Alec makes additional comments on HS2 consultation

Alec Shelbrooke MP’s response to HS2 Ltd’s consultation on the Working Draft Environmental Statement (WDES) and the Working Draft Equality Impact Assessment Report (WDEQIA) relating to Phase 2b from Methley to Garforth, via Woodlesford and Swillington.

Since the initial proposed route for Phase 2b was first published in 2013, I’ve been working closely with the Swillington, Oulton, Woodlesford HS2 Action Team (SOWHAT) residents group to amplify the voice of our community.

At the initial stage, I put forward an alternative route for HS2, following existing transport corridors and reducing blight and environmental impact on residents in Woodlesford, Swillington and Garforth. My alternative route would have been financially more efficient and less damaging to the communities around Leeds.

Sadly, at a late stage, it became clear to me that the leadership of Leeds City Council had lobbied hard for a station located in the city centre, which made a route through Woodlesford inevitable. The configuration of the new HS2 station in Leeds City Centre, as lobbied for by the Council, means the entry route comes in at an angle that makes the Woodlesford route easier to engineer. This proved to be the death knell for my less damaging alternative route.

Notwithstanding that I believe the proposed route is the wrong one, this consultation response is submitted to address deep concerns locally relating to the (WDES) and the (WDEQIA) based on the proposed route. If this route is to go ahead without further changes, then the following should be taken into consideration and appropriate amendments made.

Tunnel entrance at Eshald Lane/Fleet Lane, Oulton

At present the Leeds spur separates from the main line south of the proposed Moss Car viaduct, below Clumpcliffe Farm. From here the line routes through a mixture of embankments, cutting and viaducts before it enters a tunnel to the east of Water Haigh Woodland Park, by Eshald Lane/Fleet Lane. Previous plans showed the tunnel entrance at Water Haigh Woodland Park, so this amendment is welcome, although I do not think it is a significant improvement.

A preferable option here would be to begin the tunnel south of Clumpcliffe, thereby mitigating the need for embankments and viaducts across the landscape.

Further alternative options would be to begin the tunnel as the route meets Methley Lane or Fleet Lane, again reducing the amount of embankments and viaducts on the landscape.

 

Clumpcliffe Farm

If no further amendments are made then, as a minimum, ten year old mature trees should be planted to the east of Clumpcliffe Farm within the next twelve months. This will provide better screening in advance of construction and operation of the route.

Tunnelling operation between Oulton and the north-west of Rothwell Country Park

I am deeply concerned about the construction phase of the project. The communities of Oulton and Woodlesford are semi-rural in nature and the supporting highway network is not suitable for large plant material or long-term construction projects.

Over recent years, I have repeated my suggestion that the proposed tunnels on the Leeds Spur should be bored from north-west to the south (from Leeds towards Woodlesford), thereby allowing spoil from the tunnelling to be excavated to the compound site near Stourton and straight onto the motorway, instead of being moved on the local highways of Oulton and Woodlesford.

Woodlesford Railway Station

There should be no prolonged closure of Woodlesford Railway Station. It is acknowledged that a short-term closure may be needed in order to reconnect any new railway infrastructure, but this should be done over a minimum period, off-peak and over public holidays. All preparatory work should be done in advance leaving only the reconnection works to be done whilst the lines are closed.

Swillington Lane

The main line routes from Woodlesford to Garforth, parallel to Swillington Lane. The landscape here is such that residential dwellings on Swillington Lane overlook the proposed line due to the gradient of the landscape.

It is proposed that the route travels on a mixture of cuttings and embankments. It is unacceptable that residents should have to look down on the embankments and deal with noise pollution arising from the line. A greener solution should therefore be implemented to mitigate visual and noise pollution. This would mean that residents would instead look down on a green landscape, rather than operational railway infrastructure. The green solutions installed on High Speed 1 have proven to be successful and this should be implemented at this location as a minimum.

