If you are thinking about going for a walk this weekend, you might want to have a look at this map.
It was produced by the Ramblers’ Association, and shows the footpaths and rights of way that will be affected by HS2.
You can also read their submission to the Transport Select Committee inquiry on High Speed Rail. Although they are concerned about the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty, they refer to the effects of HS2 on the other areas of countryside where it will pass. They say
“8. Similar considerations apply to the impact of the scheme on the London and West Midlands green belts. The constraints that limit choice of route have not been adequately balanced against the impact on hitherto undeveloped landscape.
“9. The countryside traversed by other parts of the route, even if it does not enjoy special protection, is generally tranquil. Here too the constraints imposed by seeking to achieve the highest possible speeds, without consideration of whether this is the best all-round option, appears to have ruled out the environmentally preferable option of a route alongside existing railways or motorways.”
The Ramblers’ Association submission also mentions footpaths, commenting that these have received little attention from HS2 Ltd. Of the approximately 150 footpaths that HS2 may sever, only 27 of them are mentioned in the Appraisal of Sustainability, they say. Following correspondence with HS2 Ltd, “it is only the effect on these [27 routes in the AoS] routes, and not the effect on the likely 120 other rights of way affected, that has been taken into account.”
The Ramblers Association is concerned that HS2 Ltd will find it impossible or too expensive to avoid footpath closures along the route.
Perhaps a reasonable summary of their concerns about the effect on footpaths is in this paragraph:
“12. Even if all paths remain open, public enjoyment of them will be severely reduced by the noise levels on bridges over, or paths close to, the route. Once again we return to the point that the route traverses currently tranquil countryside, whereas if it could be sited alongside existing major railway lines or motorways the impact of additional noise would be more acceptable. We suppose that in some cases, it will be necessary to divert public paths to convenient crossing-points. For example, where a farm is severed, and provision is made for an accommodation crossing such as a bridge or cattle-tunnel for the benefit of the occupier, such a provision could also be the means of crossing the line by nearby public paths, provided the resulting diversion to the path is reasonably convenient without significant adverse effect on enjoyment. In our view, provision must be made so that diversions follow desire-lines away from the railway; they should not simply be routes within the limits of deviation which run as unnatural, ‘dog-leg’ diversions hard alongside the line from the point of severance to the new crossing-point.”