COMMUNITY leaders have vowed to fight to keep Castleford’s £14.5m interchange on track after the government axed its funding.
The Department for Transport last week announced it would not pay for the town’s long-awaited bus and rail hub – but defiant councillors hope a separate bid to the new Regional Growth Fund, set up to support projects which could spark economic growth or employment, will save the scheme from the cuts.
Castleford Coun Mark Burns-Williamson, chairman of Castleford Town Centre Partnership, said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the government has dropped the scheme – especially as all the hard work has already been done and work is ready to start.
“It’s a very short-sighted decision.
“The scheme fits all the criteria and I think the announcement shows we don’t rank highly in the government’s priorities.
“However, our best bet was always going to be the Regional Growth Fund. It’s aimed at projects outside of London and could actually deliver funding in a shorter time.
“Even if we’d received Department for Transport funding we could have had to wait for two years, which would be too long considering the facilities are in desperate need of upgrading.
“It’s important we keep on fighting to secure funding for this vital scheme.”
In the Comprehensive Spending Review last October, ministers said they would need to “ reappraise” the project to replace the town’s run-down bus and railway stations with a modern transport hub – placing it in a pool of more than 30 schemes vying for £600m of cash.
On Friday, transport minister Philip Hammond revealed nine of those projects would receive cash, but the Castleford Interchange scheme, led by Metro and Wakefield Council, would not be funded “in this spending review period”.
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper said: “The government’s decision to ditch the Castleford interchange is outrageous. A huge amount of work and investment has already been put in and it was all ready to go. This would have brought jobs and business to that end of town as well as improving transport.
“Hundreds of people signed the petition in support of the scheme. We won’t give up.
“If the government won’t support Castleford, we will keep looking for investment from regional economic funds too.”
Last month Coun Burns-Wililamson, Ms Cooper and Castleford Coun Tony Wallis launched a petition to save the scheme from the cuts. They are urging residents to pledge their support to the project.
Visit www. pontefractandcastlefordexpress.co.uk to sign an online copy of the petition. Visit Ms Cooper’s website at www. yvettecooper.com to download a paper version.
To find out more call her office on 01977 553388 or the town centre partnership on 01977 550678.