HS2 Phase 2A Deposition of Bill and Confirmation of Preferred Route for Phase 2B

High Speed Rail Phase 2A (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill

On 17th July 2017 Chris Grayling, Tansport Secretary, introduced the Phase 2a High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill to the House of Commons.  The Bill seeks the powers to construct HS2 from the West Midlands to just south of Crewe which is planned to open in 2027.
The route set out in the Bill includes the outcomes of the 3 refinements consulted on last year. IWA responded to the consultation, and our preferences generally aligned with those Chris Grayling has chosen.

The Minister said he had decided to move the connection to the West Coast Main Line and the start of a tunnel in Crewe further south.  IWA’s view was that ‘the proposed scheme appears to minimise the issues identified with the November 2015 scheme as far as is reasonably practicableIWA is supportive of this change. The reduction in height, visual intrusion and noise nuisance from the HS2 rail route is welcome. Removing the uncertainty of impact on the south of Crewe is also beneficial. However, adopting this refinement must still mean no active provision of a rail head at Crewe if the tunnel is not completed until 2027.’

Chris Grayling also decided to move the construction railhead, and subsequently the infrastructure maintenance facility for this part of HS2, from the Basford area near Crewe to a location near Stone.   IWA’s view was that ‘the proposed site for railhead near Stone has no direct adverse impact on any inland waterways. The site does appear well placed, in the centre of the Phase 2A route and therefore able to feed rail systems both south and north, addressing this drawback of the Crewe location.  The location is also well connected to existing rail routes, and adjacent to the M6 motorway, although that highway is already very busy and subject to delays at peak times. The M6 is also capable of carrying additional traffic with low impact on other users or the local area. The site is also out of Stone itself, on an area of land relatively less visible from Stone and therefore less likely to create major nuisance.  Converting the railhead to an Infrastructure Maintenance Depot (IMD) seems a useful way of minimising cost of restoration, and making good use of a well-connected site longer term. Suitable precautions must be taken to ensure the site’s 24 hour operation is shielded as far as possible from Stone by control of lighting, traffic, noise and visual nuisance notwithstanding the current noise from the motorway. Early advanced screening may be useful here, since this could provide well matured screens by the time an IMD could be operating.
IWA is therefore supportive of the railhead and future IMD at Stone. We also support the suggested move of the Maintenance Loops from Pipe Ridware to the same site as the proposed Construction Depot by the M6 near Stone.  This reduces unnecessary cost and duplication of facilities, and should facilitate lowering the height of the viaducts and embankments again, from Fradley past Kings Bromley to Pipe Ridware to just what is necessary to bridge over the 2 main roads, reducing their adverse environmental impacts.  It would also save HS2 considerable construction costs, and make it easier to provide bridges for Common Lane and Shaw Lane which are currently shown as closed off without any current justification.’

In Crewe itself, the Secretary of State stated the HS2 business case has always included 2 trains per hour stopping at Crewe. Today, I am therefore launching a consultation on options to develop a Crewe Hub. This work shows how such a service pattern could support an HS2 service to Stoke-on-Trent and bring benefits to places like Chester, north and south Wales, Shrewsbury and Derby. Future decisions will be subject to affordability and value for money.
He also announced the start of consultations on the Phase 2A Environmental Statement, which IWA will respond to and which closes on 30 September 2017. That will provide the opportunity to comment on the environmental effects of the proposed Phase 2a scheme. 

High Speed Rail Phase 2B (Manchester and Leeds) Confirmation of Preferred Route

Chris Grayling also announced his decision on the outstanding sections of the Phase 2b route to Manchester and Leeds, which IWA responded to a consultation on in 2016 (in addition to the one IWA responded to in 2013....). The Secretary of State confirmed the following changes to the route.
The western leg rolling stock depot will move from a site near Golborne to a site north of Crewe. That site will be included in the full environmental assessment being undertaken for the whole route.

IWA's View on the Positives

  • Lower impact on the Bridgewater Canal as a result of removal of the northern chord – although there remains the possibility it would be built to meet Transport for the North requirements at some point.
  • Lower impact on the Leeds and Liverpool from the Golborne RSD operation and access

IWA's View on the Negatives

  • Increased visual and noise impact on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal from wider access tracks at the canal crossing, creating a tunnel effect from 3 bridge crossings within a short distance along the canal.
  • Increased impact on the Trent and Mersey Canal from the visual nuisance of the RSD connections over the main line.

IWA Potential Mitigation

If HS2 continues with these proposals, the following mitigation is needed:

  • Split the 3 crossings of the Middlewich Branch to allow light in to break up the coverage of the canal.
  • Noise barriers and fences, to meet residential standards as in NPSE 2010 to protect the occupants of boats moored in the vicinity of the crossing, and the area of the RSD.

IWA has also read reports that the ground proposed for the RSD will require significant engineering and likely cost increases to address the underground cavities from salt and brine abstraction, as well as potentially preventing future salt extraction and impacting gas storage plans.  Impact at Golborne will continue from the high connections to the WCML, will increase at the Middlewich Canal crossing and appear on the Trent and Mersey as a result of visual intrusion from the connections to the RSD.
IWA also notes that despite the 2013 responses mentioned in the Design refinement Report, Lightshaw Hall, Byrom Hall and Abram Flashes will remain equally impacted by the WCML connections even after the RSD has been moved.
On balance, IWA does not support the proposal to move the RSD from Golborne to north of Crewe.

Concerns about impacts on the Trent & Mersey Canal

A 26 km section of the route in the Middlewich and Pickmere area of Cheshire will change and be raised as it passes through the Cheshire salt plains, to avoid brining and gas storage infrastructure.