Garforth

The proposed route travels to the north of Garforth and near to homes located at Higham Way and Hanbury Gardens. If no further amendments are made then, as a minimum, ten year old mature trees should be planted to the south of the proposed line within the next twelve months. This will provide better screening in advance of construction and operation of the route.

Junction 47 A1/M (Parlington)

It does not appear that any collaborative work has taken place with Leeds City Council. The leadership of Leeds City Council is currently pushing forward a Local Plan that could result in over 4,000 new dwellings in the immediate vicinity of this junction. Highways England has reported that major works would need to be carried out at this junction in order to accommodate increased traffic, yet the current plan is to route HS2 straight across the junction. Neither Leeds City Council/Highways England or HS2 Ltd seem to be working in conjunction with one another in this respect, as it will be impossible to deliver both schemes at this junction.

Consultation

Finally, the breadth of information published relating to the (WDES) and the (WDEQIA) is considerable and it is, in my opinion, unreasonable for communities to be expected to submit responses in full in a short timeframe. It therefore remains my view that the consultation period should be extended beyond the current deadline.

 

Additional dialogue with HS2 Ltd

Alec continues to have a close working relationship with the Swillington, Oulton & Woodlesford HS2 Action Group (SOWHAT). In a recent meeting at which Alec and SOWHAT committee members met with HS2 officials, Alec posed a number of questions relating to the HS2 project in our area. HS2 Ltd has provided further information on these questions below.

Q1. Construction & Logistics

  • how is HS2 Ltd seeking to reduce the impact of the project on Woodlesford, Swillington and Garforth?

Response by HS2 Ltd:

Impact on Woodlesford:

  • Construction traffic banned from the A642 between Fleet Lane and Bullerthorpe Lane
  • The only construction traffic on Fleet Lane will be for the initial set-up of the compound at the tunnel portal. All construction traffic will use Methley Lane
  • Retention of trees wherever possible in particular in Water Haigh Park and east of Clumpcliffe
  • Strategic planting of trees and hedgerows for screening at Clumpcliffe and east of Woodlesford
  • Haul roads routed as far from properties as practically possible
  • Topsoil storage bunds used as temporary screens and possible noise mitigation for construction works
  • Temporary PROW diversions will be established for all PROW or kept open on their current alignment with very short term closures

Impact on Swillington:

Although designated as construction routes, the A642 and Bullerthorpe Lane will not be used for haulage of bulk earthworks materials – these will be transported on an internal site haul road

  • Where possible all other construction vehicles will use the site haul road
  • Construction traffic will be banned from the section of Swillington Lane where residential properties are located
  • The site haul road will be on the west side of the corridor away from Swillington village
  • Strategic planting of trees and hedgerows for screening where appropriate throughout this section of the project, in particular in front of the embankment just to the north of the River Aire Viaduct
  • Topsoil storage bunds on the east side of the corridor used as temporary screens and possible noise mitigation for construction works
  • Temporary Public Rights of Way diversions will be established for all PRoW

Impact on Garforth:

Neither the A642 between the A63 and J47 of the M1 nor the A63 between the roundabout with the A642 and the roundabout with the A656 are designated as construction routes

  • All site traffic will use internal haul roads within the corridor
  • Construction traffic will not use Barrowby Lane nor Nanny Goat Lane
  • Although Barwick Road will not be used as a construction route there will be a plant crossing south of the M1
  • Retention of trees where possible in the Hawk’s Nest Wood area
  • Strategic planting of trees and hedgerows for screening where appropriate throughout this section of the project
  • Permanent road realignments designed such that there will be minimal impact on road users during construction
  • Temporary PROW diversions will be established for all PROW

 

Q2. Tunnelling

  • will HS2 Ltd commit to ensuring that any tunnelling occurs in a north-west to south (Leeds to Woodlesford) direction so spoil can be extracted at the Leeds end; and what mitigation will be in place at tunnel portals?

