high speed train HS2 - phase 2b

Seven sticking points in Cheshire are being highlighted on HS2 Ltd’s to-do list – but a leading opponent says it is nothing more than a ‘marketing tool’, writes Stephen Topping.

The company behind the project came under fire from Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury, for failing to provide visual designs of the planned rolling stock depot in Wimboldsley, between Winsford and Nantwich.

But a document shown at HS2 Ltd’s public consultation events suggests the depot is just one of 11 key issues planners are urgently looking to resolve between Crewe and Manchester before the route is put forward to Parliament as a bill in 2020.

It says ground investigation work through Cheshire’s salt plains must be completed, while a location for an electrical transformer must be found near Mere crossroads, and road closures and diversions around Ashley still need to be planned out.

In Warrington, designs for the proposed viaduct at Hollins Green, the railway passing through the Holcroft Moss conservation area and road closures and diversions in Culcheth must also be ironed out over the next two years.

The document says: “We are listening to your feedback and are continuing to review and refine our designs to try and take into account the comments and local insights you have provided.

“Before bill deposit we are working to improve the design of the railway and how we will construct it.”

Changes to the station at Manchester Airport are also on the to-do list, along with three more issues in the city.

Graham Dellow, from campaign group Mid Cheshire Against HS2, attended the consultation event in Middlewich where the to-do list was on display.

He said: “When I first saw it I thought it was just there to deflect difficult questions.

“It is a marketing tool to say HS2 Ltd are going to do something about it.

“I’m cynical about HS2 Ltd.

“In my view, if you review that list in two years’ time, I expect they would say they looked at the issues and decided that no changes were needed.”

Mid Cheshire Against HS2 has been highlighting the potential geological problems of building the high-speed railway over mid Cheshire’s salt plains for more than five years.

Mr Dellow believes HS2 Ltd “ought to be spending money” on ground investigations in the area – although he fears the company will be “trying to keep costs down”, with the project expected to cost £56 billion.

“HS2 Ltd should have done this work earlier and then they would have found out what we have been saying all along,” he added.

HS2 Ltd unveiled its most recent plans for Phase 2b between Crewe and Manchester – called the Working Draft Environmental Statement – last month.

Councils in Cheshire expressed a desire to secure ‘world class mitigation’ for the impact of HS2 at a Cheshire and Warrington Local Transport Body meeting in September.

A spokesman at HS2 Ltd said: “HS2 will bring huge benefits to Cheshire and the north west, it will improve rail journeys, create new jobs and drive economic growth.

“We recognise people’s desire for more information and we continue to engage with them.

“We recently released a comprehensive amount of new information as part of our public consultation on the Working Draft Environmental Statement, this provides more detail on how we plan to build and operate the new railway as it travels though the region.

“It also sets out our commitment to minimise impacts and we actively encourage people to get involved and have their say in shaping the plans for the railway.”

HS2 Ltd will hold consultation events on its plans for Cheshire at Culcheth Sports Club on November 28, The Venue, in Rudheath, on November 29 and at High Legh Village Hall on November 30 – with all three events set to run from 2pm to 8pm.

The current consultation, which closes on December 21, can be found at hs2.org.uk/phase2b

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