High Speed Rail networks are proposed for significant parts of Cheshire. This week, Cheshire West and Chester Council has issued a comprehensive statement outlining its position on the scheme
Cheshire West and Chester Council has suggested stringent conditions protecting communities along the Government’s proposed route for HS2 and the development of current rail systems.
The council’s comprehensive comments on the proposed West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds stretch of the High Speed Rail network were delivered to the Secretary of State for Transport on Monday.
CWaC recognises the need for investment and increased transport connectivity throughout Great Britain to support robust economic growth and vibrant communities.
But the authority’s report stresses the importance of maximising mitigation to contain and sustain the natural environment and ‘comprehensive, meaningful engagement’ with local communities along the route.
CWaC is adamant that HS2 should not be developed in isolation from either the existing rail network or other transport networks but should be one component of a series of sustainable measures to significantly boost local economies across a wide geographical area.
In their report, the council says: “HS2 is dependent on investment of the classic rail network to enable seamless provision between the two and respond to the significant connectivity issues at local and regional level - combining to provide an attractive offer, which HS2 cannot achieve in isolation.”
Early commitment to the delivery of classic rail infrastructure investment is ‘critical’ - including signalling station accessibility and facility improvements to generate and sustain the significant transformational growth of the borough and region.
“The full potential value of HS2 in the Cheshire West and Chester area, its sub region including north Wales can only be realised through timely investment to provide an effective interface with the classic rail network,” says the report.
CWaC wants to see further investment in the Mid Cheshire Line, now experiencing strong passenger growth, enabling the line to link with HS2 stations at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport, the latter through provision of a spur.
It contends the line represents a realistic proposition to provide alternative route capacity to the Chester, Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester rail corridor in addition to relieving pressures on the corresponding road network.
Operating these services beyond Chester to Wrexham, offers an important opportunity to build on investment of the line between the two destinations whilst opening accessibility to growth of employment opportunities
Chester offers hourly service to London via Crewe, in addition to an hourly connection for London at Crewe and the council seeks assurances that released capacity will be used to safeguard sub regional connectivity and enhance economic growth in the borough, Merseyside and North East Wales.
CWaC believes HS2’s potential significant regional economic benefits can be maximised through provision of a HS2 hub station at Crewe, enabling use of this important facility by both dedicated HS2 and classic compatible trains, to be delivered by 2020.
The report adds: “The hub station would have capacity to manage significant passenger number growth, being supported by new rail and road infrastructure and services. A customs clearance facility at the Crewe Hub Station would ultimately enable passengers to travel on trains between Crewe and main land Europe.”
But there are major concerns about the network’s proposed single track HS1 – HS2 link, which it is felt , will inhibit capacity, integration and future expansion, represents a major risk of curtailing the economic benefits to the north and utilisation of HS2 investment.
Council support is also conditional on the basis that major adverse issues affecting communities and local economies from the final route of HS2 are fully addressed on a satisfactory basis.
Many sections of the proposed route through Cheshire West and Chester traverse flat land or are on embankments. These two factors reinforce the importance of commitment to maximising effective sound and visual mitigating measures.
The council has asked whether any potential sections of the proposed route through the borough have been identified where HS2 may exacerbate flood risk and how will that be managed.
The council wants full recognition of the proposed route’s adverse impact on rural communities and the property market through early dialogue towards producing specific mitigation measures, embracing other potential adverse impact concerns, such as public health.
“Those communities are clearly facing significant costs – financial and non financial – potentially without necessarily having the return of being direct beneficiaries of HS2,” states the report.
CWaC asks to engage with the Environmental Impact Assessment to be undertaken when the preferred HS2 route has been identified, with full involvement of locality stakeholders.
A full geological survey and ground conditions assessment, including associated risks in determining the actual route of HS2 is advocated, together with a risk analysis of stability and safety risk analysis associated with the local issues of underground gas storage and brine extraction activities.
“Communities in close proximity to the route need further engagement, demonstration and commitment of the extent to which measures to contain the physical, sound and visual impact of HS2 will be provided,” says the report.
“There will need to be a proactive inclusive responsive approach to all those that will experience any hardship or blight.”
Effectiveness of sound mitigation measures for embankment or viaduct sections of route is questioned. In particular, this is needed for the areas of Lostock Green, Lostock Gralam, Higher Wincham, Lache Dennis, Pickmere and Wimboldsley.
The full report can be accessed via the