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NewsFri, 18th October 2019

News  »  HLPC submission to the Oakervee Review



   HLPC submission to the Oakervee Review    September 30, 2019

          SUBMISSION TO OAKERVEE REVIEW INTO HS2

 

I write to provide the views of High Legh Parish Council in relation to your current review into HS2.

As a parish we are significantly impacted by the HS2 project, located in the ‘Y’ junction of the Manchester spur and as such we hope that you will give our views consideration.

High Legh is a vibrant, thriving, safe, friendly community, predominantly rural and surrounded by Green Belt.  The parish of High Legh is situated in the north-western corner of the Cheshire East Council area.  It shares borders with Agden, Millington and Mere parishes in Cheshire East, as well as with parishes in the Cheshire West & Chester and Warrington Borough Council areas.  Despite being largely rural, the parish is intersected by two motorways, the M6 and M56 as well as the A50 trunk road.  The population is around 1,650 with around 700 properties.  The large rural area surrounding the village consists largely of working or redeveloped farms.  Agriculture is a valued feature of local life.

 

High Legh Parish Council are vehemently opposed to the HS2 project on the basis that it is not value for money when comparing the benefits to the environmental, economic and people costs. Whilst we recognise the need for strategic rail improvements however we feel the current HS2 proposals are not the priority for the north of England and certainly not the best value for money in terms of what could be achieved.

 

  1. Consultation Process

Firstly, we would like to comment on the consultation processes to date. In our view these have been superficial and unfair, asking people to give their opinions when they are not in receipt of all the facts and should be treated as null and void.

 

  • We have had constant difficulty and delays in accessing paper documentation with unrealistic brush offs of ‘it’s available online.’ It is not possible to plan and prepare for public meetings using only online tools, and this significantly cut down the amount of time we had to consult with the parish.
  • Whilst making every attempt to collaborate with the HS2 teams in these processes they have been unable (or unwilling) to provide the actual technical detail of their plans, so we are unable to conclude the actual impact of the proposals, thereby making it difficult to make substantive meaningful and evidence based responses.
  • We engaged with the initial consultation in good faith only to learn this was based on out of date plans for the High Legh area that were in fact never to be considered. The HS2 team knew at the time of the consultation the area of High Legh was to be impacted by the NPR spurs, yet this information was kept from us and we were asked to respond on a position that was inaccurate.
  • HS2 and NPR have constantly refused to provide the rationale for the proposed High Legh spurs throughout the refinement consultation despite these spurs having no correlation to the published high-level NPR proposals.

 

We feel strongly that the above means the consultations were significantly flawed and as such should be discarded and if the HS2 project does proceed in any way, all consultations should be re-run providing the public with the full facts.

 

  1. Benefits and Impacts

High Legh agree strongly with all the national arguments about over budget and behind schedule etc, however do not propose to reiterate those arguments in this statement but would like to specifically address the lack of benefits from a local point of view.

 

We are perhaps amongst the few areas that are significantly impacted by its construction however actually able to use the HS2 Manchester station. We are assuming therefore High Legh Parishioners are counted as users of the proposed line and included in the official benefits calculation.

Despite being future users of the line, we see no benefits arising from the proposed line. Many members of our parish currently travel by rail to London on a regular basis - some 3-4 times a week. Options include via Macclesfield, Wilmslow or Warrington stations. A typical journey from High Legh to Westminster currently takes 2hrs 45mins door to door. It is important to note that this is a reliable service with few delays or cancellations and seats are always available in both 1st and standard class. Services are busy, but even when seats are not prior booked, one can be found.

A typical current journey looks like:

6.45am leave High Legh, 20 mins drive, 15 mins to park,  time to walk to station and grab a coffee.

7.20 from Warrington BQ arrives London Euston 9.06  - 1 hr 46 mins nonstop

9.30 Arrive following the 20 min tube ride to Westminster.

 

The traveller is able to work on the train for 1hr 45 mins, and this is an important benefit that should not be understated. It is not lost time, but time that can be efficiently used. You will see that the traveller does not need to get up at ‘silly o clock’ but can still reach London for a 9.30am meeting.

