I went to a meeting at Chiltern District Council Offices on Monday 26th March to a consultation with various personnel connected to HS2. While it was quite an informative evening, there were so many speakers that there was only time for a few questions, which I think left many in the room quite frustrated and, if I was a little cynical, might think that was the plan, but that is only my opinion.
They were giving out HS2 – FAQs and I have copied them onto this page. It covers from the south portal near to junction 17 of the M25 to where the tunnel comes out at South Heath, but there are a couple of general questions. No questions were able to be put about extending the tunnel past South Heath, but a lot was said about the chaos that will probably happen on the local roads, particularly the A413 and surrounding small roads.I was not able to get a question in about badgers,but we’ll be contacting HS2 in the near future to get updates on the sett checking they are doing.
HS2 – FAQs
How long is the Chiltern Tunnel and where does it start and end?
The tunnel is 15.8km long and starts at the south portal just inside the M25 south of Junction 17 and just south of Chalfont Lane . The northern end comes out northwest of South Heath, near Great Missenden.
How deep will the tunnel go?
The depth of the tunnel varies. At its deepest point it will be 60m below the ground surface. At its shallowest point it will be approximately 20m below the surface. The depth of the tunnel at any point is also factored by the above ground topography.
What and where is the south portal?
It is where the TBMs will be built to dig the Chiltern Tunnel. It is next to the M25, near Junction 17 in between the motorway and the A412 Denham Way. The south portal will also be the place where staff are based who are building both the Colne Valley Viaduct and the Chiltern Tunnel. Some staff may live there some of the time, or commute to work there. All of the contractors working there have been asked by HS2 to provide travel management plans so they don’t impact on local traffic. This might be car sharing for workers living in the local area, or minibuses picking up staff from local stations. They will not be allowed to park on local roads.
What is a TBM?
It is a tunnel boring machine. Two will be used to create the two tunnels needed under the Chilterns. They are 10 metres wide and around two football pitches long (210 metres)
When will you start digging the tunnels?
Align, the consortium who will be digging the tunnel, is still working on its programme, but currently estimates they will start tunnelling in late 2019. the first TBM will start digging followed by the second one three months later. They will come out at South Heath in late 2023.
So who are Align and who are EK?
Align is the consortium of contractors responsible for the design and construction of the Colne Valley Viaduct, the Chiltern Tunnel and the north and south portals. At the north portal they hand over to the next rconsotium of contractors, EK, who will build the line from there onwards including the Wendover Dean viaduct.
What happens to the soil (spoil) they dig out?
It goes back along the tunnel to the M25, where it is largely spread across the fields there, immediately adjacent to the M25. Align is currently developing a landscaping scheme which proposes using the spoil to create new chalk grassland habitats, woodland and public amenity. It may be necessary to remove some unsuitable material via the M25. HS2 Ltd are the contractors are doing all they can to ensure as much of the movement of spoil is kept off the public highway which is why they are building the slip roads on and off the M25 at this location.
Where are the vent shafts and what do they do?
There are five intervention shafts and ventilation shafts which are Chalfont St Peter, Chalfont St Giles, Amersham, Little Missenden and Chesham Road (near Hyde Heath). The intervention only shaft is at Chesham Road. The intervention and ventilation shafts both allow for the emergency services to access the tunnels and also allow cooling of the tunnels and smoke extraction in the event of an accident. The intervention shaft at Chesham Road near South Heath (only) shaft has no ventilation function.
What about the vent shafts and the soil they dig out, where does that go?
The consortium of contractors who are building the tunnel (Align) are constrained by limits that are identified in the Code of Construction practice. Align is working on the traffic management plans for all the sites however they are aiming to do all they can thensure the least impact on local roads. For EK, it is working on moving as much spoil along the line of the route rather than use local roads.
If there is an emergency in the tunnel what happens to the passengers? Will they be evacuated through the vent shafts?
No. They will be evacuated from the train in the tunnel and moved to a safe area. There are cross passages within the tunnel to allow for this.
There are rumours the tunnel is going to be extended beyond South Heath?
