End of the line? Sources expect Birmingham-Leeds HS2 leg to be axed

Sources in Wakefield say they're expecting the Birmingham-Leeds leg of HS2 to be scrapped by the government imminently.

The high-speed route has been bitterly opposed by local councillors and campaign groups in the district, fearful of its impact on communities and the rest of the rail network.

HS2 trains would have sped through a number of local villages, while it was expected journey times from Wakefield to London would increase too.

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The Department of Transport said on Tuesday afternoon they had nothing to say on the subject imminently.

The Birmingham-Leeds stage of the project would have passed through Wakefield.

A spokesman said its integrated rail plan, which will be published some time "soon", will lay out the future of the UK's major rail projects.

But the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that senior Labour councillors had been expecting the axe to fall on the eastern leg on Monday, only for an announcement to be delayed.

The view of politicians in Wakefield is at odds with the wider view in West Yorkshire, with the region's four other councils and business leaders backing the project.

It's believed Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery told Labour colleagues on Monday evening that she'd refused to back a statement from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) expressing dismay at the scheme's cancellation.

Campaigners have fought against the plans vigorously.

Both Labour and the Conservative opposition in Wakefield unanimously condemned HS2 in the council chamber in 2019, with concerns about spiralling costs also raised.

The Tories' then group leader, Nadeem Ahmed, publicly branded the project "a load of rubbish."

Stage one of HS2, which will run from London to Birmingham is still going ahead.

But Stage Two's eastern line was due to run through South Kirkby, Hemsworth, Kinsley, Newstead, Fitzwilliam, New Crofton, Foulby, Crofton, Sharlston, Sharlston Common and New Sharlston.

In February 2020, Coun Jeffery suggested that WYCA were looking at potentially trying to change the route in a bid to appease objectors living in those places.

Weeks later however, the country was placed into lockdown and no further details on that front ever emerged.

Whether or not Stage Two's western line, which would link Birmingham to Manchester, will still go ahead, is unclear.

Local Democracy Reporting Service