Council considers its response to the new HS2 Bill

8 April 2022

Cheshire West and Chester Council is to decide whether to petition against the HS2 Phase 2b: High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill 2022 to make sure the voices of residents are fully heard at national Government level. A decision on how to proceed will be made at full Council by the summer.

Construction of HS2 will cause significant and disproportionate adverse impacts on some communities in the borough, part of which is a proposed train rolling stock depot near Wimboldsley. There will be lasting and major impacts of severance, landscape and noise across a wide area with the scheme already creating worry and anxiety for many people who will be directly affected.

Petitioning before the House of Commons Select Committee is the process the Council can use to seek early-stage commitments from Government for additional measures to help offset the massive adverse impacts on local communities and businesses.  These impacts will include construction and operation of the HS2 high speed rail line as it passes through the borough in addition to the planned building and operation of the depot near Wimboldsley.

The Council has already been working closely with HS2 Limited, about these impacts in addition to helping ensure that maximum opportunities are made available to businesses and the local workforce.

Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said:

“While we support the general principle of HS2, petitioning against this Bill allows us to influence decisions and to make sure the concerns of our residents are heard at the highest level. We need reassurance that certain measures will be put in place to help with the vast negative impacts on our communities, businesses, local services as well as on our natural and built environment. 

“Submitting a petition does not guarantee this assurance but if we do not, it could be considered that we are satisfied with all of the current proposals. This is a distinct opportunity to formally present the case to the Government and seek commitment for additional mitigation measures before the Bill becomes law as an Act of Parliament.

“We are working closely with other local authorities and will assess opportunities for collaboration and pooling of resources to maximise the region’s response to the Bill.

“Petitions may also be submitted by individuals, groups of individuals, or organisations directly affected by the Bill.” 

The new rail line is planned to travel through the borough between Walley’s Green, passing Middlewich to the east, Winsford to the west and crossing the River Dane. The route will continue north to the east of Lostock Gralam.

The proposed scheme includes the Crewe North rolling stock depot, an operational and maintenance hub featuring twenty-seven 400-metre-long sidings to accommodate up to 54 high speed trains.

Construction and commissioning are currently expected to take place in stages between approximately 2025 and 2033 followed by track laying, systems installation, and testing. The duration, intensity, and scale of works along the route will vary over this period. 

The Council is acutely aware of the positive and negative consequences of HS2 to residents in some areas of the borough. It also fully recognises that HS2 could also deliver benefits for the borough and sub region. Improvements to bus and rail services would combine to increase the attractiveness of using public transport and reduce the number of journeys made by car. The petitioning process would also enable the Council to seek changes to the delivery of the HS2 scheme that could reduce its carbon impact.

These benefits, however, are only expected if the right level of HS2 train services at Crewe are secured. The Bill’s proposals, allowing for five or seven HS2 trains per hour calling at Crewe, which would support significant economic growth for the region but needs to be accompanied by more frequent train services across the borough. This will help meet aims identified under one of the twelve priority areas for the Council’s Inclusive Economy Plan to ‘improve transport access to job opportunities with increased public and active travel links, increasing connectivity to break down key barriers faced by communities.’

The Chester City Gateway project includes recommendations to increase the capacity of Chester railway station to accommodate additional train services. This work includes an initial assessment of the benefits of extending one HS2 train per hour beyond Crewe to Chester.

It is anticipated that the Bill could have its second reading in Parliament in early summer 2022, followed by a period of approximately 25 days for petitions to be submitted which could be before July 2022.

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