‘We didn’t want it anyway’: Leaders welcome scrapping of HS2 and demand fair share of £36b savings

Party leaders in Wakefield have publicly welcomed the scrapping of HS2.

The council’s Labour leader and Tory opposition leader said pressure should now be put on the government to ensure that the district gets is fair share of £36billion of savings from the cancelled scheme.

Earlier this month Rishi Sunak confirmed HS2 will not run between Manchester and Birmingham. The Prime Minister told his party conference he would “reinvest every single penny” in hundreds of new transport projects across the country.

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Council leader Denise Jeffery told a full council meeting: “The prime minister said in his speech that HS2 would be cancelled and that there would be a network of infrastructure. We always welcome investment in local transport. But honestly, we have heard it all before. I will believe it when I see it.

Labour council leader Denise Jeffery and Tory opposition leader Nadeem AhmedLabour council leader Denise Jeffery and Tory opposition leader Nadeem Ahmed
Labour council leader Denise Jeffery and Tory opposition leader Nadeem Ahmed

“As you know, we didn’t want HS2 in Wakefield. So, when everybody in West Yorkshire was upset and commiserating, I was able to say ‘well we didn’t want it anyway’. It should never have been started. I know that doesen’t go down well with everybody, but it’s how we felt cross-party.”

Wakefield has long stood alone in West Yorkshire in opposing HS2, with Coun Jeffery resisting pressure from other local leaders to support it. It was opposed unanimously by the council in a cross-party vote in 2019 and campaigners, including Crofton Against HS2, also fought the idea.

Previous proposals included the line going through Nostell, Crofton, South Kirkby, Hemsworth, Kinsley, Newstead, Fitzwilliam, New Crofton, Foulby and Sharlston. It was claimed communities would see few of the perks and lose treasured green spaces.

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Nadeem Ahmed, the council Conservative group leader, told the meeting: “I disagreed with HS2. I think it benefited Leeds and it would have been to the detriment of Wakefield. On the odd time that I do go to London on the train, it takes two hours. To save ten or 15 minutes, that’s several billions of pounds.

“It’s not advantageous. I think it is important that we write to the transport secretary and ask him what Wakefield is going to get. It’s important that we get a train station for Ossett and Horbury. We are looking at interconnectivity that benefits us. It is important that the government outlines how Wakefield will benefit through that.”