The last few months have been a busy time on HS2 with developments affecting all 3 phases.
Phase 1 London - West Midlands
The proposed diversion of Wood End Lane at Fradley has been an unresolved issue since 2016 when IWA petitioned the Commons Select Committee on an alternative alignment with less impact on the Trent & Mersey Canal. An assurance was given to CRT that the alignment would be reviewed in consultation with them, Staffordshire Highways and other affected parties, and during our Lords Select Committee hearing later that year HS2 accepted that IWA would be one of those consulted. However, HS2 did nothing and have now passed on the task to their Area North contractors Balfour Beatty Vinci (BBV) Joint Venture.
BBV and CRT have formed a Liaison Group and I joined them at their second meeting in July to discuss all the canal crossings and interfaces from Warwickshire north to Birmingham and Fradley. It was pleasing to find that BBV are now working on an alternative alignment for Wood End Lane that would avoid the main road embankment near the canal, prior to consulting Staffordshire CC. They are also aware of the urgency of agreeing plans and constructing replacement moorings for Lichfield Cruising Club before starting work at Cappers Lane, and have proposed widening the new canal channel at Cappers Lane to form a winding basin, which I have discussed with LHCRT. Designs for the various new bridges are still being optimised to meet the CRT Side Agreement requirements, have a reasonably attractive appearance, and minimise canal closures. It is very useful to be involved at this stage to influence the final designs.
Phase 2A West Midlands - Crewe
In April HS2 evidence to the Commons HS2 Select Committee conceded that the heights of the Kings Bromley and River Trent viaducts and the intervening Bourne embankment could be reduced by up to 3.5m with landscape and visual benefits and a cost reduction of £3.3m. An Assurance was then given that this change will be made in an Additional Provision, which meets one of IWA’s petitioning points.
I attended a meeting in Birmingham on 3 July with the national chairman to discuss IWA’s petition with the HS2 Petition Manager and a Noise Policy Team member, but they did not appear to have the authority to agree any changes. Following the meeting I received a letter from the Director of Hybrid Bill Delivery repeating their misconceptions about the ‘transitory’ use of moorings, to which I replied explaining why they were wrong and why improved noise mitigation is needed.
IWA’s hearing date had been set for 9 July and at 8 o’clock in the evening, after a day interrupted by Brexit ministerial resignations, I was finally able to present IWA’s Petition to the Select Committee. This asked for proper recognition of the residential use of most canal boats, and for better noise mitigation fencing for boats moored in Great Haywood marina, on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood and Hoo Mill, and near Fradley Junction. I had a reasonably sympathetic hearing lasting 53 minutes and the transcript can be seen at:
or the session viewed on Parliament TV at:
On 23 July the House of Commons High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee, Second Special Report of Session 2017-19, was published at:
“The Inland Waterways Association petitioned on behalf of occupants of narrowboats and how HS2 classified their residences. The Great Haywood Marina will be significantly impacted by the scheme and HS2 should look at installing the 5m barrier as requested by the petitioner. Furthermore, HS2 should look at providing further noise mitigation at Fradley Wood.”
The full report will be produced later but IWA welcomes the early publication of these recommendations and looks forward to improved noise mitigation for narrowboat occupants at Great Haywood and Fradley Wood being included in the HS2 plans.
IWA had previously petitioned on noise mitigation on Phase 1 but HS2 Ltd had continued to regard canal boat moorings as ‘transitory’ with users staying only for a few hours at a time, whereas in fact many are occupied residentially for extended periods from several days to several months. It is therefore pleasing that the members of this Select Committee have listened to the evidence, understood that people do not just live in houses but also in boats, and recommended improved noise protection for these two canal locations. We hope that HS2 Ltd will now realise that the same principles should apply to the whole of HS2 and that we will not have to petition again on this matter for the waterways affected by Phase 2B.
In the report the committee also expressed concern that people occupying rented residential boat moorings on a periodic tenancy appear to have little protection and no compensation in law. There was an assumption that boat owners could just move to another mooring. This arose from evidence about boat dwellers at Hoo Mill Marina, including long term and elderly residents. They directed HS2 to consider the individuals involved and state that the Committee has “power to award payment where the current minimum regime fails to give due regard to the disruption experienced”.
