The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, yesterday (1 October 2014) announced that the Government is adopting Canal & River Trust and Inland Waterways Association proposals to re-align the route of HS2.
The new route avoids much of the popular and historic Fradley Junction to Woodend area of the Trent & Mersey Canal, and the need for a large worksite alongside the Coventry Canal between Streethay and Huddlesford. Assurances have also been given that HS2 will ensure that restoration of the Lichfield Canal can continue.
Since publication of the original route - which included several canal crossing points in the area around Fradley Junction in Staffordshire - the Canal & River Trust and IWA have been working closely together, commissioning renowned engineering consultancy Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd to develop an alternative alignment of the route. Hyder’s report set out a feasible and preferable alternative alignment largely avoiding the canal, substantially reducing embankment heights, noise and visual intrusion, and potentially saving the project millions of pounds.
The Government’s decision to move the line away from the canal is welcome news for the waterways, for visitors and for the local economy. It represents a growing recognition of the waterways’ unique environment and heritage, and the important role they play as antidotes to the stresses and pressures of modern life.
Richard Parry, Chief Executive, Canal & River Trust said: “The Government’s decision to move the alignment of part of the HS2 route away from the canal at Fradley Junction is fantastic news for boaters, current and future visitors to this much loved rural canal, and for all the 12 million people who come to enjoy our waterways every year. We have worked tirelessly with the IWA and local groups to achieve this change and we applaud the Minister for listening to our powerful arguments; it is absolutely the right decision.”
Les Etheridge, National Chairman, IWA said: “IWA has been campaigning for several years for a better deal from HS2 on waterways especially at Fradley. It’s great that our pragmatic approach has been taken on board, saving this iconic location and providing assurances, which we need to see detailed, to protect the important Lichfield Canal restoration.”
Whilst the change of route at Fradley junction is a major achievement, the Trust and the IWA will maintain their efforts to mitigate other negative impacts of, and maximise the regeneration opportunities presented by, HS2 along the entire route. As well as continuing direct engagement with HS2 Ltd and other stakeholders, both organisations have used the petition process, an agreed Parliamentary procedure, to ask formally for the Bill to be amended.
Assurances are being sought on the design quality of any waterway crossings and on the use of landscape planting to mitigate the visual impact, while supporting the local landscape character and promoting biodiversity. Provision for the safeguarding of heritage assets, protection from noise pollution and vibrations, and commitment that the role of the waterways in flood defence will not be compromised by HS2 are also being sought. We will continue our joint campaign to achieve the best possible outcome for our historic canals and the communities whose lives they enrich.