“We are going to keep up the battle.”
Stone Railhead Crisis Group intends to challenge the rejection of Stone Town and Chebsey Parish Council’s petition to relocate the HS2 railhead from Stone to Aldersey’s Rough by the HS2 Parliamentary Select Committee.
“The Select Committee’s decision appeared to have already been taken before we entered the room,”
SRCG’s Trevor Parkin told a 100-strong public meeting on 10th June at Yarnfield Conference Centre.
The Committee’s First Special Report, which was published on 24th May, contained several indications that it was completed weeks before its publication. Crucially it makes no reference to Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy’s evidence of 15th May supporting the Parish Council’s case, or their detailed Written Statement of 30th April, which comprehensively dismissed the misleading evidence given by HS2 QC and principal witness.
The First Special Report was also littered with factual errors, including wrongly stating that the Stone-to-Norton Bridge railway is only used as a freight line, when it actually carries six passenger trains per hour, including the Cross Country service between Manchester Piccadilly and Bristol Temple Meads and the London Northwestern service between Crewe and London Euston.
The Parish Councils have responded by submitting a detailed review of the First Special Report in early June. It includes a request to cross-examine HS2’s Chief Engineer, Tim Smart, on 16th July, when their team are expected to appear for a second time.
“Time constraints had prevented his cross examination by our QC on 25th April, and so it is crucial, and in the interests of natural justice, that his misleading evidence is subject to rigorous scrutiny and not allowed to be the final word on these important matters”,
Mr Parkin added.
Referring to Staffordshire County Council’s acceptance of HS2’s last-minute take-it-or leave it offer of £10 million worth of highways improvements, in return for the County’s non-appearance at the Select Committee, Mr Parkin said that this is a clear example of the ‘bullying of petitioners’, which Select Committee member Bill Wiggin MP was so concerned about. These measures will also not address the congestion issues caused by HS2’s construction traffic serving the Stone Railhead, and the proposals agreed for Yarnfield Lane are totally inadequate, as they will not address the fact that the lane is very steep and too narrow to be safely shared by hundreds of HGVs and local traffic.
“Some people think that HS2 building its proposed links with the M6 more quickly than the currently scheduled 15 months will solve the problem, but it will only make matters worse, with an average of 569 HGVs/day needing to use a 900m length of Yarnfield Lane to access the northbound carriageway from the western side of the M6.”
Stone Town and Chebsey Parish Councils’ second Select Committee appearance will also address the significant changes made by HS2 to its proposals at Stone at the end of March. These include replacing the planned 450 metre long viaduct over the Filly Brook and Norton Bridge to Stone railway with an 80 metre long bridge and 370m of embankments in the flood plain.
More embankments mean more earthworks, which in turn means even more HGV movements on Yarnfield Lane, said Mr Parkin, a mining engineer and Environmental Consultant with over 35 years of professional experience.
“We will therefore continue to press the Select Committee for HS2 Ltd to produce a Transport Logistics Profile to account for the number of HGV movements it now proposes. This is standard industry practice and the absence of such important information is unacceptable.”
The Committee’s First Special Report dismisses our proposals to relocate this railhead and maintenance base to Aldersey’s Rough near Keele Services on the grounds that it was “too costly and too disruptive” Mr Parkin continued.
“However, since it will clearly be simpler and cheaper to construct, they must be referring to the short-term disruption to the HS2 programme and associated consultant costs of having to do a proper job.”
The government and HS2 are not looking at what is the best solution for the longer-term, but simply rushing to get this project over and done without being subject to proper scrutiny, but those responsible for the mess that will be created will all be long gone when construction starts, leaving the contractors and local people to live with the consequences of such poor decision-making.”
For further information, visit Stone Railhead Crisis Group’s website at https://stonerailhead.org