FOLLOWING its trip along Britain’s first high speed railway, HS1, The Guardian continues its look at HS2 with a focus on the route alignments of the line through Cheshire.

In the same way HS2 is likely to affect listed structures, SSSIs and existing roads infrastructure, so did HS1 between the Channel Tunnel in Kent and London’s St Pancras International face numerous hurdles.

At Mersham, the railway line necessitated the wholesale movement Grade II listed Bridge House, which was placed on rollers and moved in once piece down the road.

Elsewhere, the line acted as one big archaeological dig – encountering ancient Anglo Saxon and Roman settlements in Saltwood.

At the North Downs tunnel, HS1 runs beneath Pilgrim’s Way – the historic route from Winschester to St Thomas a Becket’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral.

Where trains now pass at 300kph, engineers stopped briefly to unearth the 14th oldest house in Britain, which was excavated and gifted to a nearby museum.

Bernard Gambrill was a civil engineer and later headed consultations and discussions between the Government and local landowners to facilitate HS1.

Like the ancient past encountered by a cutting edge engineering project, Bernard explained that the machinery of Government hadn’t changed much over the years.

“Believe it or not, passing of parliamentary bills for new railways is almost exactly as it was when it was defined in 1845,” said Bernard, “but what it allows for is a great deal of public participation in the process of getting to the agreed design.

“That can be at an individual level, a parish level, local authority level, county or metropolitan level. “All of those contribute to getting an elegant solution for what is required.”

Bernard, whose team managed to smooth tension with numerous opponents to HS1 – including a shotgun wielding farmer in Kent - explained that the route design challenges of HS2 were similar to those faced by Britain’s original high speed line.

“HS1 went through part of the area of outstanding natural beauty but we were on a pledge to keep the impact as low as possible as we are everywhere, and invariably you can do that because the railway is much narrower than a motorway.

“The objective to keep HS2 within existing transport structure is very laudable. But the people who live next to existing infrastructure are invariably not best pleased, so it’s a mixed blessing and you have to take it very gently.

“It takes a long time to discuss with local people so that we understand the problems and make sure we have done what we can to ameliorate the changes in their environment.

“The first thing is that you mitigate the noise closest to the source by shrouding trains and making sure they have very good quality wheels and the rail is of good quality.

“Then you have to try and get mitigation as close to the rail as possible by putting up parapets on bridges and lastly you have to use noise barriers. Remember that one person’s noise mitigation is another’s visual intrusion.

“You can have big bunds where you deposit earth to create a further mitigation measure. Everywhere is different. You have to have banks, planting, fences, and parapets.

“I don’t think there’s anybody I know of in Kent where there’s animosity between them and the old HS1project.

“That’s because we dealt with them fairly and honestly and if they made a suggestion we dealt with it very carefully and gave them their answers – as will happen with HS2.”


Approaching Crewe

The route is elevated, following the West Coast Main Line (WCML) where it would widen to form multiple tracks. Descending again, both HS2 route and the WCML pass under the A500 and enter Crewe, where a junction allows HS2 trains to continue onto the existing rail network.

From the new infrastructure depot next to Basford Hall sidings, the route descends into a cutting and a 2.4-mile tunnel under Crewe, emerging on the northern outskirts of the town, near Parkers Road, avoiding demolitions in Barrows Green.

The tunnel will require one ventilation shaft in the large grassed area behind Rosedale Manor Care Home, with access off Middlewich Street via Ridgeway Street.


Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich.

From Crewe the route would run immediately adjacent to the WCML for two and a half miles, passing through fields at surface level before diverging from the WCML where Nantwich Road cross the WCML north east of Minshull Vernon.

It would be in a cutting beneath Middlewich Road and Bostock Road before travelling along a viaduct over the Trent and Mersey Canal and River Dane floodplain, begining a long embankment east of Whatcroft Hall and passing approximately two miles to the east of Lostock Green, Lostock Gralam and Higher Wincham.

Heritage: North of Crewe, the route would pass some 200 metres east of the scheduled medieval moated site at Minshull Vernon, separated from it by the West Coast Main Line. The proposed route would be in shallow cutting and would be at least partly screened from the monument.

Roads: Roads likely to require permanent or temporary re-alignment: Chorlton Lane, Newcastle Road, Casey Lane, Weston Lane, Parkers Road, A530, Clive Green Lane, A54, A533.

Wildlife and habitats: The route would pass within 1.2miles of Sandbach Flashes, Wimboldsley Wood, Plumley Lime Beds and Tabley Mere Sites of Special Scientific Interest


Knutsford and Tatton

The embankment would cross the Altrincham to Chester A556 at Lostock triangle. A series of viaducts, level running and cuttings would take the line passed Pickmere, just west of the telescope.

The route would then run in either shallow cutting or on the surface for just under two miles before rising onto embankment to cross the M6 to the north of Junction 19.

The route descends into a cutting under the A50 west of Hoo Green, where the spur to Manchester would leave the main route using a grade separated junction.

Heritage: Passing west of Hoo Green, where the spur diverges eastwards, the setting of the Grade II Listed Ovenback Cottage near High Legh would be affected.

Roads: Roads likely to require permanent or temporary re-alignment: A50, A56.

Wildlife and habitats: The route has been refined to avoid impacts on Rostherne Mere, SSSIs and Ramsar sites within Tatton Park.


Knutsford to Sale and Altrincham

The proposed route would be in cutting between the M56 and Rostherne Mere.

It would continue to run parallel to the M56 on its south side, following terrain passing over Birkin Brook and the Altrincham to Chester railway on embankment, before heading north-west to cross under the M56 at Warburton Green, to the north of the Manchester Airport runways.