Another meeting I recently attended was the HS2 Cannock AONB Landscape Group at Shugborough Hall. Set up by the National Trust it includes landscape, wildlife, heritage and local authority representatives concerned to reduce the impact of the HS2 viaduct and embankments around Great Haywood on the AONB and historic parkland landscape of Shugborough, Tixall and Ingestre. Subject to its being widened out to include other local interests it has been granted £1.5m for mitigation projects in the area, and I will be working with CRT to suggest ways in which this might benefit the canals.
Phase 2B Crewe - Manchester and West Midlands - Leeds
There have been a series of Information Events recently along the routes of Phase 2B and I attended one in Measham to discuss impacts on the Ashby Canal restoration. I then wrote to the HS2 Senior Engagement Manager giving minimum dimensions for the canal underbridge; asking for agreement to compensation payment to fund the canal reconstruction through the housing site; reminding them of the Design Manual for Roads & Bridges obligation to provide a canal bridge under the realigned A42; and supporting the developers’ alternative alignment at Measham that would avoid the housing site but still require two canal crossing bridges. This received a moderately encouraging response promising to consider the compensation and bridge requirement points, and confirming that the alternative route is being reviewed by the Secretary of State.
Elsewhere, near Leeds, the Eastern Leg Rolling Stock Depot Consultation Response has agreed to IWA and CRT’s request to move the crossing point of the viaduct over the Aire & Calder Navigation to reduce the skew and avoid a tight bend on the navigation.
(Report by Phil Sharpe)
HS2 Phase 2A – Kings Bromley Viaduct
IWA’s Petition on the HS2 Phase 2A (West Midlands – Crewe) Hybrid Bill, submitted on 26 February 2018 included the following request:
"The height of the route across the Trent and Bourne Brook valley, including the Kings Bromley viaduct, Bourne embankment and River Trent viaduct, should be reduced to the minimum necessary for the road and river crossings to limit noise propagation over a wide area which includes the canal, and to reduce visual impact and construction costs."
A similar request was made by both Staffordshire County Council and Lichfield District Council in their Petitions.
On 19 April HS2 Ltd published an evidence paper for the Select Committee on the River Trent & Kings Bromley Viaducts Lowering Alternative. This conceded that, with minor changes to the drainage channels on the viaducts, the heights of the viaducts could be reduced by up to 3.5m with landscape and visual benefits and a cost reduction of £3.3m.
On 23 April at the start of the Councils’ combined evidence to the Select Committee, their Counsel reported that:
“Sir, first the good news, and that relates to Kings Bromley viaduct. Sir, there have been ongoing discussions regarding the content of an assurance from HS2. HS2 provided a revised assurance last week and there have since been further discussions and HS2 have today, that is to say this afternoon, agreed to further revisions. They have agreed to the inclusion firstly of a good faith provision in the draft assurance, and also a provision as to engagement and, sir, on that basis, Staffordshire County Council and also Lichfield District, which is the relevant district, are content with that assurance and as such, sir, we don’t propose to address you upon it.” (Hansard)
Whilst the text of the Assurance is yet to be published, it is clear that the request has been agreed.
IWA welcomes this change which will enable us to concentrate our evidence to the committee on the other changes we have requested to improve noise mitigation for canal users at Fradley and Great Haywood.
The problem with the extensive amount of overgrown offside vegetation along the canals is an issue which is close to the heart of the boating fraternity amongst our members. Understandably the Canal & River Trust have a limited amount of resources in terms of manpower and equipment, and during the winter period most of these are deployed to deal with essential maintenance and repairs such as locks, bridges, dredging, culverts, etc.
So this year CRT, on a trial basis in three areas, had the idea of using volunteers to carry out this work, and our esteemed Volunteer Coordinator Margaret Beardsmore was keen for our branch (excuse the pun) of IWA to get involved. A group of our members were put through some basic training, namely a one-day course for using the wood chipper machine plus a 2 hour 'environmental awareness' course. There was the option to train for using a pole chain saw too, which a few opted for. The Canal & River Trust provided all the equipment as well as our PPE.
So one day in December, armed with an assortment of saws, pruners, clippers, etc. we set sail from Great Haywood Junction with the objective of reaching the southern outskirts of Rugeley by the end of March, which was the latest time we could work before the wildlife began their nest building.
Each work party consisted of one CRT member of staff and varied between three and six volunteers. Our IWA work party was doing Fridays, with the CRT volunteers (mainly volunteer lock keepers) on Tuesdays. The workboat had a large working area, and a cabin which contained a kettle, microwave, loo, washbasin, and even somewhere to sit down inside for taking rest breaks. Strapped to the front of the workboat was the short hopper boat containing the wood chipper.
