|Response to the High Speed Rail Consultation - July 2011|
Q1. Do you agree that there is a strong case for enhancing the capacity and performance of Britain's inter-city rail network to support economic growth over the coming decades?
Yes, Lichfield Civic Society recognises the national and local value of an efficient, competitive and coordinated railway network to the economic and social well being of the United Kingdom. However, we could only support this specific proposal if it can be clearly shown that it will minimise impacts on the environment, promote prosperity and international competitiveness and divert journeys from road and air to rail.
Q2. Do you agree that a national high speed rail network from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester (the Y network) would provide the best value for money solution (best balance of costs and benefits) for enhancing rail capacity and performance.
The Society has strong reservations over the detail of this scheme. In its view it is doubtful whether the benefits, especially for the local economy, would outweigh the social and environmental costs of the London to Lichfield section. Moreover the Government has neither considered nor adopted a long term transport strategy for the United Kingdom. HS2 represents a partial consideration of the need for enhanced national rail performance. It is therefore difficult to assess whether the southern section of HS2, as a specific element represents value for money. It is not possible to relate it, as a first stage, to a comprehensive long term rail strategy, since consultation is only taking place on the southern part of the HS2 proposal. There is no clear indication of the routes to be taken north of Lichfield to Leeds and Manchester. Therefore, until this is available, it is not possible to say if the London to Lichfield section as currently proposed is the best value for money solution.
Q3. Do you agree with the Government's proposals for the phased roll out of a national high speed network, and for links to Heathrow Airport and the High Speed 1 line to the Channel Tunnel?
Yes, but only in the context of a national plan that sets out proposals for the routes to be taken. The link to Heathrow Airport is supported, as is the link to HS1. However, the link between HS2 and HS1 needs to be reconsidered. At present, it represents an afterthought, not a seamless linking of the two lines. There is a danger that HS1 and HS2 are seen (and operated) as two separate lines. Economic benefits for the West Midlands and the North of England will only occur if the route is seen not as a route solely to London, but one that connects the UK regions to the continent. This will also encourage passenger diversion from air travel to rail.
Q4. Do you agree with the principles and specification used by HS2 Ltd to underpin its proposals for the new high speed rail lines and the route selection process HS2 Ltd undertook?
The Society has reservations over both the principles and the specifications. A design speed of 400kph is excessive for the UK, which is geographically a small country, with major urban centres no more than 100 miles apart. Such high speeds provide little in the way of time saving benefits, when measured against the substantial environmental impact, which will require expensive mitigation measures. The Society also believes that insufficient weight has been given to regionally significant landscape, heritage and wildlife habitats. Additionally, the straight alignment required for such high speeds is an undue constraint on mitigation measures.
Q5. Do you agree that the Government's proposed route, including the approach proposed for mitigating its impacts, is the best option for a new high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands?
No. The Society is concerned over the likely impact that the route will have on the eastern setting of Lichfield and the neighbouring villages, together with the damage to ancient woodland and heath in this District which forms part of our national heritage. In the absence of any information on the extension of HS2 north of Lichfield, it is difficult to support the existing proposal. Without further information, the impact of the extension northwards cannot be evaluated and along with it the relevance of the selected route in the vicinity of Lichfield.
Q6. Do you wish to comment on the Appraisal of Sustainability of the Government's proposed route between London and the West Midlands that has been published to inform this consultation?
Q7. Do you agree with the options set out to assist those whose properties lose a significant amount of value as a result of any new high speed line?
The early decision to compensate those whose property is blighted by the proposed route is clearly welcome. However, the publication of a partial route-excluding the Phase II extension of the 'Y' network has created an anomalous situation north of Lichfield where property is already seen to lie on or close to the probable alignment of the extension of the route through Lichfield District.