IWA: Concerns Over Impact of HS2 Rail Programme on Canal Network

Issue Date: 28 April 2011

Earlier in 2011 the Government announced the preferred route of HS2 and this currently forms the basis of a public consultation that closes on 29th July 2011. On in its route from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street/Handsacre (where it joins the present West Coast Main Line) it crosses the canal network 12 times, only one of these being a crossing of a restoration project (see point 8).  Of these four of these crossings fall within IWA London Region and the remainder within IWA West Midlands Region.

From London these crossings are located at (the map reference being that used in the consultation document): -

1.    Map 1 – Regents Canal in a tunnel just west of the present West Coast Main Line Bridge over the canal

2.    Map 2 – GU Paddington Arm in a tunnel that runs roughly 200 yards under, or partly under, the canal either side of Mitre Bridge 6 just west of Kensal Green

3.    Map 3 – GU Paddington Arm between bridges 15 and 16 in Northolt

4.    Map 5 – GU by viaduct at Denton Gravel Pits between bridges 180 and 181

5.    Map 19 – Oxford Canal between Stoneton Bridge 127 and Wilson’s bridge 128 at Wormleighton (on the famous winding section)

6.    Map 21 – GU by viaduct over the canal and flood plain immediately south of Longhole Bridge 31

7.    Map 27 – Birmingham and Fazeley Canal by viaduct that also crosses the adjacent M42 between Marston Lane Bridge and White Bridge (immediately north of lock 5).  The west end of the viaduct abuts a high embankment that foots the offside bank of the canal.

8.    Map 29 – Wyrley & Essington (Lichfield Canal) by a viaduct immediately above the recently built Cappers Bridge over the, to be restored, canal. The viaduct also crosses the adjacent flood plan and the plan shows a clearance above ground level at this point (i.e. excluding Cappers Bridge) of 12 mtrs, one assumes this to be rail height and not the bottom of the supporting structure.  Unlike all the other crossings above there is no mention of a canal being crossed.

9.    Map 30 –Trent and Mersey Canal twice either side of Wood Lock 20/Bridge 53.  A member has already voiced an opinion in regards to the need for two crossings however it is apparent from the plans that these are probably needed to provide the required curvature to enable high speed running because the line needs to curve to join the existing line at Hansacre.

10.    Map 33 (i) – GU Birmingham and Warwick Junction immediately north of bridge 108, possibly using an existing railway structure or an extension to it.

11.    Map 33 (ii) – BCN Digbeth Branch by Viaduct over Ashted Bottom Lock

Whilst clearly it is not within IWA remit to object to the scheme we do need to consider where the construction or tunnelling work might affect the availability of the waterway network and thus the interests of our members, corporate or otherwise.  Ideally the project should build in methods that will enable the construction works to take place without closing the canal or alternatively minimum disruption during the winter stoppage season with the Christmas/New Year window built in.  However recent history, when the West Coast Main Line was widened earlier this century, has seen several canals closed for excessive periods that ran well into the main cruising season.

Given that the works will probably take place at the same time, maybe using several different contractors, and the desire to carry them out as cheaply as possible it seems highly likely that, if there was no provision built in to prevent or minimise canal closures, the system could be segmented in numerous places all at the same time effectively closing a large portion of the most heavily used part of the network thereby putting at risk those businesses who depend upon the canal for their main source of income as well as inconveniencing the traditional boater.  Nearer the time, and mindful of what agreements may then be in place and the risk of overruns, Inland Waterways Festivals may need to consider where it will hold its festivals before, during and after the construction phase.

In addition there are concerns that the crossing of the Lichfield Canal/Cappers Bridge may not be high enough to prevent the newly built bridge having to be demolished and the consequential affect on the canal.  IWA understands that the canals trust is presently looking into this.

IWA has asked BW the following regarding the issues under the current control of BW and likely to be NWC concerns

1.    What is being done to guarantee that the line will not make or render any navigations referred to above un-navigable owing to reduced headroom?

2.    What can be done to ensure that  there will be no closures to the network , or how will these be managed to minimise disruption to users during construction?