The work was arduous at times and painstakingly slow, but very rewarding, and it soon became apparent that we might struggle to reach Rugeley within the timescale we had, not helped by the fact that we didn't begin the work until half way through winter. So we made the decision to concentrate on the really bad parts and particularly where they posed a problem for navigation such as the narrow sections, approaches to bridges, bends, and opposite moorings. Hopefully we can address the other parts next winter when we intend to commence the operation a couple of months earlier, and those additional two months should make such a difference.
By and large the weather was kind to us, although the so called 'Beast from the East’ prevented any work being done on that occasion. Despite those issues we did manage to achieve our objective and actually reached a little beyond Rugeley. The feedback from CRT about this experiment has been positive so hopefully in future it will be extended to cover other areas of the country too. Perhaps if more volunteers can be found they might be able to spare a member of staff to enable three days work a week instead of two and thus be able to achieve a more thorough job and possibly a greater distance.
If anyone reading this is interested in joining in next time, I can thoroughly recommend it. It was hard work at times but not too much for a group of 'sixty somethings', and the aches and pains at the end of the day merely added to our feelings of fulfilment.
We all thoroughly enjoyed it and especially the banter and camaraderie. So much so that we intend to get involved again in October when next winter's work begins. Hopefully some of you other members will join in too.
(Report by Neil Barnett, photos by Derek Beardsmore & Margaret Beardsmore)
IWA’s detailed national response to the Phase 2A (Fradley to Crewe) Environmental Statement consultation was submitted in September 2017 with the following summary:
Phase 2a Environmental Statement Response Summary
IWA considers that HS2 should review and change its whole approach to noise mitigation to comply with Government Policy, and to recognise all waterway users as receptors requiring noise protection at least equivalent to residential receptors, for all the reasons given above. Wherever possible, the visual impact of the railway on the waterways and their users should also be minimised. In particular, the following design changes should be made:
North of Fradley:
At Great Haywood:
Phase 2a Petition
The High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Hybrid Bill was given its second reading on 30th January, triggering a petitioning period to 26th February. With the retirement of Gren Messham, and as all the waterway impacts are in Lichfield Branch area, Trustees authorised Lichfield Branch Chairman Phil Sharpe to submit IWA’s Petition. This concentrates on the main outstanding issue affecting waterways users; the impact of noise where the railway crosses or runs close to waterways and the inadequacy of the noise mitigation measures proposed so far.
IWA’s petition in 2014 against the canal crossings at Woodend, Fradley led to the route of the Handsacre Link being altered as we had requested. Other issues raised in this petition, along with additional matters in IWA’s 2015 petition, were heard by the Commons Select Committee in 2016 and some of these were subsequently resolved. Two outstanding matters were then raised in IWA’s 2016 petition to the Lords Select Committee. The realignment of Wood End Lane is still not resolved but is subject to Assurances which may yet lead to a resolution, and the other issue is noise mitigation.
Most canal boats are used residentially for varying periods of time, both when moving and when moored, and on most sections of canal mooring is allowed for up to 14 days. Excessive noise from HS2 could render whole sections of canal ‘no-go’ areas for mooring and have a negative impact on the many users of the canal towpath. However, HS2 continues to regard all canal users as transient and not worthy of consideration for noise mitigation, except for a limited number of permanent residential moorings.
HS2 will provide noise mitigation measures, such as noise fencing and earth bunding, only for what they consider to be permanently occupied residential sites. Thus a marina or a popular mooring area along the canal which is used by a succession of boats, each being used residentially for varying periods, is dismissed on the grounds that it is not the same people all the time. This blinkered and inflexible definition of what constitutes a residential site is not reasonable and not acceptable.
IWA contends that occupied boats, whether on recognised residential moorings, on permanent moorings, or on visitor or casual moorings should all be treated as residential, and therefore similar to residential buildings for the purposes of noise mitigation. Providing adequate noise protection for all areas where boats may at present moor up in the vicinity of HS2 would automatically also provide protection for towpath users and help maintain public use and enjoyment of the waterways.
The additional cost of providing adequate protection would be small. On Phase 2A some noise fencing is proposed at and north of Fradley Junction and at Great Haywood, but it has not so far been designed to provide sufficient protection for canal users and needs to be extended and raised in height.
HS2 should recognise all canal boats as residential and all canals as residential locations, with the provision of appropriate noise mitigation at all canal interfaces in Phase 2A, and also in previous and future phases.
See the full text of IWA’s Petition on Phase 2a.