16 October 2023

Cancellation of HS2 Phases 2a, 2b and HS2 East will avoid major noise impacts on waterway users at numerous locations and remove the blight on several canal restoration projects.

Phase 2a (Fradley to Crewe) was authorised in 2021 and early environmental work has been undertaken.  Its cancellation and removal of its safeguarding “in weeks” will remove the threat of major disruption and noise to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood Marina with its semi-residential boaters.

Phase 2b West (Crewe-Manchester) is currently before Parliament.  Its cancellation and removal of its safeguarding “by summer next year” will remove the threats of disruption and noise at the Middlewich Branch Canal crossings and to the on-line moorings at Park Farm Stanthorne, and also at the three proposed Trent & Mersey Canal viaduct crossings and to residential boats at Oakwood Marina, along with the threat of possible subsidence of the canal around Billinge Flash.

It is not yet clear if the current Crewe–Manchester Bill and its Select Committee hearings will be dropped or if the Manchester section, which doubles up as part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ route, may be retained pending a decision on a modified Network North scheme.  

Either way, IWA is unlikely now to be called to put our case for better noise protection for canals to the Select Committee, or to receive the promised response to our questions about ground stability in Cheshire.

The HS2 East (Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway) plans had not been updated since abandonment of the East Midlands to Leeds part of Phase 2b East in the 2021 Integrated Rail Plan.  Its cancellation and removal of the safeguarding on Phase 2b “by summer next year” (which presumably includes HS2 East) will enable the Ashby Canal restoration at Measham to proceed as part of the stalled Measham Waterside housing development.  It also removes a crossing of the Coventry Canal at Polesworth.

Confirmation that the East Midlands to Leeds route has been abandoned, and removal of the safeguarding on that section, simplifies the Chesterfield Canal restoration at Staveley, which will no longer need a deepened lock, or an extra lock, on the section to be restored at Staveley under the Towns Fund.  This also finally confirms avoidance of crossings of the River Soar at Kegworth, Cranfleet Cut on the River Trent, the Erewash Canal, Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, and Aire & Calder Navigation.

Phase 1, which is under active construction, will be completed, although with a smaller station at Euston.  It will include the currently partly delayed section beyond Coleshill to Fradley and the Handsacre Link where it will join the West Coast Mainline.  So the works affecting the Lichfield Canal restoration have not changed, with construction of the replacement Cappers Lane canal bridge and the canal diversion under Cappers Lane Viaduct expected to continue, although the timescale is uncertain.  But the Trent & Mersey Canal bridge at Fradley and the grade separated junction at Streethay are clearly no longer needed.

IWA has sought to engage constructively with HS2 for more than a decade and has achieved various improvements to their plans, most notably saving the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley Wood End from devastation by three unnecessary viaduct crossings. 

However, HS2 has never properly recognised the major noise impacts on canal users, and particularly on the residential use of boats, and the noise mitigation measures at many of the canal interfaces were therefore inadequate.  Whilst construction and operational noise will still affect the Grand Union, Oxford and BCN canals many others will now be spared, and the two canal restoration projects can now proceed unhindered by uncertainty.