Extending the Chilterns tunnel

Last Tuesday, Robert Syms, chair of the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee made a statement about the options of Chilterns tunnelling. In what is a clear blow to people living and working in the Chilterns, they are not in favour of a long tunnel there, but believe that there is a case for extending the South Heath green tunnel and a longer tunnel near Wendover.

There has been mixed reaction to the news.

The Woodland Trust have pointed out that a South Heath extension could save three ancient woodlands: Mantle’s Wood, Sibley’s Coppice and Farthings Wood in Buckinghamshire, totalling 9.2 hectares.

These woods are part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which provides habitat for the rare stag beetle, red kites, butterflies such as the orange tip and speckled wood as well as bluebells.

Nikki Williams, Head of Campaigning at the Woodland Trust, said:

“We have campaigned publically, lobbied behind the scenes, submitted reams of evidence to HS2 Ltd and the Committee, and our senior conservation advisor, Richard Barnes, even joined the official bus tour with the HS2 Select Committee recently on a visit to the Chilterns.

“There are still 59 more ancient woods in the firing line on Phase 1 alone and we will continue to raise the need to avoid as much of this irreplaceable habitat as possible when we present evidence to the Committee in the coming months. We hope it will realise more must be done.”

The Woodland Trust have been asking people to tweet their support for the Tunnel extension:

Click to tweet your support now!

Cheryl Gillan MP said

“I am delighted that the HS2 Select Committee have accepted that there should be more tunnelling to protect South Heath, Hyde Heath, Potter Row and the Chesham & Amersham constituency. The committee members have asked HS2 Ltd to work up the case for additional provisions based on what I have described as the bare minimum to protect the area. I know if this goes ahead it will bring great relief to more of my constituents for which I am very grateful. However, today’s hearing was bitter-sweet as the committee rejected the arguments for a full tunnel, which would have protected the whole of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Robert Syms’s statement is on the committee’s webpage:

First—on the long tunnel options, we have kept in mind the potential non-quantifiable effects of the project on the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty. On the evidence heard we are strongly of the view that the case for a long tunnel is not made out. Without prejudging the arguments we may hear from future petitioners we believe it is unlikely that an overwhelming case will be made out for the long tunnel options as we move forward into further hearings.

Secondly, we believe that the case has been made for an extension of the bored tunnel to the northern end of the South Heath green tunnel. This would not cause an overall delay to the scheme. We want reassurance on how far that option will result in a deepened cutting laterally to the west of the portal, and we want HS2 to evaluate the effects of a deepened cutting on the local area. Provided that review is satisfactory, we will direct the promoter to work up that proposal as an additional provision.

Thirdly, on Wendover, we are minded to recommend a southward extension of the currently proposed green tunnel, unless hs2 report back with a very convincing scheme of further mitigation, on which we expect a report back in September.

32 comments to “Extending the Chilterns tunnel”
  1. Blatant exaggeration is common currency in such a polarised debate about the rights and wrongs of this very large construction project – it’s happening on both sides of the argument

    Your narrative follows this established pattern – no I don’t recognise the “moon landscape” scenario you allude to and as I’ve repeated ad infinitum, I believe the undoubted disruption caused by the construction process is a price worth paying for the huge long term benefits conferred by HS2.

    • The debate as you call it has never been had, that’s part of the problem. There is minimal support for HS2, apart from vested interests, the evidence that the service will be used sufficiently to warrant expenditure of north of £57bn.- that’s 2011 prices adjusted – is flimsy. UK train travel is already very expensive, business travellers (the putative target for this nonsense) are likely to travel the cheapest way, that’s how they work. Meanwhile, work which needs to be carried out now, is not happening. If HS2 ever happens, we are talking about 2026 for Birmingham at the earliest, Manchester much later, meanwhile more and more people work from home, and have been seen to be working on trains! Extension of HS network throughout Europe has been cancelled due to lack of passengers, not “paused”.

      • The debate as you call it has never been had, that’s part of the problem

        Really – you could have fooled me!

