Representatives from Canal & River Trust and The Inland Waterways Association met with members of the House of Commons HS2 Select Committee this week. They visited the Lichfield and Trent & Mersey canals to see for themselves the changes sought to mitigate the impact of HS2 at these important waterway locations.
At Cappers Lane near Lichfield, the Committee met with IWA’s Gren Messham, members of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust and Lichfield Cruising Club. The group reported that progress to ensure HS2 didn’t prevent the canal’s restoration, and made up for loss of facilities at the Cruising Club, were slowly moving in the right direction.
At Fradley, members of the committee and local MP Michael Fabricant were briefed by Gren Messham and the Trust’s Peter Walker on the financial and environmental benefits of a proposed alternative alignment of the high speed rail route.
The current preferred route includes several canal crossing points between Fradley Junction and Wood End Lock, while proposed new embankments and crossings close to the listed Woodend Lock and Lock Cottage on the Trent & Mersey Canal would have a dramatically adverse impact on a particularly tranquil length of rural canal currently enjoyed by many boaters, walkers and cyclists.
The Trust and IWA have been working closely together since January 2012 to develop an alternative alignment for HS2’s Phase 1 route, avoiding the canal at Fradley. Their jointly- commissioned report by renowned engineering consultancy Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd sets out how an alternative alignment would: avoid the canal; reduce embankment heights, noise and visual intrusion and; potentially save the project millions of pounds. Representatives from HS2 Ltd, who were in attendance, confirmed that they were giving serious consideration to the proposals.
Peter Walker from the Canal & River Trust commented: “The visit by the Committee to Wood End Lock provided an opportunity for members to see for themselves the effect HS2 could have on the area around Wood End Lock and to see the benefits of our proposal to move the line away from the canal. We were encouraged by the response from the visiting MPs and from HS2 Ltd and will maintain our efforts to ensure that HS2 is designed and constructed in a way that protects, enhances and complements our historic canals and waterways.”
IWA Trustee Gren Messham added: “IWA’s petition, with those of the Canal & River Trust, Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust and Lichfield Cruising Club, have successfully highlighted the need to do more to protect these canals for waterway users everywhere to enjoy. We have today had the chance to show the Select Committee why this is so important, and explain the viable proposals we have jointly developed to mitigate these impacts. We look forward to HS2 Ltd evaluating these proposals in conjunction with the Canal & River Trust, and advising the Select Committee accordingly.”
As well as continuing direct engagement with HS2 Ltd and collaborating closely with IWA, the Trust has used the Parliamentary petition process to ask formally for the Bill to be amended to address its concerns and to maximise the regeneration opportunities at Fradley Junction and along the entire Phase 1 route.