IWA continues to engage with any new public consultations and parliamentary petitioning opportunities to help protect the waterways and their users from undue impacts of HS2.
For the extensive work already underway on Phase 1, London to Birmingham and to Fradley/Handsacre we rely on local Branches and members to monitor construction issues affecting their waterways. You can contact us for advice, and any specific problems can be reported direct to the HS2 helpline: HS2enquiries@hs2.org.uk Freephone: 08081 434 434 . Please copy your comments and HS2’s responses to IWA then we can monitor the bigger picture. Contact HS2@waterways.org.uk
PHASE 1 (London to Fradley)
Phase 1 between London, Birmingham and Fradley is under active construction with tunnels, major viaducts, and road crossings being followed by large scale earth moving for cuttings and embankments. The engineering works are said now to be 40% complete, with the first services due to run between London and Birmingham “by the early 2030s”.
In the London area, work is underway on most of the tunnels and several of the viaducts.
The route passes below the Regents Canal and the Paddington Arm in tunnels at depths of 12 to 30 metres. More visible works by the contractor SCS are two temporary bridges over the canal near Willesden Euro Terminal site, one a conveyer bridge for spoil, the other for transporting tunnel segments.
Grand Union Canal
The route emerges from tunnel to cross the Colne Valley on the very long but attractively designed Colne Valley Viaduct with arched spans over the Grand Union Canal and adjoining lakes. The piers are under construction and the deck is being attached by a huge launching girder. The canal crossing is timetabled for January to March 2024 with daytime closures requested. There have been no complaints to CRT so far from this construction work by the contractor ALIGN, although concerns remain about the long-term noise impacts of the operational railway, here as at other canal crossings.
Further north, an unresolved concern is potential effects of a deep cutting on the springs feeding the Wendover Arm and Wilstone Reservoir. Modelling of the aquifer has been completed and the results are with the Environment Agency for scrutiny but are not yet published. Meanwhile, the HS2 Chiltern AONB Panel has awarded £300k to the Wendover Canal Trust for work to upgrade the towpath.
The section of route being constructed by the contractor EKFB includes culverting part of the Boddington Feeder to the Oxford Canal. The Oxford Canal Viaduct crosses the summit section by Willison’s Bridge 128 near Wormleighton where a temporary haul road bridge has been built. The canal wall under the viaduct will have sheet piles with a concrete capping. After a public consultation, the viaduct piers and offside abutment wall will have masonry cladding, rather than a concrete finish, although the nearest canal bridges are brick. IWA’s main concern remains the operational noise impact from trains on this currently tranquil and remote part of the canal, both at the viaduct and where the route skirts a loop in the canal near Bridge 127.
In Warwickshire, Staffordshire, and Birmingham the contractor is BBV and IWA has attended several of their liaison meetings with CRT to discuss the designs of various canal crossings and help minimise construction impacts.
Grand Union Canal
The Longhole Viaduct over the Grand Union Canal, close to Longhole Bridge 31 near Welsh Road, will be a full span crossing with piers set back from the canal. The main span will be launched (pushed in) to minimise the canal closure. Construction is due later this year. The temporary conveyer bridge over the canal for moving spoil from the nearby tunnel is due to be removed in May in an overnight stoppage. CRT received payment for the conveyer crossing as it saved many lorry journeys for the contractor.
Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal viaduct crossing at Curdworth, below Lock 5, is adjacent to the M42 box bridge which has already been installed. The first offside pier coffer dam started with piling in April, to be followed by the towpath side pier with 40 metres deep piling, requiring a short towpath closure and diversion. The deck beams will be lifted in with a giant crane on the north side, then pre-cast units set between the beams, with each lift requiring locally controlled short canal closure. When complete the viaduct will be used as a temporary haul road for construction of the adjacent embankment. The canal stoppage details over the next 2 years are yet to be confirmed.
The Cappers Lane Viaduct crossing of the Lichfield Canal near Huddlesford will include a canal diversion to maintain headroom, as agreed after earlier campaigning by IWA and Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust. The new channel is to have a concrete invert and walls, with design details of the interface with the existing channel ongoing. The design of the replacement Cappers Lane road bridge is now agreed to have brick-faced wing walls with a concrete string course, patterned concrete abutments, and open style parapets. The bridge construction is imminent, but there is no firm timetable yet for the canal channel or the viaduct. The displaced boats of Lichfield Cruising Club have now moved into their completed new basin, which was funded by HS2, after many years campaigning by LCC and IWA.
Trent & Mersey Canal
There has been extensive clearance work around Wood End Lock above Fradley Junction for construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal Viaduct, and for the Handsacre Link which will now just miss the canal following IWA’s earlier campaigning. But there has been no update on the final design of the viaduct recently. A temporary canal bridge will be needed above Shade House Lock to construct the short stub of embankment north of the viaduct if this is built as part of Phase 1 as originally planned (although logically it would be done as part of Phase 2a).
Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal
The design of the Saltley Viaduct in Birmingham across the Grand Union Canal below Garrison Locks has a wet abutment, and the site is tightly constrained. However, the proposal to close and locally infill the canal to aid the preferred method of construction is not accepted by CRT which wants a narrow channel maintained for boats and water supply. The construction timing is currently uncertain. There is also a highway bridge crossing but with its piers set back from the canal this is less of a problem.
Digbeth Branch Canal
Also in Birmingham, construction of the Curzon Street Viaduct across the Digbeth Branch by Lock 6 is scheduled for winter 2023/24, possibly using night-time closures. CRT want to avoid a simultaneous closure with the Saltley Viaduct works.
