THE HS2 (Crewe– Manchester) Bill received a second reading on June 20 and was referred to an HS2 Select Committee to hear petitions from those directly and specially affected.
This bill for Phase 2b West affects the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, the Trent & Mersey Canal, and the Ashton and Rochdale canals in Manchester. IWA’s main objection to the plans is the absence of adequate noise mitigation measures for canal users.
The plans include (i) the Crewe North Rolling Stock depot and three adjacent viaduct crossings of the Middlewich Branch, (ii) three separate viaduct crossings of the Trent & Mersey Canal north of Middlewich, and (iii) a main construction compound in Manchester. At each of these interfaces the canals would be subject to excessive noise unless better mitigation is provided.
IWA has responded to several previous consultations, including the National Infrastructure Commission and the Transport Select Committee, criticising the choice of route through an area prone to brine subsidence, and its adverse effects on the canals’ landscape, environment and heritage.
This petition concentrates on the major impacts of noise on canal users and is closely based on IWA’s response to the Environmental Statement consultation. (See: HS2 Bill threatens tranquillity of waterways around Middlewich and Lymm, 11/4/2022)
IWA is particularly concerned that the residential use of boats is not adequately assessed, and the noise mitigation measures proposed are therefore inadequate where HS2 crosses or runs near to each of the affected canals.
Our canals are major heritage assets, wildlife sites and recreational corridors, valued for their tranquillity and each HS2 affected location is used by tens of thousands of people each year.
Noise levels close to HS2 bridges will be extremely high without acoustic barriers and the noise of passing trains will propagate over a wide area. Although this is intermittent, it is the peak noise levels that cause maximum disturbance, and any form of averaging noise levels is misleading.
HS2 automatically includes noise barriers, earthworks or fencing to protect residential properties but continues to misrepresent all canal users as ‘transitory’ and thus not worthy of consideration. A few canal crossings benefit from the proximity of inhabited buildings, but most crossings in rural areas are given no protection and will be subject to intolerable levels of noise.
IWA’s petition explains in detail the wide variety of ways in which people use and reside on the waterways, and the vulnerability of moored boat occupants to external noise. Canal boats are residences, and while not always permanently occupied and capable of moving, wherever more than a few boats are moored, permanently or intermittently, it is likely that people will be living there for significant periods, so their acoustic environment should be protected.
Parliament failed to address this issue for Phase 1 and for Phase 2a, but that is no reason why the same mistakes should be repeated with Phase 2b.
IWA’s petition details the usage of the canals around each HS2 interface. On the Middlewich Branch permanent moorings at Park Farm and visitor moorings at Yew Tree Farm are affected. On the Trent & Mersey Canal visitor moorings at Bramble Cuttings, popular temporary moorings at Billinge Green Flash and permanent moorings at Oakwood Marina would be particularly affected.
At each canal crossing location there should be 4m high noise barrier fencing across the viaducts and on adjacent embankments. In Manchester the construction compound should have substantial noise fencing.
First additional provision
The Bill, as deposited, would also affect the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Ship Canal, although the Government’s last-minute decision to remove the Golborne Link through an Additional Provision (AP1) removes the threat to moorings on the Bridgewater Canal, for now at least.
However, AP1 includes some new works on the Middlewich Branch at Clive Green Lane Bridge that, while providing improved cycle access, would worsen pedestrian access. IWA’s second petition therefore asks for retention of the access steps and towpath hedge.
Read IWA’s petitions: the full text of both IWA petitions – that against the Bill and that against the First Additional Provision, as published on the Select Committee website – can be seen at https://waterways.org.uk/about-us/news/iwa-petitions-against-hs2-crewe-manchester-bill
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