Todays announcement, in the form of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), finally recognises what we’ve been saying for years – HS2 doesn’t make sense! We hope the IRP marks the start of the end of HS2 through our area. Thanks to everyone that fought against HS2, this is a great day for our communities. While it is now much less likely that any high speed lines will be constructed on the proposed HS2 route through LS26 and LS25, the safeguarding remains (for the time being, along with compensation schemes) and therefore so does the blight on properties.
The IRP maintains a promise of high speed connectivity for Leeds through upgrades to ECML and east/west routes. It also challenges the controversial terminus station in Leeds, much to LCC’s dismay – thank goodness common sense eventually prevails! Ironically, had some of the resurrected electrification plans not been shelved in preference to HS2, they would have been completed by now. IRP will though, according to Government, be delivered in a shorter time frame and at less cost than HS2.
With regard to safeguarding, HS2 Ltd have been very clear today that safeguarding of the entire HS2 route remains in force, as do their property (compensation) schemes. It is important that we continue to campaign for our areas to be removed from safeguarding ASAP to remove the blight that will otherwise persist. Politically this is likely to be sensitive, until such time as the confirmed IRP high speed access for Leeds is confirmed, and so safeguarding in our area could easily persist for a year or two without intervention.
We should keep in mind the way LCC have treated our communities and ensure we challenge their future plans to ensure they are just and fair. LCC should also be reminded that they declared a climate emergency for the city (at the exact same time as voting for environmentally unsound HS2) and as such they should not be encouraging long distance commuting. LCC, the Combined Authority, Northern Powerhouse and our Mayor of West Yorkshire need to listen to and respect the people they serve and represent.
We should also recognise the cost so far, and ongoing until safeguarding is removed. Many communities have been ripped apart, with residents unwilling or unable to live with the threat of HS2. Residents in the worst impacted areas around Bernard Street, Sydney Street, Swillington Lane, the Locks and Maltings etc have seen their communities disrupted as friends moved away, suffered poor health through stress, lives put on hold and financial hardship through badly affected house prices and inadequate HS2 compensation payments. These are impacts that can’t be undone. We should remember all those who have suffered and continue to suffer.