The route would then be in cutting to the west of the M56, running into the proposed interchange station, close to the airport and motorway.

From the interchange station at Manchester Airport, the route heads north-east, descending into twin tunnels 22 metres deep close to Junction 5 of the M56 for 7.5 miles under Newell Green, Wythenshawe, Northenden, West Didsbury, Withington, Rusholme and Longsight.

One of four ventilation shafts would be situated at the junction of Altrincham Road, A560, and the M56.

Roads: Several roads are likely to require permanent or temporary re-alignment, such as Ashley Road, the M56 and the A538 Heritage and property: This section of the proposed route would result in the demolition of the Grade II Listed Buckhall at Hale Barns, a mid-18th century brick farmhouse.

15 residential demolitions would be required at Manchester Airport High Speed Station.


Serving Warrington, Crewe, Runcorn and the wider north west.

To serve Liverpool, classic compatible high speed trains will run for around 155 miles on the high speed line from London to Crewe and only the last 35 miles on the existing railway as they travel into Lime Street Similarly, other stations including Warrington, Runcorn and Preston will be served by HS2 trains via the WCML link at Crewe or the link at Golbourne near Ashton-in-Makerfield.

Other links between existing main lines in the UK and HS2 will allow passengers to access the continent by changing at London’s new Old Oak Common station – a connectivity billed by HS2 as Penzance to Paris with a platform change.

Bernard said better interconnectivity between provincial cities aside from London was one facet of HS2 that had been overlooked by some.

“In wider terms, think about people going from Manchester to Leeds,” he said.

“I think that’s more important than people have noted at the moment. The most recent report by KPMG points that out – that there’s a conglomeration of activity and centres of excellence outside London that needs to be connected.

“It will make everything much more accessible for these cities. A quicker, faster journey that’s provided through to places like Paris must be beneficial.

“I believe HS2 will be built. I’m not reading the minds of ministers, but I believe it will be built because it is so desperately needed for Britain.”

Pic: is 38nHS2single and 38nHS2 Cap: Protesters against HS2 meet at Northwich Library to unveil banners against the planned railway line.


A GROUP of residents opposed to the construction of a high speed rail line will be making their stance known at the Conservative Party Conference later this month.

Cheshire Against HS2 (CAHS2), formed last week when nine action groups from across Cheshire and Staffordshire unified to create a stronger presence against the £46.2bn project.

Their first step since forming the group will have a peaceful presence at the Conservative’s annual event, which takes place at Manchester Central from September 29.

“We could not afford to take a stand within the conference venue so outside it must be,” explained Ewen Simpson, chairman of CAHS2.

“We will have placards stating simply ‘no vote for you with HS2’ and we are hoping to have placards with cartoons by Lostock Green resident Bill Stott.”

The group will also distribute flyers from HS2 Action Alliance and STOP HS2.

Ewen added: “We are hoping that Ellie our Stop HS2 white elephant will be there to boldly make our case.”

He also cast doubt on the consultation process.

“People shouldn’t be expecting too much good to come out of this consultation process. It will be useless, as we learned with the Phase 1 consultations.

“They are just PR exercises. People who attended with in depth questions like the loss of farming production land didn’t have their questions answered.

“People manning the meetings usually said: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question’.

For more on the opposition to HS2, visit


THE consultation on the proposed routes for HS2 launched on July 17 and will run until January 31.

It seeks views on the route, as well as sustainability impacts of the proposed alignments.

Andrew Went is the head route engineer for HS2. He is encouraging residents to get involved with the current consultation and to come along to several roadshows where experts will be on hand to answer in depth questions.

He said: “We look at the route the railway line is going to take and what the key features are in that area – housing, environmental features, topography, sustainability.

“We examine how we can fit the railway line into that environment and where we can use the topography to help mask the railway line as much as possible with cuttings and embankments.

“We’re really keen that people who are affected by the scheme and those from the wider area come to the consultations.

“The consultation is open now and runs until the end of January.

“We’ve got roadshows that go all the way up from Birmingham to places along the route of HS2.

“It’s key to us that people who are affected or interested by HS2 come to the consultation roadshows and meet with us.

“There is going to be engineer, environmental and business specialists there who can explain the project and answer people’s questions, concerns and anxieties.

“If people come to consultation now and tell us what they want then we can develop the design, because when it comes to a hybrid bill, that is the stuff we want to get locked down – what do we need to do where and when.”

Reference copies of the consultation are available at the following centres:
Knutsford Library, Toft Road.
Knutsford, Citizens Advice Bureau.
Crewe Library, Prince Albert Street.
Crewe, Citizens Advice Bureau, Victoria Street.
Northwich Library, Barnton, Townfield Lane.
Northwich Library, town centre, Witton Street.
Northwich, Citizens Advice Bureau, Chester Way.
Middlewich Library, Lewin Street.
Middlewich, Citizens Advice Bureau, Civic Way.
Winsford Library, High Street.
Winsford Library, Wharton, Willow Square.
Winsford, Citizens Advice Bureau, High Street.

As part of the consultation there will be a number of information events staged in locations near to the railway line.
Winsford, November 7, 12noon-8pm, Winsford Lifestyle Centre, CW7 1AD.
Crewe, November 13, 12noon-8pm, Crewe Alexandra FC.
Crewe, November 14, 10am-5pm, Crewe Alexandra FC.
Tatton, December 6, 12noon-8pm, Tatton Park, WA16 6QN.
Tatton, December 7, 10am-5pm, Tatton Park, WA16 6QN.