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HS2 boss: “We want to understand people’s concerns”
THE proposed Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will run through Pickmere, Tabley, Mere, Millington, Rostherne, Ashley, Whatcroft, Lostock Gralam, Lostock Green and Lach Dennis.
It will also cut through Winsford and Middlewich.
Andrew Went is the head of route engineering for HS2 Ltd.
He answered questions submitted by Guardian readers raising concerns about HS2.
On concerns about HS2 crossing a Cheshire plain infamous for subsidence, Andrew pointed to a technique perfected by HS1 crossing marshland in Kent.
He said: “We’ve had discussions with the owners of the salt mines and gas storage sites. We know their locations.
“If it’s bad ground or soft ground we put a viaduct across. Above ground it would just look like a regular line, but below ground there would be a viaduct structure.”
The viaducts will descend to a depth of 20 metres, 30 metres above the 50-metre depth of salt mines.
Answering concerns about the degree to which vibrations would be felt by trains travelling in tunnels, Andrew said: “Tunnels cost £80 million to £100 million per kilometre.
“They are very expensive, so we try to avoid them where possible. Tunnels are 22 to 30 metres below ground level, too low for any vibration to be felt.”
Readers also raised concerns about towns being severed from thoroughfares by HS2 embankments.
Andrew said: “No way do we want to sever communities. There would be access. Roads would be designed to go into the communities.
“Through a process of design of that part of the route we would talk with councils and planners to ask what they want.”
Andrew added HS2 were even hoping to remedy existing problems in various parts of the country.
He pointed to the example of Mersham Primary School, Kent, where an existing railway line which ran directly adjacent to the school was placed in a tunnel as part of work for the neighbouring HS1.
He said: “There are opportunities where we are going over roads where we can see if we can make them better – make improvements to what’s there and actually improve those communities.
“People at consultation will say, ‘can we do this or that with it?’, and that’s what consultation is about.
“It’s been proven in other stages of consultation that we’ve looked at concerns and we’ve moved things or changed them.
“There are opportunities to make things better and improve things. That has to be in open discussion.
“We want people to come along to consultations. We want to understand people’s views. Their concerns, aspirations, positives, negatives – the lot.”
“It’s not a stop, it’s a continuous discussion with communities – what can we do for you in this area? How can we make it better? We’re always going to want to talk to the community and understand how we make it better.”
See hs2.org.uk for consultation dates.
DURING the building of HS1 Ashford in Kent was unique in requesting for HS1 to pass through their town.
Hitachi latterly built their engine maintenance depot in the town, and Ashford has seen a far more rapid recovery from the recession than other nearby towns – which Ashford Borough Councillor Graham Galpin attributes to HS1.
The 1.8 per cent jobs growth nationally over the Past three years can be compared to 3.6 per cent in Ashford, while house prices in the town have risen by 15 per cent in the last 12 months compared with three per cent in the rest of Kent.
“Where we had been a declining market town we are now at the forefront of people’s minds,” said Clr Galpin.
“We’ve really got a growing town. Absolutely I put that down to HS1. It’s the biggest catalyst we have.”
“It would be true to say people had reservations about it. I don’t think people are particularly concerned about it these days. I think if you took it away there would be uproar.
“There is always local resistance. We’ve grabbed the nettle and gone for it, but it’s got to be a local decision. As far as we’re concerned we’re very happy with what’s happened here.
“You’re going to get people who travel outwards from the town. We know that and accept that, but they come back here and spend their money. Businesses value it enormously. The one question I never get asked is ‘what’s the point of HS1’?”
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