        The general HS2 ‘debate’ has been raging for nigh on six years and if we’re collectively referring to the more recent “HS2 Bury it” proposal to route HS2 in a deep bored tunnel under the entire AONB – that dialogue has also been aired in some detail. The arguments for a long tunnel under the AONB have been roundly dismissed.

        Perhaps you might consider joining the rest of us back on planet reality at some point in the future?

        • There has NEVER been any debate, two bumbling amateurs decided, without any evidence, to build a brand new railway line. It has never been debated in the House of Commons rationally. The so-called “Consultation Process” was a joke, it consisted of the employees of HS2 Ltd. telling people how it was going to be. That is why there have been so many changes, not as the result of consultation, but as part of the Select Committee process. You appear to delight in individuals’ suffering, answer why there are no independent pro-HS2 reports, you remain in the 22% support, which for a project of this size is risible, rather like your insulting comments.

      • Without wishing to be picky, John, but I must challenge your final statement concerning High Speed developments elsewhere in Europe.

        There is,I believe now a general consensus in France that driving forward the building of the TGV network in recent years had led to an imbalance and that insufficient attention had been paid to maintaining and developing the traditional routes.

        Therefore some projected new lines are not to be proceded with. But on the other hand, some of the existing HS lines are even now being extended beyond their former limits.So expansion of the network is continuing.

        I understand that something similar is happening with the German ICE network where there are plans to double the frequency of services in the course of a number of years.

        It was that video clip of a German HS train on the line between Cologne and Frankfurt which caused some comment.

        Though not as fast as the maximum design speed planned for HS2- it was built more than a decade ago- there are some interesting comparisons.

        The German line is a similar length to HS2 phase one, and links two major cities with two classic lines already in existance,(along opposite sides of the Rhine Valley.) At either end is a major airport with a station, also connected to the classic line.The HS line therefore acts as a fast alternative bypass… ,but unlike the plans for HS2, it also manages to include three intermediate stations,9 at least one of which was included due to political pressure), at which a minority of the trains call.

        I have always believed that if one or two intermediate access stops were allowed for, say by one train an hour, then much of the objection to the new line would vanish overnight. This would more than compensate fo the resulting loss of a couple of train paths.

        We need a further pair of tracks between the London conurbation and the West Midlands to reduce the present and future pressure on the southern section of the West Coast network.

        What a pity that so much effort and money has apparently fruitless denial of the need for such a route, (or even before that ,attempts to revive more of the abandoned Great Central, which might well have provided a cheaper, less disruptive and more accessible alternative) when all this energy could have been directed at trying to improve, rather than merely to block.

        • It’s easy to be selective on HS lines, however, the evidence particularly regarding passenger numbers, on which HS2 is presaged, is against further development. The Dutch are regretting getting involved. Remember, the numbers using HS1, which arguably does have a useful place, are at 25% of the original projections, so why should any reliance be placed on any HS2 figures, which appear to have been plucked from the air., and as you say HS2 does not have any connections, so what’s the point? It remains a vanity project, more style than substance.

          • Today, on a flying visit by the three new members of the Select Committee.I heard a recording of three different noise levels, the loudest for petitioners who are outside the compensation zone. The idea that anyone could tolerate this noise which is way in excess of any normally acceptable decibel restriction is absurd. HS2 Ltd.maintain that people will be able to walk their dogs near the track… lies, damned lies etc.

  2. There are several other aspects fo comparing motorway with this HS2. The local access and utilisation of a motorway exceeds the benefit of HS2 along the route.

    The relief of the current over capacity motorways requires relief for millions each day now. Try any North South motorways or M25.

    HS2 results in so many intersections with roads a motorway will integrate communities along the track as the M40 and M1 do.

    The wastage of the rod changes cost and their land take is greater than interfacing a motorway. The motorway ca weave as the M40 does more readily east/west and up and over or under.

    The nation is already on the way to 70Million and by 2100 will be on the way to +80Million people. Mobility is required and whilst daily rail commuting is essential for millions HS2 does not addres this across sufficient areas, only several cities.