Response by HS2 Ltd:

Tunnelling impacts at south portal:

  • Compound in Water Haigh Park has been situated as far as practically possible away from any properties
  • Compound has been sited to minimise the removal of any trees within the park area
  • Storage areas for the tunnel works are located on the east side of the corridor away from the village
  • We have included the southern tunnel portal in our list of areas that form part of the Design Refinement Consultation anticipated in mid-2019
  • Further design development might include the potential relocation of the compound from Water Haigh Park to somewhere east of the tunnel portal. An addtional benefit would be that haul roads are further away from the village. However, this would have an impact on either the football grounds and/or the belt of trees to the east of Eshald Lane. It could also be reasonably close to the properties on Eshald Lane. Much careful consideration is required

Tunnelling from the north:

Due to the narrow corridor between the canal and the existing railway there is insufficient space for all the facilities associated with the tunnelling operation – the area available at this location is constrained further by Fishpond Lock and its control building, power supply facility and maintenance access road.

  • These cannot reasonably be located remotely as this would cause a significant logistics challenge in trying to transport materials and provide services in a very narrow corridor.
  • Typical facilities required are:
    • Compound – must be adjacent to the works for ease of access for the operatives
    • Ventilation plant – must be adjacent to the tunnel portal to provide efficient venting of the tunnel
    • Tunnel lining units storage – these are transported into the tunnel by loco (narrow gauge railway). Clearly this must be adjacent to the portal as it would be impossible to build a railway for the loco through the narrow corridor
    • TBM offloading area – this large area must by necessity be adjacent to the portal
    • Emergency rescue facilities – obviously must be at the portal
  • Squeezing all these facilities into a small area increases the risk of accidents due to the proximity of large numbers of items of moving plant and operatives
  • There would also be extensive working alongside a live rail line. Although all necessary controls would be installed there would remain a substantially increased risk of an incident
  • Removal of the tunnel arisings would not be simple. A conveyor route to the RSD would be impractical and inefficient due to its length, a very narrow pinch point between the existing rail line and the canal and availability of land within the RSD when the arisings would be generated within the programme (i.e. concurrent build programmes)
  • An alternative route would be a transfer point on Bullough Lane, potentially in Rothwell Country Park. This would involve an additional crossing over the existing rail line and a very steep incline up Bullough Lane, both of which may not be achievable

Q3. Screening

  • Will HS2 Ltd implement natural screening programmes now so they have time to establish before any proposed works? The following information is therefore requested:
    • explanation of the earliest point in time at which we could potentially plant in advance of main construction
    • provision of planting at Clumpcliffe between residential properties and the proposed line of route
    • constructing a ‘lid’ on the embankment at Swillington, to provide some covering for the communities at eastern edge of Swillington. Failing that, some sort of soft screening
    • tree lining along the southern edge of the line to the north of Garforth, east of Barwick Road, to screen both the motorway and HS2

Response by Hs2 Ltd:

The earliest point that HS2 could commence any screening works would be after post Royal Assent, as prior to that time, we generally do not have the rights to access or acquire lands, other than those that have been identified as being required for the Proposed Scheme, or by agreement with the landowner. Furthermore, the Secretary of State has committed to not taking any more land than is needed for the construction and operation of the railway, which could represent an additional constraint on acquiring lands.

In relation to the timeline for our construction works after Royal Assent. It could be reasonably expected that within months of Royal Assent HS2 would appoint an Early Works Contractor (EWC). Any mitigation planting is likely to form part of the EWC contracts. Our major civil engineering works would be carried out by our Main Works Civils Contractor (MWCC), and could reasonably be expected to commence works in the area within 1.5-3 years of Royal Assent, depending on details scheduling work done by the MWCC.

With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that, if planting is currently planned or agreed upon at some later date, it is possible to have this in place prior to both commencement of main works and the operation of the scheme.

With regard to the ‘lid’ on the embankment at Swillington, the proposal would lead to very significant additional material movement and construction work required with concomitant impacts on the land take required for construction, programme schedule or traffic on haul routes, dependent upon how the additional construction was delivered. However, mitigation with further planting could deliver similar results in terms of the screening effect and we have been reviewing the working draft stage design in this area with that in mind.