Compare this to the future of using HS2:

Option 1  Driving to Manchester Station - 3 hours with only 60 mins effective working time

Leave at 6.30 am 1 hour (minimum) drive into Manchester via M56 which is already a very congested motorway at this time of the morning plus 20 mins to park and walk.

Assume 7.50 train from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston arrives 8.57 - projected time 67 mins

9.20 Arrive following the 20 min tube ride to Westminster.

 

Option 2 - Take the metro in to Piccadilly from Altrincham. - 2hrs 35 mins with only 60 mins effective working time

Leave High Legh 6.45 - 20 min drive 10 min to park and walk to the tram  - arrive 7.15

32 mins tram journey 5 mins walk to train

Assume 7.50 train from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston arrives 8.57 - projected time 67 mins

9.20 Arrive following the 20 min tube ride to Westminster.

 

Key Points

Time on the train is efficient time that can be used for working and this is significantly reduced with HS2 but the overall travel time for the journey is not reduced.

Increased travel required to get to the HS2 line will eliminate completely any train time saved

Carbon emissions increase with option 1 and no reduction with option 2 using HS2.

 

In summary, as a future user of HS2 the Parish can see no benefits to the HS2 line against which  to set horrendous financial, environmental and people costs. Therefore, even before looking at the costs of the project we challenge you to look closely at the realistic benefits of the project. Where are the users coming from and what improvements will this make in reality to the current COMPLETE  journey? In other words - what is the actual point of the project in the first place?

 

Technology Impact

In addition, I would ask you to consider the rapid development of communication technology and what it will be like by HS2 start date in 2030. Skype, Microsoft Teams and other tools now enable people to work wherever they are and importantly for HS2, significantly reduces the need to travel for F2F meetings. In 10 years time these tools will be smarter and even more effective and the capacity needs to travel on business will have reduced significantly. I urge you to look at recent studies in this area and ensure this is considered fully when calculating the benefits. Yes, there will always be the desire and need to physically travel, but societies culture is changing and electronic tools have already changed the way we communicate and do business.

 

  1. Local Environmental Impacts

            The area through High Legh Parish should not be perceived as ‘open fields’. This is a long standing vibrant and successful farming community mixed with rural residential properties. The      land is valuable agricultural land littered with ancient woodland and hedgerows, and the land take            proposed by the High Legh cutting (see plans for the main line between Grid J5 on MA03 map                         CT-06-320) required to go under the M56 is excessive and certainly not the best solution to             mitigate environmental and people impacts. 

 

            The current proposals totally destroy the rural agricultural setting, and takes houses and farms       and peoples livelihoods away, together with an irreversible devastating impact of wildlife,            hedgerows and fauna. The cutting is 149 meters wide, equivalent to more than one and half   football pitches, meaning certain species would be unable to move through the landscape. 

            HLPC feel the sole driver for the design of the cutting in its current format is cost. A cut and            cover ‘green’ tunnel starting immediately after the Manchester Spur near Wrenshot House right       up to the current proposed box tunnel under the M56 would mitigate these impacts.

 

Significant benefits would include:

 

  1. Significant saving and regeneration of greenbelt agricultural land (in part organic)
  2. No realignment of Peacock Lane required; cost saving, property savings; etc
  3. Rural economy and residential impact significantly reduced
  4. No permanent closure of Agden Lane
  5. Noise level reductions up to 50db
  6. Visual impact significantly reduced
  7. Reduction of impact on ecology, with cuttings highly unlikely to ever be vegetated by woodland due to the steepness of the slopes and need to keep leaves off the line.
  8. Reuse of excavated materials
  9. Reduction of impact on two Grade ll-listed properties
  10. Effects from earthworks are only temporary with drainage and surface water issues being resolved on restoration

 

We feel confident that on parliamentary petition we would be successful in securing a cut and cover tunnel. This example is illustrative of how the HS2b section of the proposal significantly understates the true financial and environmental costs of the project. 2b has only 2% of the tunnels of the first part of the project, demonstrating either a north/south divide (southern land is more important and valuable than northern land, so tunnels are used more in the south), or cuttings are shown at this stage to mask the true cost of the project, with costs spiraling on parliamentary petition outcomes.