    The safeguarded HS2 width is wider than an original M!. The motorway widening has become necessary before HS2 and HS2 will not make any difference to motorway volumes.

    Arguing about no loss of land is futile it is what land take is required for th benefits of most people requiring mobilities short and long for short and long distance. The discussions about by passes arising within the HS2 arguments are and have occurred without HS2. An approach to road travel is the better first priority not HS2 and not route 3 Phase 1.

  3. I hope that these contributions from Messrs Webber and Davidson are not intended to lend credence to the ridiculous claim made by Baroness Kramer in the House of Lords in November 2013, echoed by Sir David Higgins in an interview given to the Sunday Times in October 2014, that not building HS2 will bring forward decisions to build new motorways – the Baroness actually forecast that perhaps two new motorways would be required.
    For the reasons why this is bunkum, please refer to my blog Paxo stuffing, part 6 at https://hs2andtheenvironment.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/paxo-stuffing-part-6.

    • errrr……that’s your take on the future prospects of road vs rail demand – I don’t share it and I don’t set much credence by the reports referenced in your blog (even if they come from HS2 Ltd) either – they’re all forecasts about future consumer patterns, which may or may not prove accurate.

      What I do know for certain is that land take for six lane motorway (or to be precise motorwayS to provide the same passenger capacity as HS2) will be far greater than that of any single high speed rail pathway.

      So if the deciding factor is impact upon the greenbelt in terms of landtake, which appears to be your driving rationale, the answer to road vs rail is a no brainer – or do you simply deny the evidence provided by your own eyes (see URL link provided), because it doesn’t sit well with your own pre-conceived conclusions?

      • But Peter I did not venture any opinion about the comparative land take of HS2 and a motorway, although a mere glance at the drawings within the Environmental Statement demonstrates that the land required for the construction of HS2 far exceeds the finished trace width, so your video does not give the full picture.
        My objection is to the association that was made by Sir David Higgins – which you appear to concur with judging by the second paragraph of your comment in response to mine – that 18,000 seats an hour not provided on HS2 means that you need to find capacity for 18,000 additional passengers an hour on the motorway network.
        This ignores the Government’s stated intention that HS2 capacity will be used largely by existing rail passengers to relieve congestion and provide for growth. I see that you don’t place much credence on HS2 Ltd business planning, but I think that we should take some regard of it since it has been used to justify HS2. I’m sure that you won’t need reminding that the modelling in the October 2013 Economic case for HS2 assumes that in 2036 69% of HS2 passengers will switch from existing rail and 26% will be people who would not have travelled were it not for HS2 being on offer (Table 12 in Appendix 2). The predicted switch from road is a mere 4%. So instead of 18,000 passengers an hour, perhaps Sir David should have used 720 passengers an hour as the impact of HS2 on road traffic, which will have little influence on any decisions to build new motorways.

        • @Peter Delow
          Please stop indulging in semantics

          Your blog revolves around the core issue of localised environmental impact – that background message is implicit in more or less every single post – land take is fundamental to that issue.

          Temporary land take for construction and what the completed project looks like within the landscape is also very important but it suits your argument to focus specifically on the relative disruption caused by construction.

          As other contributions here (from John Webber) have illustrated, the historical context of localised disruption caused by construction is also relevant.

          Your philosophy (echoed by many in the anti-HS2 community) seems to be – there will be disruption at the localised level – therefore we should not proceed

          Well, I’m sorry but I disagree with that approach – I believe the long term benefits of HS2 far outweigh the inevitable localised impact resulting from the construction process

          • Well Peter, if researching and presenting the available evidence in support of my case is “semantics” then I am happy to plead guilty to the charge. That approach is surely better than relying on unsubstantiated claims, spin and sweeping generalisations.

    • THANKYOU, PETER .I’d like to reassure you that my comment was my own and owed nothing either to Sir David or to the honourable Baroness,of whose comment I was unaware.

