Government confirms HS2 extension

The Government has confirmed its plans to route High Speed 2 (HS2) Phase 2b through North Warwickshire – leaving the borough facing years of serious disruption.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP has published the finalised route which will extend HS2 from Birmingham to Leeds, opening in 2033. It follows a consultation held in November last year on its preferred alignment.

The route will scythe through the middle of two popular Warwickshire country parks and bring misery to motorists and potentially damage the ‘Midlands Engine’s’ future regional economic growth plans at the already busy M42 Junction 10, where it meets the A5.

HS2 Ltd has also announced the contractors to build Phase One of the scheme. Two consortiums will operate within Warwickshire- between Northamptonshire and Long Itchington Wood tunnel will be CEK JV (Carillion Construction Ltd, Eiffage Genie Civil SA, Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd) and northwards up to North Warwickshire the contractors are called BBV JV (Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, VINCI Construction Grands Projets, VINCI Construction UK Ltd, VINCI Construction Terrassement).

The HS2 Phase 2b eastern leg to Leeds is proposed to run through 17 kilometres of North Warwickshire, affecting communities at Bodymoor Heath, Kingsbury, Birchmoor, Polesworth, Warton and Austrey. There will be a long and arduous seven year construction phase before the line opens and the high speed trains begin operating.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “We are pleased that the Government accepted the principle concern raised in our consultation response and has moved the line back to the earlier alignment and away from the village of Austrey.

“However, many communities in North Warwickshire will have to deal with years of disruption while the railway is built and a lifetime of more intrusion when it is operating.

“We are seeking constructive dialogue with HS2 Ltd to resolve the key issues before the Parliamentary bill for the scheme is submitted in 2019. If we cannot reach an agreement on the future of our two country parks, the serious impact on the road network and better mitigation for those adversely affected, we will have no option but to put our case in front of the select committee.”

Speaking about the announcement of £6.6 billion worth of Phase One construction contracts, Cllr Seccombe added: “We want to see Warwickshire gain its share of the economic benefits of HS2 through supply chain opportunities for our businesses and the creation of local jobs.”

Warwickshire County Council submitted a response to the Phase 2b route consultation against the change in alignment which brought the railway line closer to Austrey.

The authority has previously made representations on the devastating impact on the two North Warwickshire country parks and the fears that HS2 will cause the M42 Junction 10 and surrounding roads to be gridlocked. Other technical details such as highways, flood risk and ecology will be assessed and considered within the publication of HS2’s Environmental Statement.

HS2 Ltd initial plans include building a viaduct over the lakes at Kingsbury Water Park. The park attracts around 400,000 visitors a year and is home to rare bird species, boat clubs, caravanners and power boat thrillseekers, providing jobs for 200 local people.

The visitor centre at Pooley Country Park, on the edge of Polesworth, is also in the path of the railway. The park is on the site of the former Pooley Hall Colliery and £1.5 million has been invested to transform a scarred industrial landscape into a valued community asset.

Cllr Peter Butlin, Warwickshire County Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “The county council has learned from the experience of Phase One that a pragmatic approach to HS2 will give us the greatest chance of successfully mitigating the worst impacts of the project. We will challenge the Government and HS2 Ltd on behalf of our communities to provide the best mitigation possible.

“We are urging HS2 Ltd to carry out an open and productive refinement of its plans prior to the publication of the Draft Environmental Statement and the deposit of the Parliamentary bill.

“It is imperative that meaningful engagement with the general public takes place so that the many mistakes experienced in Phase One will not be repeated by HS2 this time around.”

The latest timetable is for construction to start on Phase 2b by 2026 and the railway to be operational in 2033. To enable the line to be built, hybrid bill legislation will need to be deposited to Parliament, scheduled for 2019.