We have formally submitted a petition to the House of Commons in respect of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill to seek the protection and enhancement of the waterways along the proposed Phase 1 route.
HS2 will require the construction of some significant engineering structures over and beside our historic waterways. While we do not oppose its construction in principle, it has been working closely with HS2 Ltd, the Inland Waterways Association, restoration societies and local stakeholders to mitigate any negative impacts and to maximise the opportunities presented by HS2 for regeneration.
Discussions with HS2 Ltd and other stakeholders will continue but we have used the petition process, an agreed Parliamentary procedure, to ask formally for the Bill to be amended to address its concerns and to maximise the regeneration opportunities.
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. We are also seeking provision for the safeguarding of our 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.
We have also highlighted three areas of particular concern.
The proposed HS2 route crosses the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction in four places in close proximity and at different levels. Embankments and crossings are in close proximity to the listed Woodend Lock and Lock Cottage. This will have a dramatically adverse impact upon a particularly tranquil and much loved length of a rural canal currently enjoyed by high numbers of visitors by boat and on the towpath. Based on an independent study commissioned jointly by The Trust and the Inland Waterways Association, we are seeking adoption of an alternative HS2 alignment which we believe is technically feasible. Furthermore, it removes the need to cross over the waterway network at numerous points and provides potential costs savings of at least £50 million.
Working in partnership with Birmingham City Council and other local stakeholders, we are petitioning to ensure that the plans for Curzon Street Station are designed to optimise wider regeneration opportunities through the creation of a new canal quarter in Eastside and Digbeth. The canal has the potential to help transform this part of Birmingham and create better and more attractive pedestrian and cycle connections with the rest of the city, as well as being an important historic and cultural space and a vital waterway link from the south.
In the Scrubs Lane area on the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, we are seeking commitment that the construction and operation of HS2 will not have an adverse impact on the structural stability of a vital retaining wall. Although this wall is not owned by us, it provides support to the canal.
Richard Parry, Chief Executive, Canal & River Trust said: “Britain’s canals are enjoyed by over 12 million visitors every year. The Canal & River Trust is working closely with its partners and many supporters to ensure that any negative impact caused by HS2 on the waterways, including those earmarked for restoration, is minimised. At the same time, we are actively supporting the visionary plans in Birmingham to ensure HS2 unlocks the potential for regeneration and a new canal quarter in the city. The submission of our petition on the HS2 bill is an important milestone in these endeavours. We remain open to working collaboratively with HS2 Ltd but are determined to protect our nation’s canal heritage and much-loved waterway environments.”