24 July 2023

The HS2 (Crewe – Manchester) Bill Select Committee has published its First Special Report (19/7/2023).  It covers responses to individual petitioners, some traffic and design issues, and a major section on Ground Conditions in Cheshire.

IWA’s correspondence on the subsidence risk to HS2 and the Trent & Mersey Canal is referenced several times in the report, and in its conclusions the Committee requires HS2 to “provide us with responses to the questions asked by the Inland Waterways Association”.

IWA’s written evidence to the committee (Evidence on Route Selection & Subsidence Risk in Cheshire, 25/6/2023, published 11/7/2023) asked 9 questions about subsidence risk from the unstable ground in the Cheshire brine field, on matters that were not covered by or were insufficiently explained in response to other Petitioners’ evidence to the committee.  These cover the risks of HS2 construction reactivating historic areas of subsidence, and in particular where the route crosses the canal at Billinge Flash.

IWA’s questions challenge assumptions about earthworks, drainage, differential subsidence, and future repairs.  IWA also proposed a local route modification that would avoid the major subsidence hazard around Billinge Flash, removing two of the three viaduct crossings of the canal between Middlewich and Broken Cross.  This would also provide significant cost savings and greatly reduce the visual and noise impacts of both construction and operation on the heritage, wildlife and recreational corridor of the Trent & Mersey Canal and its users.  The final question asks that HS2 fully investigate and consider the benefits of this proposed route modification.

IWA awaits with interest the response from HS2 Ltd. to the critical questions and the constructive alternative route proposal, and to the Select Committee’s further deliberations when this and more information on ground investigations is published.

[The photo shows Billinge Green Flash – by ‘Captain Wolf’]