Following a C1 and C2 review of the current ;location of the Chiltern Tunnel north portal, both Align and EK provided HS2 with their indicative costs/savings. In summary: if the portal was moved 300m northwest away from South Heath, it would cost the Project an additional £9M for the civil works alone. The ground conditions are such that extensive additional ground treatment would be required. There would also be no clear environmental benefit. Materials that the C” contractor would have excavated from the portal, and reused elsewhere on C2, would now need to be sourced elsewhere. Chesham Road shaft would also be changed to a ventilation shaft, with increased local impacts. The additional railway systems costs have not been calculated, but could potentially double the civils figures. Consideration is currently being given to other ways of reducing environmental impacts at the north portal, such as a reduction in approach tunnel separation and hence track separation, to try to reduce the width of the excavation and the extent of the portal cutting. The design teams are also looking at slope gradients with the same intention to reduce the overall width of the Works.
Does HS2 own Annie Baileys pub near South Heath/ Great Missenden?
No HS2 does not own this pub and currently has no intentions in that regard.
Will staff be living at the vent shaft sites?
No. The only permanent accommodation site is at the south portal. There will be 24 hour security at each site, but no permanent accommodation, although there may be some overnight stays by staff if necessary. All main accommodation is at the south portal.
With the Chiltern tunnel build, what is the impact on the chalk aquifer and the water?
There will be no short, medium or long term impacts on the chalk aquifer. Tunnelling methodologies and materials are chosen to mitigate all geological and hydrogeological risks,with the end result that water quality, water quantity and water flows below ground and above ground are protected during the excavation and construction works and afterwards. Extensive ground investigation and groundwater monitoring works continue to gather information to inform the choice of methodologies and materials.Along with the extensive ground investigation which has already taken place, Align has commissioned an additional 43 boreholes, and geophysical surveys including sonar and ground penetrating radar studies. This information will allow Align to design its tunnelling technology to protect the aquifer and water supply during the tunnelling operation.
Has HS2 given any more consideration to the dangers of increased traffic flows to users of the many side roads/junctions off the busy main roads in the area and what about rat running by HBVs?
Safety is paramount, both for our staff and drivers as well as the general public and other road users. Align and EK are looking to raise the standards for our vehicles on the public highway. All drivers will be professionally trained and we will put similar requirements on our supply chains. Drivers on the HS2 project will be subject to ‘ Rural Driver Training’ which focuses on recognising the specific hazards of driving in rural environments and how to mitigate those.All vehicles and suppliers will be fitted with safety equipment that complies with the Transport for :London Freight Operators scheme (FORS). This includes on board dash cams, blind spot cameras and sensors and audible warnings for cyclists and pedestrians when the vehicles are making turning manoeuvres. Our highway engineers are also currently looking at junction layouts where we known they could be improved for safety.
All HGVs will have clearly visible signs in their windscreens stating they are working for HS2. Any rat running HGVs must be reported by residents to the HS2 number – 08081 434 434 which operates 24/7. They are not allowed to use local roads through villages and town centres.
So when will HS2 be open to the public?
In 2023 the contractors building the line, including the tunnels, shafts , portals, viaducts from Euston to Birmingham will finish work, then the team known as Railway systems will fit out the line with track, signalling, power supply etc. They will also test the trains built especially for HS2. The line is due to be operational in 2026.
Bucks Badger response to HS2
Last month, Bob Simpson, our Chairman, Mike Collard and I met representatives from HS2 in their offices in Birmingham. We were impressed with the amount of work which has obviously been done in sett checking along the route including the areas needed for soil dumping, storage etc They had identified many setts and had even found one which Mike had thought was well hidden. They seemed very knowledgeable about moving setts etc , but we were more than a little concerned at the low number of setts they needed to relocate – only five from London to Birmingham.
Once home, with more time to study the maps we had been given, it became fairly obvious that some setts had been missed. Sett checking along the route now will have to be done as a matter of some urgency as some work has already begun along the proposed line.