The proposed changes have an increased impact on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
As the main line continues north it approaches the River Dane and Trent and Mersey Canal (T&M) crossing both east-north-east of Bostock Hall. The viaduct over the Dane and canal is around 20m high over the flood plain, and 14m at the first canal crossing. At the second crossing 1.4km further north the route crosses the T&M alongside the Puddinglane Brook around 13m high, and 0.5km further on 15m above the T&M for its last crossing- which is shown as an embankment in error but will require a viaduct.

  • The embankment across the Dane floodplain is an enormous height, at times 20m or more which will severely affect the context of the Trent and Mersey Canal and its Conservation Area. This is apparently to avoid subsidence due to salt and gas storage infrastructure.

The three crossings of the canal are created by an alignment which is claimed to ‘avoid brining and gas storage infrastructure and to minimise the risk of subsidence due to underlying geological conditions’. However a primary reason appears to be the need for track connections with the moved RSD, prior to commencing a curve.
Engineering reports commissioned by other objectors have highlighted that the proposed route is much more expensive than the 2013 alignment. A sum of £250m more than the 2013 alignment, which is itself claimed to cost £500m more than HS2 have allowed, is suggested.
In addition, this engineering report refers to the need for the Billinge Flash Viaduct: ‘the HS2 plans do not indicate the requirement for a 15.2 m high viaduct at Billinge Flash over the Northwich to Middlewich railway line, the canal and the flash itself. This viaduct will be located in an area of a known subsidence feature which created the flash and damaged the [existing] railway line and canal infrastructure.
The engineering benefit of constructing very high embankments and viaducts over ground of questionable stability appears dubious. In addition to the increased weight placed on the ground, which could reactivate historic subsidence, and the difficulties of consolidating the embankment structure sufficiently to take high speed rail, the increased height needlessly increases noise and visual intrusion in the landscape. This is contrary to HS2’s criteria for general design to minimise environmental impact.

IWA objects to the proposed route, which unnecessarily impacts the Trent & Mersey Canal with its three crossings and high embankments. IWA wants to see a reappraisal of the route in this area, which appears to have unaccounted for engineering risks and costs, and may not have yet identified the lowest risk and impact route. It has all the signs of being done in a rush, and requires more thought and investigation before identifying a lower cost, lower risk ‘corridor’.

Concerns about the approach to Manchester Piccadilly Station

The approach to Manchester Piccadilly station will be adjusted to improve operational efficiency and reduce impacts on residential areas and a primary school.
IWA supports the ‘smoother’ route into the new station in Manchester, which avoids the flood plain and reduces the impact on residents in the centre of the city.
IWA continues to highlight the need for excellent station design and integration with the existing station and other transport and facilities in Manchester city centre.
The route near East Midlands airport will now closely follow the eastern side of the A42. This avoids tunnelling under the airport and reduces the impacts on some communities. At Long Eaton, after much consultation with the local community, the route will pass through the town on a high viaduct.
IWA did not offer a view on this proposal, as there was no waterways impact.

The route in South Yorkshire

The route in South Yorkshire has been confirmed as the route consulted on in 2016, which in part follows the M1 and M18, and serves Sheffield city centre via a spur from the HS2 line. HS2 Ltd are also to take forward the provision of a northern junction back on to HS2, giving a city centre to city centre connection between Leeds and Sheffield in less than 30 minutes, and continue to work on a possible parkway station.

IWA supports the route proposal, which avoids most damage to the route of the Chesterfield and other canals. However further improvements are needed to the connection to the IMD at Staveley, and the crossing of the restoration route to the west of Norwood Tunnel, to allow this important and well supported restoration to progress. Chesterfield Canal Trust have confirmed that, despite much work on HS2 Ltd to correct their inaccurate and mistaken plans and proposals, they have continued without correcting the inadequacies.  This is a cause for great concern, and suggests undue and damaging haste rather than the care and caution needed for such a project.

Concerns East of Measham

Finally, the Secretary of State has decided not to proceed with the proposed change of route to the east of Measham. Instead, I am confirming a modified version of the 2013 preferred route to the west of Measham. In Measham itself, the route is moved approximately 80 metres and the viaduct extended to mitigate commercial property impacts.

Our 2016 response said ’The restored Ashby Canal will add a valuable recreational and tourism feature to the centre of Measham, now the blight on development including lengths of canal has been removed. There appear to be options around moving the canal route into Measham from its TWA O defined route to one which can be provided with navigable headroom, which need to be explored to find the best solution to accommodate local residents’ needs, the restoration of the canal, and a route for HS2.’

Regrettably the Secretary of State has not removed the blight on development in Measham, but apparently reconfirmed it. Until the details (if any are provided) of the alternatives have been worked through, it is not possible to see what alternative route may be available for the Ashby Canal restoration.

The Secretary of State also confirmed the ‘high level route’ into Long Eaton, effectively splitting the town in two as HS2 goes overhead on a viaduct spreading noise and visual intrusion over the whole area, including the Erewash Canal and the lock near the site of the East Midlands Hub station. The M1 motorway will also be diverted to allow the rail route to pass alongside.
The Secretary of State also announced he had ‘heard the concerns raised by local communities about the proposed eastern leg rolling stock depot at Crofton. HS2 Ltd believes it has found a better option, on which I am now consulting, which is east of Leeds in the Aire valley, adjacent to the M1 on a brownfield site.’  At the moment the details of this are not apparent.
He confirmed he intended to bring forward a third hybrid Bill for phase 2b in 2019.

What Next?

IWA will now go right down into the plans and proposals as far as they can be ascertained and look for the impact on inland waterways existing and to be restored, to aim to protect as much as possible, and obtain mitigation for what cannot be protected.