      I merely felt that our worthy and frequent contributor had perhaps revealed his/ her preference or even predjudice.

      Whatever the points in favour or against HS2,it seemed appropriate then to remind ourselves, (mindful as we are of the need to protect the countryside as best we can, while providing improved infrastructure) of the true facts, as regards building major road and rail routes.

      So, despite the fears that a new line “would destroy the Chilterns” or result in a concrete ‘runway””wider than the pitch at Wembley”, in truth a railway would be HALF the width of the A.41, Hemel bypass, or the A34/A43 past Oxford and Brackley and just ONE THIRD the width of a typical three lane motorway.

      Also it is easier to place a railway in a tunnel,either bored or constructed ‘cut and cover’, out of sight,out of mind, because the railway is guided, besides being able to operate at twice the speed.

    • Quite apart from that, as usual pro HS2 people seem to lose sight of the fact that the government reiterated its protection of AONBs and yet it continues to allow this farcical HS2 phase 1 routing to continue.

      HS2 is very expensive and perhaps tunnelling would add to the total cost but I would suggest that protecting the landscape and wildlife as promised ought to be carried out by using some of the contingency that has been made available.

      Or perhaps, better still adopt the approaches used for HS1 and actually route the line along “major” transport arteries and not the A413 which by no stretch of the imagination (no not even in messrs Davidson, Webber and Jefkins’ minds) can be claimed to be a major transport artery.

      • @Concerned
        The contingency funding you refer to is a UK Treasury mandated feature of any major publicly funded infrastructure project.

        The underlying motivation of HS2 planners will be to bring the project to completion in the most cost effective fashion so falling back to the contingency, in the manner you describe, won’t form part of their mandate.

        Your subliminal preference to route the pathway of any new rail line somewhere else (conveniently not near you by any chance?) perhaps reveals your motivations in this matter. When push comes to shove, it will be OK to build a new railway, which you may or may not avail yourself of at some stage in the future, provided it’s not in your locality?

        Presumably you drive a car, utilising the motorway network (which seems to be the preferred transport strategy for some?). Have you ever paused to consider the localised impact of the motorway you are driving on?

        Many routes were considered for HS2 before the final route 3 option was settled upon. Some of those options did indeed utilise running the pathway close/parallel to major arterial roads, such as the M1 – they were looked and excluded due to either cost/impracticality reasons.

        In 2015, we are where we are – AONB status does not necessarily (and never has) provide blanket protection from any/all development and the anti-HS2 community exhibits breathtaking levels in naivety in falling back to the AONB mantra as some kind of magic shield protection against potential localised development/impact – sorry to break the bad news but it doesn’t work that way!

        • Same old same old Peter, if a commentator does not like the idea, then they must live on the chosen route. In case you had not noticed most people along the “preferred route” would not be able to make use of it anyway.
          Time to change your tired old responses sunshine.

          I repeat if a job is worth doing and I have my doubts, then it is worth doing properly and in my opinion this is not being executed properly. A tunnel to protect the AONB is the most sensible option as it would allow the lines to be even straighter thus fulfilling part of the original “requirement” for high speed which apparently is now all about capacity and not speed.

          Oh and for your information I work from home four days a week thanks to the foresight of the company that I work for in reducing the amount that employees travel.

          • Not going to take any claptrap from you on this point either sunshine!

            Fact is, whether you like it or not, 99% of the anti-HS2 “noise” emanates from areas in close proximity to the planned pathway of phase 1

            Sadly for you, reality (in the form of hard hats, marker stakes and theodilites on site) is not too far distant. HS2 is happening – a bored tunnel under the entire AONB area has been considered….and dismissed, maybe you should just learn to deal with that outcome?

            • NAO, PAC, House of Lords Committee, how do they fit into your 99%?
              You seem overkeen to see locals suffer, for a highly questionable project. I believe there is a regular horse and cart service to Manchester which is quite reliable, without messing up a good deal of the countryside from London to Birmingham. It’s not all about the AONB, which I agree doesn’t appear to be relevant to any project, however ill-advised. To repeat a question, name one impartial report which is in favour of HS2?

