The government has published a 2016 study which looked at the possibility of building a national cycleway along the route of the HS2 railway. However, at present neither the Department for Transport (DfT) nor HS2 Ltd, the company building the high-speed line, have plans to fund such a thing.
The brief for the study was to establish broad options for possible new and improved cycle routes, how much they might cost, and to assess the feasibility and demand for such a scheme.
In June 2015, then cycling minister Robert Goodwill told road.cc that a cycle network would be built around HS2. He said it wouldn't be the long distance cycle track that had been suggested by Boris Johnson but a network of cycle routes developed from existing bridleways and footpaths.
A covering note published alongside the feasibility study this week states: “Neither the Department for Transport nor HS2 Ltd have any current plans to fund the national cycleway outlined in the study. This study was carried out independently of HS2 Ltd. and this report has no financial impact on the ongoing HS2 rail project.
“If local authorities are interested in progressing the local routes within the study, they are encouraged to incorporate them into their [local cycling and walking infrastructure plans] and explore funding opportunities with their Local Enterprise Partnership, and other potential funders.”
John Grimshaw, an engineer who helped write the study, told the Guardian that not only had the government sat on the report for two years, but it had failed to tell HS2 to make sure new bridges and tunnels crossing the rail line were safe and attractive for cyclists and walkers.
“HS2 hasn’t had instructions from government to include visionary new provision for walkers and cyclists. They are just designing for existing footpaths, even if that footpath is only used by one person a month.”
Grimshaw pointed to Yarnfield Lane near Stone in Staffordshire where HS2’s current bridge design would exclude cycling despite there being an established route already in place. The new bridge would make it impossible for secondary school children and other locals to cycle safely between Yarnfield and Stone.
Roger Geffen, of Cycling UK, said: “If they don’t get it right now, communities are going to be cut off from each other by HS2 and we will be stuck with the wrong bridges and tunnels for decades.”
Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner, commented: “It’s disappointing that funding has not been set aside for this as part of the HS2 budget as it would deliver a host of environmental and health benefits. It would also go some way to connecting communities back together in instances where the new rail line will act as a severance.”