Local campaigner proposes how to improve HS2 whilst reducing costs

Published on: Wednesday, 16th January 2019
Bridge photo over Mr. Allan's proposed HS2 route alongside existing rail lines

A campaigner against the controversial HS2 rail link has written to the transport minister Chris Grayling to offer an alternative proposal, which he says, deviates only a little from the official plan, but avoids much of the mass destruction planned.

After fellow campaigner Vaughan Morris released what he described as the "incredibly detailed costing of a tunnel", Stuart Allan criticised HS2 who he claimed "never reply to suggestions" and said that "they just go their own way with no regard to residents".

In his letter to Minister Grayling, Mr. Allen said that Long Eaton was undoubtedly the worst environmental issue of the whole HS2 project but said that his letter, above many others, was worthy of his attention as it offered a better solution than demolishing 183 homes and 52 businesses, protecting over 1,000 jobs he said were at risk.

He criticised the current HS2 design, branding 19m high rails as unnecessarily high, veering off the existing rail corridor, and said that HS2 had failed to work with Network Rail to achieve the best outcome.

Describing the low level Network Rail corridor as completely straight, something HS2 requires, from Main Street to the proposed hub location, he said that consolidation of the two Network Rail lines to two lines on the west side would leave room for a HS2 viaduct on the east side, which he said would be within the corridor from the hub to Station Street, an area he said was wide due to the old station platforms.

He also proposed that any viaduct deck could be produced at Stanton Bonna if made in prefabricated form, a viaduct that he said could drop in level to clear both Main and Station Street in the town and said that an underpass would not be required with a more collaborative approach with Network Rail.

Mr. Allan, who said that he was conducting a consultancy exercise when HS1 was built, and was working at a fuel farm adjacent to the route and the M25 at Dartford, criticised HS2 for not declaring the build type of any Long Eaton viaduct at the roadshow, and singled out engineers at HS2 roadshows requesting that they considered this and provided feedback but said that none had been received.

Finally, he told the Transport Minister that there were several other possible options, one ruled out by political pressure, that being a hub over the East Midlands Parkway which he said would offer superb road and rail connectivity existing and close to the airport, along with a tunnel under Toton, Stapleford and Trowell but did not detail how this might affect local residents there.

His full open letter to the Minister reads as follows:

Dear Minister Grayling,

No doubt your office receives numerous letters for you daily & just a tiny percentage forwarded for your personal attention. So what makes this letter different? Long Eaton is undoubtedly the worst environmental issue of the whole HS2 project. It is worthy of your attention because there is a better solution than demolishing 183 homes & 52 businesses, putting 1000+ jobs at risk. 

The current HS2 design through Long Eaton is unacceptable for two basic reasons, one, it is unnecessarily high with rails 19 metres above the ground & two, it veers off the existing rail corridor demolishing numerous houses. HS2 has failed to match its stated aims & objectives, causing great damage to the environment & the welfare of householders, a travesty of common sense.

HS2 has failed to work with Network Rail to achieve the best outcome. If Cross Rail can, HS2 should be able to do so?  The low level NR corridor is completely straight, as desired by HS2, from Main Street to the hub location. If NR is consolidated to two lines on the west side of the corridor this leaves room for HS2 viaduct piers on the east side of NR, still within the corridor from the hub to Station street. Near Station Street the corridor remains wide since it includes the old station platforms, that is approximately 18 metres wide plus an additional 2 metres of land grab on the west side possible.

Between Station Street & Main Street the width reduces at points but still appears wide enough without piers intruding into gardens. Using this corridor would radically reduce demolition. Where HS2 commences the curve some 200 metres will need to straggle NR in order to match the current curve. A positive aspect of this is that less houses will be demolished on Newbury Avenue. It seems likely that if the HS2 deck were prefabricated it could be produced locally at Stanton Bonna, brought in by the railway line alongside & lifted into position. This would benefit residents by quicker construction & reduced road transport. Note that I have allowed width & headroom for an electrified NR route. (See profile diagram). The mass destruction of business premises could be avoided by using a nearby vacant plot for the construction compound.

Approaching Long Eaton from the south the minimum height of HS2 is governed by the need to cross over the high level line but thereafter, unlike current proposals, the viaduct could drop to a level to just clear Main & Station Street. The rail height would be approximately 9 metres rather than the 19 metres of the current HS2 design. Continuing on at this low level requires Nottingham Road Bridge to be replaced by an underpass. Locating this to the north of the bridge temporarily demolishes ASDA’s fuel forecourt & car wash but these would be restored on the footprint of the old bridge, with an access bridge. Gradients for vehicles in the underpass would be similar those of the bridge but the gradients for cyclists & pedestrians reduced in the 3 metre strips either side. (See layout & profile diagrams). The footprint released by the east bridge ramp would provide a parking area, lacked by the adjacent residents. Should NR relinquish their low level route no underpass would be required.

Adopting the design principles above would radically improve the acceptability of the project, speeding construction whilst eliminating wholesale destruction, visual intrusion & reducing noise spread. At the road show HS2 would not even say if the viaduct was to be a box structure, cast in-situ or pre-fabricated!

Another potential benefit could spring from lowering the viaduct. I was conducting a consultancy exercise when HS1 was built. I was working at the ExxonMobil fuel farm adjacent to HS1 & the M25 at Dartford crossing. Here a long length of HS1 viaduct decking was pre-fabricated at the side of the M25 & pushed across the void. So if a constant gradient was used for the straight section through Long Eaton, it might be possible to fabricate 99 metre sections of the deck in the sidings, at near ground level, remote from the local population & pull a total of 9 or so units along the straight section. This would remove much construction work from the town & minimise contractors lorries. There may be the opportunity to use rail transport for delivering reinforcing steel, cement & aggregate? Both options documented could achieve building economies with the Hub near ground level & NR high level passing above.

I have singled out many engineers at HS2 road shows requesting that they consider this & provide feedback – none received. There are several other options possible, I favour the one ruled out by political pressure, a hub over the East Midlands Parkway with superb road & rail connectivity existing & close to the airport. Then a tunnel under Toton, Stapleford & Trowell.

Stuart Allan

Mr. Allan's proposed underpass plan

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