            • Oh dear I appear to have upset you Peter.
              Well this might upset you further, try reading some of the polls showing a lack of support for HS2 across the country or are they all “claptrap” as well?
              Oh and I am glad that you have returned to your normal mode of reply.

      • YOU’RE RIGHT TO BE ‘CONCERNED’ and the A.413 is an attractive route and has been pictured as such on this site,- though with Government promises of renewed spending on the road network, who knows for how long it will remain so undisturbed.

        In its previous form, some century and a bit ago, and long before the existing dual carriageway sections were cut through the landscape (!),however must it have appeared to the then sparse population of the valley,as the Metropolitan Railway was driven through the woods and parklands ever onwards towards Wendover, Aylesbury and beyond?

        Contemporary press reports record the surprise, dismay and incredulity on the part of the visiting London newspaper correspondent(1886)*

        What a mess it must have made as the route was clear felled and pegged out for the work to proceed!
        How long was it I wonder before the raw scars healed and Metroland attracted growing numbers ,especially those who could combine semi rural living with weekly toil in the City ?

        One further point; if you look in a recent road atlas, or consult a modern O.S. map, I think you will find the A,413,,Denham to Aylesbury section, printed in green, like the A.40, A.41, A.418 etc, denoting a ‘primary route’.

        *Quoted by Clive Fozell in ‘Rails to Metroland’
        published by the author, 2005

        • Thank you for the history lesson John.

          I would suggest however that that was then and this now and there are many more inhabitants of the area who are likely to be affected unless this scheme is executed correctly (or better still thought through again).

          The optimum solution in my opinion is to have the tunnel running through the whole of the Chilterns AONB. The extra cost is irrelevant given the overall cost of the whole project.

          Whilst the A413 may have been designated a “primary route”, I doubt very much whether many people would regard it as major transport artery. Check out how much of its length is dual carriageway for example?

          Whilst you are correct in your assertion that nobody knows what the government is planning for the A413, what we do know currently is that they and HS2 Ltd are intending to ruin parts of the area when they do not have to and as soon as they can.
          So one thing at a time I think, don’t you?

  4. It is believed the Treasury are trying to estimate HS2 costs at 2018 prices, meanwhile the House of Lords has requested answers to inconvenient unanswered questions, but has McLoughlin, perhaps, gone deaf, again.
    Once this nonsense is sorted, it should be legislated that no major scheme should be allowed to proceed only on the nod of bumbling amateurs, one of whom currently controls the purse-strings and clearly does not know what he is about. Democracy? Huh!

  5. Cameron is the leading hypocrit. Invasive MPs plunder Bucks for your land for trading on behalf of others. A motorway would be better value with less damage than this folly.

    • Ah, YES! A MOTORWAY. Of course. That’s what we want…

      and it’s only three times the width of a rail line.

        • Tilting trains were invented here then rejected by a sceptical press and an impressionable public……Thank you Peter for posting a video that shows how compact and twisty an HS train corridor can be if tilting trains are used…..But, HS2 is not going to tilt is it?……..The lack of tilt ability will dictate an arrow straight trace and the insistence upon a design speed in excess of 300 kph will dictate a wider separation of the up and down tracks…….It will be wider than that German train and when it goes beyond Leeds or Manchester on classic twisty tracks, the absence of a tilting mechanism will make it slower than today’s express services along the same stretch…..

          • On and by the way @Clive, your comment about tilting trains and consequent speed factors might be relevant if true – unfortunately (for the relevance of your comment) it’s well wide of the mark.

            The section of high speed rail seen @1min 30 secs in the video posted, is on dedicated high speed line between Frankfurt and Cologne, close to Neustadt to be precise. The Velaro rolling stock operating on that line routinely runs at 300km/h speeds and does not tilt in the manner you describe, because they don’t need to – the line was built for high speed running from the outset.

