HS2 could decimate a brand new £1.2m greenway, a local cycle tourism programme, cut off up to ten interconnected cycling and walking routes, and destroy future active travel links in Derbyshire, by failing to plan bridges and tunnels, road.cc has learned.
Derbyshire County Council is still building the (£1.2m) Clowne Branch Greenway, a 7.4km long traffic free cycling and walking route on a former railway line, but it could become a dead end once HS2, is built, ‘obliterating’ part of the Greenway. Campaigners are concerned HS2 Ltd has failed to acknowledge cycle routes in plans, despite their being highlighted in earlier consultations.
Last year HS2 Ltd was accused of backing down on its commitments to 'cycle proof' the rail line by providing bridges and tunnels for cycling, while this year a freedom of information request revealed scrapped plans for a cycle network within a three mile corridor of the line would have reaped five times greater returns than the high speed rail route itself.
The Clowne Branch Greenway, linking Cresswell and Staveley, is a key part of the county’s cycle network plans, and one of around ten existing or planned cycling and walking connections in Derbyshire, some twenty years in the planning, under threat from HS2.
pdf map of above image here
Sleepwalking into obliteration?
Although it is not too late to save the network Steve Crapper, of Ride Bolsover, the local cycling campaign, told road.cc if action is not taken two branches of the HS2 line, the main route and a branch line to a depot, will together “obliterate a large area of the Greenway”.
Crapper says HS2 Ltd hasn’t yet taken these into account in plans, after being made aware of them in earlier consultation. Derbyshire County Council plans to link several cycle routes together, hoping cycle tourists will help boost the local economy.
“With a trend towards gravel biking and bike packing there’s a massive amount of tourism to unlock if you can connect all of these trails together. It’s an amazing opportunity that’s not being prioritised,” he said.
An as yet unbuilt route between Staveley and Hardwick Hall, a popular National Trust property, could be one of the most valuable links in the National Cycle Network, according to Sustrans co-founder, John Grimshaw. He says if built, a new 8km section would connect 40km of cycle route.
"Proper regeneration" on hold
A short section of the completed Chesterfield Canal is used by 50,000 walkers and 25,000 cyclists per year. Restored over the past 20 years, just eight or nine miles of unfinished canal separates a possible 46-mile, traffic free, flat route.
The Chesterfield Canal Trust says without adequate width on a tunnel for a towpath, users would be forced to make long diversions onto roads. The Trans Pennine Trail, which crosses the HS2 route at the same point, faces the same fate.
Rod Auton, from the Chesterfield Canal Trust, told road.cc HS2 Ltd is “ridiculously vague” when they discuss the tunnel. “Trying to get a written agreement is proving almost impossible”, he said.
“You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of jobs being created. It’s not just pretty, it’s proper regeneration, it’s going through coal mining communities that still haven’t recovered from the pit closures of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The bits that have been restored are incredibly successful.”
“As long as there’s uncertainty we can’t apply for major grants”.
Both Steve Crapper and Rod Auton are concerned cycling links without planning permission, or that aren’t formally adopted by the council, are particularly at risk.
HS2: "seeking to enable connectivity"
An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said they are “seeking to enable connectivity along the whole of the Greenway route”.
“HS2 aims to be one of the most environmentally responsible infrastructure projects ever delivered in the UK”, the spokesperson said.
“Where possible, the railway will be designed so that public rights of way are carried over or under the railway.
“Along with continual engagement with Bolsover District Council and Derbyshire County Council, groups such as Ride Bolsover have a huge role to play in the development of our design. Their feedback to our recent public consultation will help us identify opportunities where cycling can be incorporated into the landscape of the UK’s new high speed railway. For example, we’ve been working with stakeholders on the Clowne Branch Line Greenway proposals and are seeking to enable connectivity along the whole of the Greenway route.”
A DfT Spokesperson said: “We want to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys, and recognise the importance of the routes which connect communities across the UK. That is why we are investing around £2 billion in cycling and walking over the course of this Parliament, doubling spending per head compared to the last Spending Review period.
“HS2 Ltd is committed to retaining existing connectivity – including cycle paths – and we would expect this to extend to routes which are fundamental to achieving our cycling ambitions in the UK.”
Derbyshire County Council pointed road.cc to its consultation response, here (cycling from p228 onward)