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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Spiralling inflation likely to lead to £270m of transport schemes being ‘paused’

Among the Bradford schemes to be stalled are works to improve traffic between Shipley and Bradford, a project to transform the Dudley Hill roundabout and a South East link road that had been planned to reduce congestion along Tong Street.

Transport schemes across West Yorkshire, including some multi million pound projects in Bradford, are likely to be “paused” due to spiraling inflation costs.

It could mean some long-planned projects are not completed until towards the end of the decade.

Among the Bradford schemes to be stalled are works to improve traffic between Shipley and Bradford, a project to transform the Dudley Hill roundabout and a South East link road that had been planned to reduce congestion along Tong Street.

Other West Yorkshire schemes likely to be paused include a scheme to improve traffic at Dawsons Corner – one of the main routes between Bradford and Leeds, and plans for a Leeds inland port.

At a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Finance, Resources and Corporate Committee next Thursday, members will be told that dozens of upcoming transport and infrastructure schemes have been reviewed in light of inflation costs.

Many of them will be paused or “pipelined” – set to one side until new funding becomes available.

The mothballing is expected to save around £270m.

A report to members says a mix of high inflation costs and pressures created by the war in Ukraine and Covid are to blame. The report says: “Costs have and continue to increase on all transport programmes, however the funding allocation remains the same, meaning there is a significant risk that the funding allocations won’t be able to fund all the current projects within the transport programmes.

“The Combined Authority and partners want to continue to deliver the programmes in their entirety, therefore the agreed way forward is to pause and pipeline certain projects for delivery over a longer time frame and continue to deliver prioritised projects at pace.”

Projects that will be prioritised include work to pedestrianise swathes of Bradford city centre and plans to demolish the NCP Car park on Hall Ings and create a new gateway to Bradford Interchange. The Interchange gateway project has seen its budget rise from £13m to £16m due to inflation.

And the pedestrianisation plan, which will see major changes to Hall Ings, Market Street and the Jacobs Well roundabout, is expected to rise in cost from its original £30m budget to £43m.

And a project to improve the A641 corridor between Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford will also remain.

But many of the other planned transport schemes in Bradford are likely to be paused.

The Bradford to Shipley Corridor scheme is one included on the list of schemes to be “paused and pipelined.”

The plans would have seen Valley Road and Canal Road, one of the busiest routes between Shipley and Bradford, widened to ease congestion.

As part of the project new cycle and bus lanes would be added to Manningham Lane, along with pocket parks and improved pedestrian facilities.

The report says the plans are now expected to cost £48m. It suggests the plan be paused after the full business case is completed.

The pause means that even if new funding for the scheme was found, it is unlikely that it would be completed before 2028.

A plan to reduce congestion on Tong Street, first proposed decades ago, is also likely to be paused. The report says it is currently costed at £20m.

Another Bradford scheme on the list is the £10m A6177 Cutler Heights Corridor improvement programme, which involved new cycle lanes and signalised junctions at the signalised junctions at the Dudley Hill roundabout. An underground walkway would be filled in and two new pedestrian bridges created.

Also on the list of projects likely to be paused is the South East Bradford Access Road.

The plan – currently costed at £46.3m, would see a new route created between Holme Wood and Westgate Hill Street in Tong.

The project has proved controversial, with a section of the route likely to pass through the Green Belt.

Other projects in the district likely to be paused include improved parking at Apperley Bridge, Guiseley and Ben Rhydding stations, the £10M Halifax Station Gateway plan and a £62m plan for corridor improvements on the A62 to Cooper Bridge in Kirklees.

A spokesperson for the Combined Authority said: “Record levels of inflation, combined with the knock-on effects of Brexit, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, are having a significant impact on the costs of infrastructure projects across the country.

“We have worked closely with our local authority partners to minimise this disruption and ensure no part of the region is unfairly impacted as we identify schemes that can be paused and delivered over a longer time period.

“We await the upcoming Autumn Statement and hope that ministers will spare local government from another round of austerity so that projects like these that will help deliver growth and higher living standards across all parts of the country can go ahead.”

Councillor Matt Edwards (Green, Tong) represents a ward where three out of the four Bradford schemes to be paused are based.

He said: ““I really think this needs to be seen as an opportunity for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to take a step back and reassess what they want to prioritise the limited transport budgets on.

“This really should be the time for the West Yorkshire Mayor and the Combined Authority to put an end to some ‘pie in the sky’ projects – like a brand new road through the Tong Valley and concentrate on things that are going to make a real difference to help people in our region get around.

“But there are some projects that are going to be paused that we really can’t afford to wait around for. The improvements to Tong Street have been on the cards for decades and we just can’t keep waiting.”

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