            The tilting Velaro variants you refer to (and shown elsewhere in the video) are used for hybrid routes where some sections of the rourtes are high speed (250km/h or greater) and some sections are on conventional speed lines.

            • Peter. The main factor that concerns me is that dedicated HSR lines are unable to negotiate their way round sensitive areas without negating the benefit of the high sustained cruising speed…..

              Irrespective of our difference of opinion as to the merit of ultra high speed in the UK, there are respected ecologists who seem concerned at the unfolding narrative of the greater threat to ancient habitat like woodland that cannot be replanted that seems to be playing out…..

              A design speed of 220 kph with tilting trains could achieve this and be capable of superior mitigation of the impact on the environment

              Surely such issues are imperative if we don’t want to leave a legacy of impoverishment for future generations.

      • A typical motorway is actually about twice the average width of an HSR line operating at the proposed design speed envisaged for HS2…..In fact, during construction, the trace will be everywhere at least about as wide as the length of a football pitch throughout the Colne Valley….Construction will take at least ten years for phase one and no doubt about another five or ten when the government do their inevitable U-turn on the Heathrow spurs….Basically it will be wide enough for long enough and every bit as hideous as a motorway whilst offering very little utility to anybody along the route…….At least one can get on and off a motorway via the many junctions………

        • @Clive
          Perhaps you should take a look at some images of the new LGV SEA line, now taking shape between Tours and Bordeaux – see following link

          Your armaggedon type claims concerning the localised impact of a High Speed Rail pathway are just not borne out by actual experience – yes, there will be disruption during the construction phase, that’s inevitable but once finished HS2 will blend into the natural landscape – the new virtual reality fly past of HS2 (between Brackley and Old Oak Common) also gives the lie to your alarmist exaggerations.

          The last thing needed now is a new era of destructive motorway construction as the solution to long term UK transport requirements

          • Peter, my point about motorways is meant to be a flippant one – nobody should be contemplating a renewed motorway building bonanza even though they are more widely accessible, because they are also ultimately self defeating when inevitably they fill up and become yet another source of environmental degradation (like all superfluous transport infrastructure)

            But, when it comes to the lie about my alarmist exaggerations it will not do to cite that virtual flypast which is (after all) commissioned by the promoter, who have an understandable investment in down playing the impact along the route.

            Those fleeting blue flashes convey nothing of the reality of mud mountains, acres of spoil dump over entire fields up to a height of 3 meters, the substantial matter of the longest viaduct in the UK that must traverse 3 expansive lakes, the demolition of an entire hill just to accommodate a ‘temporary’ railhead, 7 construction compounds for viaduct launch, tunnel rail and catenary fit out, prefabrication of concrete tunnel lining sections and viaduct build, a power substation, numerous utility and access road and pathway diversions road closures and realignment, the dust, light pollution, noise, and traffic grid-lock on already over subscribed local roads for ten years.

            From where I stand in the Colne valley, by any reasonable measure the impact will be akin to a localised armageddon because the vast majority of the works and their impact will be off trace…I will be long gone when and if it ever blends into the landscape!

            Well so much for CFA 06 and 07……..it will not be on the same scale everywhere…..good

            Of course one has to acknowledge, however, the need to address the serious problems with the issue of commuters standing on overcrowded trains from Rugby, Milton Keynes and Reading, coming into London….a scenario that is widespread variously over the entire UK rail network

            But, as you point out, the route for phase one is between Brackley and Old Oak common between which, nobody is currently travelling because people just don’t live there yet!

            So what we have is the ultimate ‘pants on fire’ claim about the HS2 commuter’s panacea.

            With the complicity of bodies like the ‘not for profit’ Green Gauge 21, we are being fed spurious future rail demand requirements that just do not mesh with anything trending now to justify an enormous spend on the wrong thing.

            Are phrases like ‘west Midlands economic engine’ and ‘northern power house’ merely HS2 new speak for ‘future displaced dormitory suburbs of the dominant sprawling London and the south east’?

            If so, is that not a very very big lie?

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