HS2 link welcomed but with a number of ifs and buts


Staff reporter (Chester First)

THE Government’s HS2 proposals have been backed by Cheshire West and Chester Council in a report – subject to a number of conditions.

Cheshire West and Chester Council says it welcomes HS2 but only if stringent conditions which would protect communities along the route are met and if there is a significant investment in rail infrastructure in the rest of West Cheshire.

The council report says investment into the current rail infrastructure of West Cheshire is ‘critical’ to make sure the borough doesn’t miss out on the potential benefits of the scheme.

The report calls for an early commitment to investment into the classic rail infrastructure, including facility improvements, to make sure the benefits of the scheme are fully met.

The council specifically says it wants to see a better link between Chester and Wrexham which would open up better links with passengers from North East Wales, further investment into the Mid Cheshire lines and also calls for a HS2 ‘hub station’ at Crewe so that links between the HS2 line from London and lines through to West Cheshire and North Wales can be strengthened.

The report said: “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.

“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 mainland Europe.“

The council report also had major concerns about the network’s proposed single track HS1 to HS2 link which the authority felt might inhibit capacity and had the potential of ‘curtailing the economic benefits to the north’.

The report also contested the proposition the line would offer a alternative route capacity to the Chester, Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester rail corridor.

The council stressed the importance of a “comprehensive, meaningful engagement” with communities along the route.

The report said measures to prevent flooding along the route should be considered as well as implementing effective sound and ‘visual mitigation measures’ as much of the route through the borough is on flat land or embankments.

Impacts on the rural communities and the property market near the route are also a concern for the council, which has called for early dialogue to produce specific mitigation measures and it also urges that the ‘corridors’ of wildlife movement be protected.

The report says: ‘Rural communities are clearly facing significant costs – financial and non-financial – potentially without necessarily having the return of being direct beneficiaries of HS2.’

Finally the report asks for environmental impact assessments to take place when the final route for HS2 has been identified, with a full geological survey to ensure there are no issues with underground gas storage and brine extraction in the borough and to see whether some of the route can be tunnelled to reduce noise pollution.

The council’s comprehensive comments on the proposed West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds stretch of the High Speed Rail network have been sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin.

The full report can be accessed via the Cheshire West and Chester Council website.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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