Three proposed changes to the route design of phase 2a of High Speed 2 (HS2) and a draft environmental impact assessment for the phase have been published for consultation.
The new proposed route for phase 2a of HS2 – Fradley in the West Midlands to Crewe – has three major changes to the design that was published last November when the then chancellor George Osborne announced that the Birmingham to Crewe section of the rapid rail link would open in 2027 – six years early and just a year after the first phase from London to Birmingham.
The first change is to extend the Crewe tunnel shown in the November 2015 design south by approximately 2,100m and re-site the tunnel portal south of the A500 and Weston Lane.
The decision has come after work on construction planning showed this option would be less disruptive and would simplify civil engineering works and works on the A500, as well as reducing rail line closures.
The second change is to move the spur lines that would connect HS2 to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) further south, as well as extend their length. The original location meant that access to one of Network Rail’s primary maintenance hubs for the WCML would be lost. In addition, part of the route could not accommodate overhead electrification, meaning the power supply transfer from the HS2 system to the existing railway network’s power system would be unfeasible.
The new proposal sees the western track of the WCML diverted to the west of the existing WCML and two additional lines would run closely parallel to it. These would primarily carry freight traffic, separating this traffic from HS2 services coming from the HS2 spurs at the point at which the spurs connect to the WCML. The tracks would connect 900m south of Den Lane Bridge to the south and to the north they would connect close to the A500. The proposal said that as most of the new section of the WCML would be built offline, disruption would be reduced.
The final change to the plans revealed last November is to build a temporary construction facility (railhead) between the proposed HS2 route and the M6. This could permanently replace the Infrastructure Maintenance Depot (IMD) currently shown at Crewe, which is why it is being consulted on.
HS2 said that if there is a railhead south of Crewe, at the northern end of the phase 2a route, the rail systems installation could only be delivered in one direction from north to south, whereas a more central location could facilitate construction to the north and the south simultaneously.
“HS2 is a major new infrastructure project that will help rebalance the economy and encourage growth across the country. Today’s announcement is another step forward in making it a reality,” said HS2 Ltd phase 2a development director Colette Carroll.
“We understand the concerns of local communities that are impacted by this new railway line. These consultations are aimed at capturing the views of people directly affected by HS2.
“The views expressed through the consultations will be integral to our plans for delivering the phase 2a section of the scheme between Fradley and Crewe. I encourage as many people as possible to take part in these consultations.”
In addition to the route proposals, a draft environmental assessment report prepared by Arup and ERM for phase 2a of the route has been released.
Although much of the work is still in progress, the summary of the whole scheme showed it would use around 1,030ha of high quality agricultural land and 78ha of woodland would be in the construction area, a quarter of which is already commercially managed.
The deadline for responses to the consultations is 7 November.
“We are committed to delivering the infrastructure needed for our economy to grow. HS2 is a transformative scheme that will be the new backbone of the national rail network, bringing Britain closer together and providing benefits for people and businesses across the country,” said transport minister Andrew Jones.
“It is natural that those living close to the new line will have concerns and we are committed to do all possible to mitigate the impacts of the new railway. I urge people to participate in these consultations and attend their local events to ensure their views are captured.”