significant amount of investment to make things right.
“We need to communicate what is happening regularly on this – even if it is just to say there is no update.”