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The charity making life better by water

The HS2 rail network and our waterways

Britain’s canals and rivers are experiencing a new renaissance, thanks to significant public and private investment and the effort of countless volunteers. However, the proposed route of the High Speed Rail Network (HS2) will change the waterway landscape forever, affecting 17 canals, three river navigations and four waterways planned for restoration. It poses a real threat to the future use and enjoyment of the waterways.

With our responsibility as the guardian and champion of the waterways comes the duty to rigorously and robustly protect and promote their interests. In that capacity, we have responded to the Government's consultations on Phases 1, 2a and 2b of its plans to develop Britain's transport infrastructure by constructing the High Speed Two rail line (HS2).

In the past our canals and waterways formed a fundamental part of our transport infrastructure. Today as well as providing strategic sustainable transport routes, they are important for leisure, recreation and tourism. Much of the network dates back to the 18th century, and the Trust today cares for the third largest collection of listed buildings in the country.

Phase 1 ( London to West Midlands ) of HS2 now has Royal Assent and construction works have now commenced, including initial work on and around the canal network. In February 2020, the Government confirmed that the main works also will go ahead. The Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe) hybrid Bill has been introduced into Parliament and is expected to gain Royal Assent in late 2020 or early 2021. Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester, West Midlands to Leeds) is currently in the consultation phase, and may be subject to further review by the Government.

For further information please refer to the HS2 website

We recognise that new transport networks have always interconnected, just as Britain's canal network did more than 200 years ago. However, the proposed route of Phase 2b crosses our historic waterways at various locations and we are seeking realignment to prevent this. We are also seeking to ensure that design and construction is carried out in a sympathetic and complementary manner.

The proposed route of Phase 2b includes potentially detrimental impacts if design and construction is not carried out in a sympathetic and complementary manner. We have spelled out our concerns in detail in our consultation response, which you can read here - Canal & River Trust Phase 2b Working Draft Environmental Statement Consultation Response and here Canal & River Trust Phase 2b Design Refinement Consultation Response September 2019.

Where will HS2 intersect with the canals?

The following map of the UK shows the points at which the proposed HS2 route will intersect with canals.

Map of HS2

Last Edited: 07 December 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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