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Is the next piece of High Speed Rail jigsaw in the right place?

Monday, 28 January 2013 00:00

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CPRE has raised concerns about the impact of phase 2 of HS2 on the countryside and regeneration, and is calling for local communities to have the opportunity to influence the proposals.

Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner, CPRE said:
“Twenty years ago, most people would never have believed rail use could double by 2012. In planning for 2032, when phase 2 of HS2 is proposed to open, it is right that we should now aim high for our rail network. So we can certainly welcome the Government's level of ambition.

“CPRE will be holding the Government to account against our five tests for sustainable high speed rail [2]. In particular, CPRE county branches that are directly affected by the chosen route will want to consider whether there are better alternative routes or approaches to growing the rail network. We hope communities directly affected by phase 2 of HS2 can have greater opportunities to influence the proposals than has been the case for phase 1 [3].”

In summary, CPRE considers the following to be positive:
•    A greater proportion of the route is to run along transport corridors than phase 1 between London and Birmingham;
•    All but one proposed stations it will serve are to be in city centres or built-up areas rather than the Green Belt;
•    The proposed link to Heathrow has been shelved as the prospect of an environmentally devastating third runway becomes ever more remote;
•    No nationally designated landscapes, no grade I or II* listed buildings and only one SSSI would be directly affected.

However, CPRE has particular concerns about the following:
•    Proposal for a Manchester Airport station – this would put further pressure on the North Cheshire Green Belt and would suck jobs away from areas needing regeneration such as Salford [4];
•    Potential impact of the route on ordinary yet high quality countryside, such as north of Rugeley in Staffordshire and east of Northwich in Cheshire;
•    A significant number of large viaducts, such as over the Manchester Ship Canal, which could lead to visual and noise impacts over sizeable areas.

Ralph Smyth continued:

“It is not just a question of where the route goes, where stations are located and how much is spent on mitigation. Joined-up action on local transport, planning and skills will be essential if the benefits of high speed rail are to justify the potential cost to the countryside, communities and the taxpayer.

“Without strategies to regenerate northern towns and cities, drastically reduce carbon emissions from transport [5] and extend the rural rail network, the rosy picture painted of a future with HS2 risks ending up looking like a jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces.”

End
 
Notes to editors

[1] Full plans for phase 2 of HS2 were published by the Government on 28 January 2013, having been delayed from the autumn. They include a spur to Heathrow and extensions from Lichfield to Manchester and on to the West Coast Main Line, as well as from Water Orton to Leeds and on to the East Coast Main Line.

[2] CPRE’s five tests for sustainable High Speed Rail are: 1. Protect the local environment, 2. Tackle climate change and minimise energy needs, 3. Shift existing trips rather than generate new ones, 4. Improve local transport, 5. Integrate with planning and regeneration. More information about our position is available here:
www.cpre.org.uk/what-we-do/transport/rail/in-depth/item/1700-high-speed-2

[3] No changes to phase 1 (between London and Birmingham) are expected to be published until consultation starts on the draft Environmental Statement in spring 2013. This is the Environmental Impact Assessment of phase 1 that campaigners have long been waiting for and which should help people better understand the likely impacts of High Speed Rail – visual, noise and on wildlife. It will also improve understanding of the impacts of phase 2.

[4] A study commissioned by CPRE North West highlights how development around the airport would suck economic life from the rest of the region and is available here: www.cprecheshire.org.uk/news/?page=136

[5] Research jointly commissioned by CPRE and other NGOs highlights the need for wider policies to maximise carbon savings from HS2, such as using freed up capacity to reopen rural stations and not going backwards by returning to road building: www.greengauge21.net/publications/the-carbon-impacts-of-hs2/
 

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