The concern, anger and dismay being caused by the current HS2 proposal has been very evident this summer, particularly through some of the letters in this newspaper.
I have also seen first-hand, a tremendous passion from residents campaigning against HS2, many of whom now feel they are not just fighting their own corner but fighting for the future of the district.
The council first stated its opposition to HS2 in January 2014 and our view has not changed.
On 7 July this year, HS2 revealed a new route that cuts through huge swathes of our countryside, neighbourhoods and communities. The line will now run to the east of the Wakefield district, potentially coming in just south east of South Elmsall, running to the west of Hemsworth and the east side of Crofton, then joining a route north of Crofton and going west through Altofts.
The lack of consultation with residents and the council has been totally inadequate. There has been little or no attempt by HS2 to understand the impact the proposal will have on local communities. Nothing has been done to address our concerns about the economic impact of HS2 and no real case has been made for the benefits to Wakefield.
I have spoken to many people this summer, including Crofton residents and residents in my ward, many of whom will have their communities, countryside and properties decimated. All for an extra 20 minutes or so off the travelling time to London.
With an £80bn price tag I am yet to be convinced that there are sufficient benefits. If cities and towns like ours cannot see any benefits, then the current plan is an appalling waste of public money, particularly for northern communities.
I firmly believe we should be upgrading rail connections between northern cities and making our road network better. This would improve connectivity between our towns and cities giving clear social and economic benefits for this district.
We currently have a half-hourly train service from Wakefield Westgate, getting people into the country’s capital in two hours, along with around three trains a day leaving from Kirkgate. There have been no promises that this service will continue or be improved. In fact, we understand that if the project goes ahead in its current form, existing rail services to London may well be reduced by half.
This autumn I will continue to lobby government and HS2 for a fundamental review of the current HS2 plans.
With no tangible benefits coming to Wakefield, I cannot support this HS2 proposal and will champion those affected at every opportunity.