Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

HS2 Update

This article is from Signpost, Summer 2013

HS2 may seem a long way off, if not many years away, however events are moving along in Staffordshire. Footpaths are being identified, and diversions are ready to go for Phase 1 of HS2. Here is an update on progress or the lack of it in Staffordshire.

Much has been happening recently on the political and media fronts with respect to plans for high speed rail. Many words have been spoken about the value to the economy, the reasons for increasing passenger capacity, the value or otherwise of saving on journey times and the environmental impacts. I do not propose to rehearse the arguments as I am sure you are heartily fed up with hearing them and anyway the situation is changing rapidly, so that by the time you read this, my words will probably have limited relevance.

What I would like to do is let members know how we stand in relation to the current situation with changes to rights of way in Staffordshire, how we perceive the performance of HS2 in relation to their promises to consult at all stages with users has panned out and to remind you of the time scales

The Hybrid Bill to give the legal framework for the project to go ahead is expected to go before parliament this year. Royal Assent should follow in 2015 and work should commence on Phase 1 in 2017, taking the line from London to Birmingham, with the line to the north feeding past Lichfield to join the west coast main line at Armitage/Handsacre. This route is now decided and work has commenced on the examining the detail of changes to the highway infrastructure which will result. Despite making contact with HS2 personnel at a Stafford Seminar and a Lichfield road show, local volunteers from the user groups have not been approached and the proposed changes to the footpath network in Staffordshire have been presented to the Joint Access Forum and reported on by the County Council without details having been submitted to the Peak & Northern Footpath Society or to local volunteers. We are actively trying to remedy this situation. Fortunately, with help from others we have obtained the maps and other details so we are aware of what is being proposed. It does seem that HS2 are attempting to keep local activists at arms length until they are ready to make orders.

Having observed the above, I can report that the proposals for Staffordshire as far as Lichfield seem to bear out the stated intention to handle changes to the network sympathetically. Parts of some footpaths will inevitably disappear, but the question of keeping the network connected without making diversions too devious has been addressed. Footbridges (which ain’t cheap) and underpasses are there in plenty. Of the eighteen paths we listed in Lichfield District, only a couple need a re-think and Staffordshire County Council has already highlighted these to HS2.

It is difficult to comment on the environmental impact of the construction and the operational periods. Some areas where we love to walk will never be the same again. Harry Scott and I walked in Hints near Lichfield recently and tried to visualise the post HS2 landscape. The picture was not a pretty one.

David Hewett

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