Railhead petition to be put to Parliament. Crowdfunding campaign launched

The shape of things to come? The proposed railhead near Stone

Three local councils have put their names to Stone Railhead Crisis Group’s petition to the House of Commons Select Committee on the HS2 (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill . The petition calls for the HS2 railhead to be re-located from a site by the M6 at Yarnfield to Aldersey’s Rough near the M6 Keele Services.

At its 20th February meeting, Stone Town Council voted its unanimous support.
“Unless the railhead is moved, horrendous traffic jams caused by HS2 construction vehicles will affect everyone in Stone,” said Councillor Jill Hood. “We will be queuing every day for at least four years.”

The day before, an Extraordinary Meeting of Swynnerton Parish Council likewise voted its unanimous support. The third signatory is Chebsey Parish Council.

The petition will be presented in the names of the three councils, who have appointed Stone Railhead Crisis Group as their agent at the Parliamentary Committee hearings.

Future gridlock: as SRCG’s Trevor Parkin explained, the red lines on this local road map represent the morning rush hour tailbacks at and around M6 Junction 15 as predicted by SRCG’s compilation of HS2’s vehicle movement statistics.

The petition criticises the Stone Railhead option as expensive to construct and operate. It would cause

“excessive peak time traffic delays on the A34 and nearby connected roads including the A51, Yarnfield Lane, Eccleshall Road and Pirehill Lane. Resultant traffic congestion would exacerbate delays along the A34 corridor between Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme at the M6 at Junction 15.”

Proposer and seconder: Town Councillors Rob Kenney and Jill Hood with the railhead petition

To quote its wording, a Railhead near Stone

“will impact on the ability of local people to travel to their places of work and education. It will also compromise the emergency services and extend response times with consequential risks to the local population.”

“Operating the site as the only HS2 maintenance base between Birmingham and Manchester will also reduce the passenger service capacity of the Stone to Norton Bridge line and this could ultimately lead to the loss of the already only token HS2 services to Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent.”

By contrast, the Aldersey’s Rough site is

“larger and less physically constrained than Stone and benefits from a remoteness from communities and excellent connections to the strategic road and rail network.”

A Railhead at Aldersey’s Rough would utilise a section of the disused Newcastle to Market Drayton railway, last used to transport coal from Silverdale Colliery in 1998. A Railhead there would give the potential  to extend railway connections to the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. This  would be an opportunity to create greater rail connectivity bringing with it economic benefits for Staffordshire.

The month-long window for submitting petitions closed on February 26th, following the January 30th Second Reading of the HS2 Phase 2a Hybrid Bill in the Commons. The petitioning process is the last chance to get the Railhead moved.

On February 18th, over 300 residents attended SRCG’s project update and AGM at Yarnfield Conference Centre. The Group passed its constitution, appointed a committee and launched its crowdfunding appeal to raise £15,000 towards hiring a QC plus the costs of designated group members to attend the hearings in London.

SRCG committee’s new Chair is Yarnfield Parish Councillor David Tucker (l). Brian Eyre from Yarnfield is Vice-Chair

SRCG member Trevor Parkin said,

“We have already found a QC, who is one of the best planning barristers in the country. He believes that we have a very strong case.”

SRCG’s crowdfunder page can be found online at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/stone-railhead-crisis-group.

Alternatively, cheques payable to SRCG can be posted to Yarnfield Village Hall, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 ONJ.

The envelope should be marked for the attention of SRCG.