£50 billion is the proposed cost of the new HS2 high-speed rail network. The plan is to build a rail network in this country that complies with the worldwide standard for long-distance, inter-city travel – revolutionizing the transport in this country in the process.
Construction of the HS2 railway is not expected to begin until 2017 at the earliest; with the first trains expected to reach Birmingham in just over ten years. Leeds, Sheffield and the North would be expected to wait for at least 7 more years on top of that.
There are a great deal of potential positives attached to the project. Vast amounts of jobs would be created; with the proposal claiming ‘that HS2 will underpin the delivery of 400,000 jobs’. It also proudly states that ‘two-thirds of the population of Northern England will be within two hours of London.’ It is also claimed that the load on the roads of the UK will be hugely reduced.
Ignorance of Current Problems?
On the other hand however; the problem is seen by many – including Mr. Pothole – as a complete step of avoidance with regards to potholes and poor road conditions in this country. It is an argument that it hard to disagree with. Yet if HS2 does indeed go forward; then it should at least look at including some benefits for cyclists in addition.
In August 2013; a feasibility study was announced; which discussed the inclusion of a new cycleway in the UK alongside HS2. At the time; The Department for Transport said: “To help meet our ambition for cycling, we will conduct a feasibility study into the creation of a new cycling and walking route broadly following the High Speed 2 corridor.
“This would seek to improve links between communities and conventional rail stations and provide enhanced access to landscape, heritage and other sites of interest. By focusing on the HS2 corridor, we can bring benefits to communities alongside the route as well as support the cycling ambitions of several major cities.”
“A Beautiful New Cycling Superhighway”
Further to this; the Mayor of London – Boris Johnson – told The Times in March of this year that: “We should turn Britain into a great, great cycling country and we should be investing. Is there a cycle track up the side of HS2? If not, why not? If we’re going to have this thing, let’s at least have a beautiful new cycling superhighway all the way up from London to Birmingham. Why not do it? I think there should be a national network of major cycle routes.”
No funding has yet been guaranteed for the project, with HS2 itself still not yet a complete certainty. Although the initial plan would be to build the cycle route from London to Birmingham; the Yorkshire area provides huge scope for a cycling project that would not only link cities of the county together; but also encourage new cyclists to use the route. With the Peak District surrounding it; there is every reason to expect that the project would prove hugely popular within the area.
On Thursday 27th March, Cycle.travel claimed to have obtained details of the new national cycleway being proposed alongside the HS2 railway. A Dutch consultancy firm tasked with designing the proposals has promised ‘world class standards’ which build ‘on existing best practices including the Dutch Standards’. The Department for Transport are said to have commissioned this feasibility study to look at a cycle route from London to Birmingham; alongside phase one of HS2; and beyond to Leeds and Manchester; alongside phase two.
Within 3 Miles of HS2 Wherever Possible
Much of the proposed route would not be directly beside the railway. Instead; it wouldn’t run fairly parallel, staying within 3 miles where possible. The Government is set to receive the report including this proposal in the autumn. If successful, it would provide the biggest platform for networked cycling the UK has ever seen.
As well as calling at the major cities that HS2 would stop at; smaller towns such as Chesterfield and Mansfield could feature along the cycleway route. The proposal also apparently includes plans to connect the new cycleway with existing local routes; in order to bring cities together in tandem with the new route.
An e-petition is currently in play on the HM Government website – entitled ‘cycle track adjacent to hs2’ – which is attracting that interest of the cycling public; who feel that it is only right that cycling receives the same level of investment as other areas of UK transport.
There is already an existing National Cycling Network, which is developed and maintained by Sustrans. The sheer scale of the investment being made into the rail network in this country however, means that many feel that network has been outgrown and needs revolutionizing alongside the new HS2 plans.
What do you make of the new HS2 plans? How important is it that a cycleway is incorporated into the new proposals? Get in touch via our contact form to share your views. You can also sign up to our mailing list to stay on top of all sorts of current cycling news.
All the work we do here at Wheelie Good Guys is only possible because of our kind sponsor – Ian Brown. Ian is the Cycling Speedway Commissioner for Yorkshire; and is also a personal injury solicitor with Wosskow Brown.