IWA has responded to a Call for Evidence by the National Infrastructure Commission for a Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North. This consultation is part of a review of HS2 ordered by the Government to inform an Integrated Rail Plan which they expect to publish by the end of the year.
Although construction of Phase 1 of HS2 from London to Birmingham and Fradley has been authorised, and its continuation to Crewe in Phase 2a is proceeding through Parliament, the future of the remainder of HS2 is under review.
The proposals for Phase 2b include an eastern leg from Birmingham to Leeds which has blighted the restorations of the Ashby Canal and the Chesterfield Canal for many years, as well as threatening noise and environmental damage to the Coventry Canal, Erewash Canal, the Aire & Calder Navigation and other waterways. The western leg from Crewe to Manchester would have major landscape, noise and heritage impacts on the Trent & Mersey Canal and Middlewich Branch. Our submission includes the responses we made to the Phase 2b Working Draft Environmental Statement in December 2018 and the Design Refinement consultation in September 2019, as the threats to the waterways we detailed there remain unanswered.
The aim of the review is to redesign Phase 2b to better integrate with wider rail improvement plans for the North and Midlands, proposed by Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub. Chief among these is a new or improved trans-Pennine railway between Manchester and Leeds and Sheffield, as the central section of a high speed network from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle, dubbed HS3 or High Speed North.
The consultation offered an opportunity for IWA to review the chequered history of HS2 and its many well documented design flaws and management failings. For Phase 2b these include:
- poor integration with the existing rail system;
- no provision for integration with the trans-Pennine improvements or connections to Scotland, with south facing terminal stations in Leeds and Manchester;
- an eastern leg station at Toton inconvenient for both Derby and Nottingham, and a route that bypasses Sheffield and requires extensive motorway diversions;
- a western leg that goes through the Cheshire salt field with severe subsidence dangers still not yet investigated;
…and much more.
We conclude that the way forward is to start with determining the trans-Pennine route which will connect Leeds to HS2 via Manchester, with the continuation to Crewe being rerouted. Reasons are also advanced for scrapping the eastern leg in favour of upgrading existing railway lines to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. This would reduce impacts on the Trent & Mersey Canal and remove them altogether from the Coventry, Ashby, Soar, Trent, Erewash, Nottingham, Chesterfield, Sheffield & South Yorkshire and Aire & Calder waterways.