 

  1. HS2 iteration with NPR - Passive provision for 2 Junctions at High Legh

Transport for the North (TfN)’s high level route options for NPR have been published, providing a variety of possible routes. However, the HS2 proposals, particularly the proposed Liverpool Spur do not link up with any of Transport for the North (TfN)’s NPR route options and will create bias, forcing TfN into a much more costly, sub-optimal and much less environmentally friendly route between Liverpool, Manchester Airport and Manchester.

 

The passive provision for the two junctions at High Legh suggested by HS2 in these proposals will lead to a route that is not one of the number of optional routes that TfN/NPR have considered and it seems certain that the route HS2 are posing would make this stretch of an NPR line prohibitively costly, difficult to plan, engineer, get permission for, and to build.  The environmental disruption and degradation caused both in building and operating such an NPR route would be against all national and local environmental plans. TfN’s objective of connecting Liverpool, Manchester and Manchester Airport can be met without use of the HS2 network, and any merger of the two should set out clearly the benefits of doing so. It is clear the proposals in the consultation have been made without full business cases for NPR being considered.

 

It is said that “The designs for these junctions do not pre-determine future choices the Government will make about the NPR network, for instance on how it could connect Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington”. Clearly the passive provision for the 2 High Legh Junctions has created an expectation and restriction on how this will be done.

The HS2 route proposals are said to be ‘optimal from a technical perspective’ however these technical specifications have not been shared or published. In fact, the proposals specifically disregard the published objectives of TfN, which are to fully utilise and integrate with existing rail infrastructure or HS2 routes as much as possible. The published high-level NPR route options attempt to follow this integration principle whereas the HS2 proposals in this consultation directly make this impossible.

 

The HS2 proposals instead foresee the Liverpool route taking up much of the high-quality Green Belt land in northwest Cheshire East and devastating populated areas toward Warrington and Liverpool. The only reasoning given for this route and therefore the location of the 2 High Legh junctions is that they are ‘the optimal sites from a technical perspective’. However it seems plain that the Liverpool-Manchester Airport-Manchester connection could be achieved in a far more cost effective, efficient and environmentally sensitive way by utilising one of the existing eastbound Liverpool lines to where it crosses the “to be built” HS2 Main North line then utilising this to join the HS2 Manchester line into Manchester Airport and Manchester, thereby rendering the High Legh junctions extraneous. 

 

We suggest that much more work must be done by both HS2 & TfN/NPR to transparently identify the best route to meet the requirements of both because from what we have seen of the usage forecasts of HS2 and TfN they raise significant questions over the feasibility of using the proposed line in the consultation by both services.

There appears to have been a total lack of strategic, joined-up thinking from these proposals. It is strongly suggested that the passive provision for the two junctions be cancelled and HS2 do no more work on the Crewe-Manchester stretch other than to support and work with TfN/NPR to plan and gain agreement for the most sensible, cost effective and environmentally friendly route between Liverpool and Manchester to deliver a well-planned rail system that delivers on cost, service and environmental friendliness.

  1. High Legh Primary School Headteacher is concerned about:                                        Pollution – what will the air quality be, especially for Special Needs children and children    with asthma, with hundreds of lorries using the country lanes near school to travel from construction sites?                                                                                                                                                     Traffic – worried about pupil numbers as parents from outside of High Legh could decide not to choose High Legh School if they think it will be difficult to travel.  We’ve had the experience of traffic problems when the A556 was being built and it took twice as long to get anywhere.      Noise – no data given so far. We will have destruction but no benefits from the railway.

 

  1. Conclusion

Now is the time for action and we hope that the review will help Government to understand the reality of HS2 and recognise that the priority for such significant funding is not in this project and as a result the project is terminated. in our view we hope you recommend scrapping Phase 2b of the new line and allocating the £24.8bn budget to other northern transport priorities.

 

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