HS2 crashes on as canal deckchairs get rearranged

The way in which HS2 will shatter the peace of many of our canals’ precious quiet and natural spaces must now be clear to most boaters and canal users. But despite the concerns of thousands of people it seems our representatives in the debates are now concentrating on the details of how it will happen, with the usual conflicts of interest taking attention away from why it need happen. The IWA is trying to be helpful, CRT is welcoming and enthusiastically planning!

The Inland Waterways Association(IWA) has just submitted its response to HS2’s Phase 1 Hybrid Bill Environmental Statement Consultation. It makes a number of general points such as about preserving canal clearances and designing intersections. One major concern is said to be Fradley where;

‘.. the proposed HS2 alignment would significantly affect the historic character and landscape setting of the Trent & Mersey Canal and its enjoyment for leisure and tourism.’ Four bridges would eventually (after the Phase 2 extension northwards) cross the canal in less than a mile. Lack of any ‘noise mitigation barriers’ between HS2 and canals at canal crossings could result of blasts of 90Db when trains are passing.

Comparison of view from canal at Fradley now in after HS2

Composite images above show how HS2 will change the view at Fradley. Taken from IWA report, lower image courtesy of HS2. (The HS2 environmental statement claims an average of just 5 boats a day use the Coventry and Trent and Mersey canals at this point!

In November IWA also posted an initial draft of their reply to the consultation regarding HS2 Phase 2, the proposed extensions from the West Midlands to Manchester and to Leeds. Written after wide discussions between IWA’s own experts, members and other organisations interested in the scheme including the Ashby, Barnsley Dearne & Dove and Chesterfield Canal Trusts, marina owners and operators, Peel Holdings, and Canal and River Trust it does state firmly that ‘the impact on the Chesterfield Canal restoration and separation of the Leeds Spur from the East Coast Spur at Woodlesford are both unacceptable as set out.’

CRT is apparently not only welcoming HS2 but also ‘leading work’ on its planning. A 27th of February press release proclaims;

‘A masterplan for Birmingham HS2 Curzon Street promises to create a vibrant new waterside for Britain’s ‘canal capital’. The Canal & River Trust today welcomed proposals unveiled by Birmingham City Council (BCC) for the creation of a new canal quarter as part of the city’s vision for using HS2 as a catalyst for regeneration and growth.  The Canal & River Trust has been leading the work, alongside BCC and other partners, to ensure the development of HS2 in Birmingham protects and unlocks the potential of the canal in Eastside and Digbeth.’

It is hard to imagine The National Trust embracing a suite of new motorways being built through the grounds of their stately homes in such a magnanimous and blinkered fashion. Whilst it may be important not to simply sit outside the planning process, both the IWA (advocating ‘.. the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways for public benefit’) and the CRT (‘Our canals and rivers are national treasures, rich in history and wildlife. We’re here to protect them for future generations.’) have the essential role of protecting our waterways.

IWA and CRT should be standing in the open with the many experts, organisations and millions of people who believe the enormous  social, environmental and financial costs of HS2 are nowhere near balanced by the ‘claimed’ financial benefits of whisking a few business people to and from London in half the time. Recommending bridge alignments is even less useful than rearranging Titanic’s deckchairs.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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