Friday, 31 December 2010

HS2 meeting on changed route for consultation in coming months

I attended, along with around 50 others (residents groups and councillors) a briefing given by the HS2 team at Camden Town Hall just before Christmas. There’s a lot of information you can find on the HS2 website, especially the announcement of the proposed change of route for consultation published by the Secretary of State on the 20th December.

Below are some observations, these do not attempt to be comprehensive and do reflect our particular interests as Swiss Cottage ward councillors.

The main consultation on the route will take place in the first few months of 2011 – exact timings and process to be announced. This is the real opportunity for public information and consultation on what is undoubtedly a complex and concerning proposal. While Camden Council is not the planning authority, as ultimately this will be decided by a so-called Hybrid Bill in Parliament, it is vital that the Council keeps involved to ensure the consultation is as effective as possible. I suggested to them at the meeting that given the diversity of Camden and the fact the issues change as you move north, the consultation needs to be very locally focused and relevant to Euston, then Primrose Hill/Belsize, then Kilburn etc.

While there are no changes to the proposed westward expansion of Euston (with demolition of around 300 homes), in the Primrose Hill/Swiss Cottage area the line has been moved north by around 100m, and will be closer to existing tunnels. The detailed map of the route in our area is here. Effectively it goes under Gloucester Avenue, then crosses Adelaide Rd around Eton Rd, then along Fellows Rd under the Chalcots blocks, then under Swiss Cottage open space, Regency Lodge, the Hilgrove estate and then the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate.

It will be deeper than originally outlined, some 30-50m, reflecting the height of the ground – ie it will get deeper as the ground rises up to Fellows Rd. According to HS2, the change in route reflects further work by them and in particular the increased depth and closer alignment with existing tunnels, as well as the fact that there is now a link to St Pancras/HS1 as well as Euston. Some of our residents in Swiss Cottage ward will be relieved by the change in route, others in our ward, and many in Belsize ward, will inevitably be very concerned. It is unfortunate that as it happens in Camden the route is now very largely under council estates.

Ventilation shafts – the shaft at Hawtrey Rd is of course gone. Instead we have one on Adelaide Rd near the nature reserve (but on railway land) and one in Alexandra Place where the arcade of shops is. The shafts are two storey buildings around 25x25m with some parking for emergency vehicles. While HS2 emphasised how inobtrusive such ventilation shafts are in East London on HS1, and how they can reflect local situations to some extent, there are natural concerns about noise, fumes etc as well as visual impact. All of this needs to be examined in detail, not least as the plans for Alexandra Place are very near housing, and seem to supercede the council’s own estate regeneration thinking in the area.

It was emphasised that the tunnels (three single tunnels) would all be dug from Old Oak Common in West London, with all earth etc removed from there.

Many concerns were naturally expressed both about vibration during construction, about settlement of older homes nearby (and what degree of guarantees will be given), and about long term stability, not least for high rise blocks. HS2 has a lot of answers but the devil is clearly in the detail and all of these issues will have to be examined in great detail.

This is going to keep all of us busy over the coming months, and as Swiss Cottage councillors we’ll be doing what we can to keep residents informed and represent their views. The Primrose Hill HS2 Reference Group website is also worth looking at, though at the moment it does not reflect the revised route.


Lizzy Williams said...

I am Lizzy Williams, Chairman STOPHS2. I walked the entire route in September and could not believe how no-one knew the route was coming through their property. Join STOPHS2 We are the national campaigning organisation against HS2. We are run by volunteers and need your support as you do ours. There is NO business case and NO environmental case for HS2 and no money to pay for it. This is potentially the biggest crime this Government may commit £34 billion for this phase! Listen to the arguments, look at the facts and STOP this nonsense. Lizzy Williams

Swiss Cottage says No said...

I live in Swiss Cottage and am working with other action groups to try to stop this expensive political folly. More details on:

Anonymous said...

I live on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate. We note that the new alignment of the tunnels passes directly under our Grade II* listed buildings. We are organising ourselves to nip this thing in the bud. There are no conditions in which it would be acceptable to run these tunnels under our estate.

alex4d said...

Anonymous, you say "There are no conditions in which it would be acceptable to run these tunnels under our estate." If the tunnels are deeper than most tube lines, would that be acceptable? Do you think people who live in homes above the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines suffer from the vibrations? They might do, I don't know. Maybe bigger trains need to have deeper tunnels to have less vibration - 50m might not be enough.

If the current Euston to Birmingham line wasn't around, just a quiet alley and some waste ground, would you find it acceptable to build multiple tracks along the route? If people ask if it is OK living within 50m of a train line, what do you say? If you wanted to sell your flat, what would you say about the current conditions?

I think the fact that the library and the Alex estate are listed means that the conditions under which the tunnel is to be constructed preclude any damage to the buildings. Maybe someone could check to see if the Jubilee extension from Green Park to London Bridge and onwards was built under any listed buildings. I vaguely remember one news story about building movement around Big Ben, that was associated with building the Westminster station box and the new building for MPs.

I know that there were problems with a cut and cover tunnel method used for the Heathrow Express tunnels, but as this line will use borers, I don't think tunnel collapses will be a problem. I've never heard about surface problems from tube tunnels filling in.

I live on a main road, I would be completely happy for a tunnel to be built 55m below my home.

I'm amazed and glad that plans for High Speed 2 haven't been shelved. I only hope that the new 'FU planning' legislation goes through and these sort of projects can get going more quickly without having to go through parliament every time.

If it is NO to HS2, what do you want to say YES to instead?

Anonymous said...

alex4d, the "New Austrian Tunnelling System" (which is the system that would be used to bore the 3 tunnels for HS2) is inherently unstable and requires tremendous hands-on expertise continuously during drilling and lining. Collapses are not infrequent and somewhere in the world, at least one occurs every year. The Heathrow incident to which you refer (which was not cut and cover) was caused by a subsurface collapse; you may also remember the Stratford collapse, during boring of the tunnels for the London to Paris line.