'HS2 is a load of rubbish': Councillors stick knife into high speed rail project

Wakefield's two political parties have strongly condemned HS2 in a rare display of cross-chamber unity.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 12:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 12:58 pm

Councillors unanimously voted in favour of a motion by Labour backbencher Kevin Swift, which restated the authority's opposition to the project, as forecasts around its overall cost continue to spiral.

£56bn has been budgeted for the project, which is not due to be completed until at least the mid-2030s. But a leaked report in December suggested the final price of the work may be closer to £100bn.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday, Labour and Tory members queued up to rubbish the scheme, which was originally conceived by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, with the support of the then Labour opposition in Parliament.

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If delivered, HS2 will not be running until the 2030s.

There is particular concern among activists in Crofton, where high-speed trains are set to run through if HS2 becomes a reality.

Coun Swift said: "One thing you don't hear people complaining about is trains to London being too slow.

"In fact, that's regarded as one of the strong points of the transport network in our area.

"They (HS2 chiefs) say they'll stick to the £56bn, and every week you hear things which suggest it will actually go way beyond that."

The motion was put forward by Labour's Kevin Swift.

The council's transport portfolio holder Matthew Morley said that train travel had become a "necessary evil" for commuters.

He said: "Will it benefit the people of Featherstone, Pontefract, Outwood, Normanton who currently suffer from bad trains? No it won't, it will be the business and banking executives.

"What we need is a train service for the many and not the few."

A Guardian report on Tuesday suggested that the north-south divide may actually widen as a result of HS2, despite executives insisting it will help the north.

Campaigners in Crofton are trying to stop the HS2 line from running through their village.

Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed suggested that councillors lobby the district's MPs to stop the project going further.

He said: "It will be out of date by the time it's delivered and will offer no benefit to Wakefield, or Leeds in that sense.

"It's a waste of space, a waste of time, a waste of money and no-one should be supporting anything to do with it.

"I think it's a load of rubbish."