PHASE 2a (Fradley to Crewe)
Between Fradley and Crewe, early Environmental Works (trees, ponds, bat houses, etc) and some other enabling works are underway and statutory notices have been served on landowners, including CRT, but matters have been otherwise quiet. The main concern with Phase 2a is construction of the Great Haywood Viaduct and subsequent operational noise impacts on the marina and Trent & Mersey Canal. On 9 March the Government announced a 2-year delay to construction of Phase 2a. The design contract was due to be let about now, followed by a main works contract later this year, but the timescale for these is now unclear.
Meanwhile, several towpath improvement projects funded by HS2 are proceeding as planned.
Trent & Mersey Canal
Towpath work between Shade House Lock above Fradley Junction and the A515 Kings Bromley Road Bridge has now started. It is being funded by HS2’s Road Safety Fund through Staffordshire County Council and being carried out by their contractors Amey. The 3km length includes some bank protection and is expected to take 6 months. There will be towpath closures and, with access at Woodend Lock being currently closed by HS2, there are no intermediate access points so it may be closed throughout. However, CRT are conscious of how well used is this section, particularly over the summer and at weekends, so have asked that closures be limited as much as possible in length and to their working days of Monday to Friday. This section of towpath is unusually wide so people may be able to pass behind the sections being worked on.
In addition, funding has apparently been allocated by the Department for Transport for a new footbridge over the canal between Shade House and Wood End to connect the towpath with an offside footpath. This would presumably be separate from the HS2 viaduct. The canal is quite wide here so it would be a major structure but as yet there is no design. It would seem easier and less expensive to simply reinstate public access to the tail bridge at Wood End Lock which is currently closed by the HS2 works.
Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
Towpath resurfacing from Great Haywood to Milford is being funded by HS2 through the Trent-Sow HS2 Group (on which IWA is represented) and is due to start in April. The 3.75km length is expected to take 5 months. CRT have requested further funding from the Department for Transport to continue this from Milford to Baswich and the A34. They are also making funding bids to HS2’s Community & Environment Fund for work on the Junction Bridge and toll office at Great Haywood, and to their Biodiversity Fund for work on hedges, reedbeds etc. on both the S&W Canal and T&M Canal.
PHASE 2b West (Crewe to Manchester)
CRT are negotiating a ‘Side Agreement’ to the current Bill, based on their Phase 1 agreement with some improvements for clarity and protection, which may avoid the need for a Select Committee petition hearing. The hearings have started but there has been no contact from the Committee or HS2 about a hearing date. Previously, CRT with route-wide interests has been timetabled nearly last, and IWA has been grouped with them. IWA’s main petition is on noise mitigation at the canal crossings, one issue that CRT has not significantly addressed. CRT’s main outstanding concerns are the viaduct crossings. Two more Additional Provisions are expected although their scope is not known and the impact on the timing of the Hearings is uncertain.
Middlewich Branch Canal
The three Shropshire Union Canal Viaducts carry additional tracks into the Crewe North Rolling Stock Depot, crossing the canal between Bridges 25 and 26 on the Middlewich Branch. In place of the visual impact of 3 adjacent viaducts with different alignments and heights, a single covered tunnel had been considered (illustrated in Canal Boat magazine in 2019) but CRT are currently reconsidering the design. There will also be a new road bridge carrying the realigned Clive Green Lane, and IWA’s Additional Provision petition asks for changes to a towpath access cycle ramp.
Trent & Mersey Canal
There are three crossings of the Trent & Mersey Canal, by the River Dane Viaduct near Bridge 177, Puddinglake Brook Viaduct between bridges 179 and 190A, and the Trent & Mersey Canal Viaduct at Billinge Flash near Whatcroft. This flash is the most notable area on the whole route of former high subsidence due to historic brine pumping. CRT are asking for longer viaducts with more spans to better maintain the open views.
An information paper published on 3 March on “Understanding the Ground Risk across the Cheshire Plain” seeks to retrospectively justify HS2’s choice of route across the subsidence prone salt field. It identifies the two areas most at risk from ground movement as Billinge Flash and around Clive Green Lane, which may also affect the new road crossing of the canal there. It recommends the viaducts use bored piles with jacking points but does not address the transition between viaducts and embankments.
PHASE 2b East
The 2021 Integrated Rail Plan cut back the plans for the Eastern Leg of HS2 to terminate at East Midlands Parkway, near the River Soar, with the route north through Toton to Leeds being dropped. Although no longer allocated any funding or timescale, it has not been entirely abandoned and the route safeguarding directions remain in place. A new study of how to take HS2 into Leeds was promised but has not yet started. Neither is there any timetable for a further Bill for the remaining section of HS2 East, nor any sign of the amended plans needed to connect this with East Midlands Parkway.
This unsatisfactory state of affairs leaves both the Chesterfield Canal and the Ashby Canal restorations in limbo. The Chesterfield Canal at Staveley is having to make provision for a rail bridge crossing that may never be built. The housing development at Measham that would fund restoration of a section of the Ashby Canal is on hold pending a decision on an alternative route which was promised in 2018.
Northern Powerhouse Rail High Speed Lines
The Integrated Rail Plan also included plans for two new sections of high speed lines as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans for a Transpennine route upgrade: from Warrington to a junction with HS2 West and from Manchester to Marsden. However, without any detailed route plans having been published their impacts on waterways are uncertain, and with no funding allocated or firm timescales, these plans seem to be just aspirational.
Consultation and Reporting
HS2: email: HS2enquiries@hs2.org.uk Freephone: 08081 434 434
IWA: email: HS2@waterways.org.uk