We need volunteers to help sett check, even if you have never done this before. If you would like to volunteer, please phone me on 07979 247797 or 01494 715438 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
A row has erupted over the fact that all the 5 MP’s who served on the High-Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Bill Commons Select Committee have ended up with knighthoods in this New Year’s Honours List. The Chairman of the committee was given a knighthood a couple of months ago. The Committee was a vital part of the Governments plan to force through the scheme in the face of fierce opposition. A senior parliamentary source said that “it was hard to get anyone to serve on the committee, which involved endless trips up and down the country to hear complaints by protest groups. Some MP’s were given a clear hint that if they joined they could get an honour”
(Mail Online 30/12/2017 Simon Walters and Brendan Carl for the Mail on Sunday)
The future of England’s largest reindeer farm, Blithbury Reindeer Lodge in Staffordshire under threat from the construction of HS2, who want to take over one of his fields for a car park. This would mean four more of his fields will be unusable because of the dust and fumes from the trucks. The owner has said that he cannot relocate them as they could die from stress and he feels he would have no choice but to cull them.
(from Mail Online 23/12/2017, Sanchez Manning)
Unauthorised redundancy payments made by the state-owned company managing the HS2 rail project were a “shocking waste of taxpayer’s money” MPs have said. Overpayments of £1.76m were made to 94 staff in the move from London to Birmingham.
(BBC News 15/12/2017)
HS2 forces families out of their homes before Christmas to make way for the high-speed rail link, without receiving any compensation so far. One of 4 Camden households to be paid full compensation on a property from HS2 is Stanley Johnson, the father of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson!
(from CamdenNewJournal 14/12/2017 by Tom Foot)
How HS2 will affect Bucks and in particular the badgers
Buckinghamshire is one of the counties hardest hit by the destruction on so much of our beautiful countryside. It will destroy a large swathe of the Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which includes several ancient woodlands and will affect many north Buckinghamshire villages. An ancient village in Stoke Mandeville not yet properly excavated will be partly destroyed.
According to the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust “56 wildlife sites in Buckinghamshire and Oxon will be impacted to varying degrees. Of these 9 are of county importance for wildlife and four are of national importance, the very best in the UK. The route cuts right through Weedonhill, Lotts and Pipers Woods, ancient woodland near Amersham: replacing mature trees and established plants with concrete, steel and gravel of a sterile railway. The route will plough through Calvert Jubilee, a former clay pit, now a nature reserve for vast numbers of waterfowl. Woodland birds, rare butterflies and beautiful orchids depend on the special grassland habitat around the lake which will be devastated by the railway”
Bats, barn owls, newts will be affected, with many fatalities expected when the line is finished. However, the main concern for the Badger Groups are that many badgers’ setts are right in the path of the construction or will be affected by being in close proximity to it, interfering with paths to their feeding grounds.
The land required for construction has been published in the Phase 1 Environmental Statement (ES). This is shown visually in the Local Community Map Books held in Volume 2 of the ES, which you can find here:
Each block section on the map above is shown in great detail on the website.
A brief history
The planned high speed railway (HS2) linking London with Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester was , despite huge opposition, given Royal Assent in February 2017 and work as begun in various places along the proposed route. The line will run for 335 miles – 116 miles for the first stage London to Birmingham- and from the original estimate of 32 billion pounds the cost has risen to 65 billion and even some members of the government are saying that this could rise to over 100 billion by the time the first passengers use the line in 2026, making it the most expensive railway in the world.
Although a high-speed rail line was first mooted in 1982 when the French high-speed train, the TGV, was being built, it was not until 2009 that Labour agreed to a new high-speed railway, and when the conservatives got into power in 2010, George Osborne also gave it his full support as he had seen Japan’s bullet train and he had a weakness for megaprojects. He was forever being photographed in orange safety jacket and hard hat.
There was opposition from such august bodies as the National Audit Office, the Engineering Employer Federation, the Institute of Directors, the Institute for Economic Affairs (who called it a “grand folly”), politicians such as Lord Mandelson, Alastair Darling and John Prescott, enormous opposition from wildlife groups, and the public who could see the colossal destruction of some of England’s most beautiful countryside.
There is a high risk that the project will not deliver value for money. There is an over estimation of the numbers who will use the railway and it seems that only people living and working in London will benefit at all. There are no stations between London and Birmingham, so the counties it passes through will not benefit. Many believe that that HS2 should be scrapped and the money better spent on improving east west rail travel in the north of England between Lancashire and Yorkshire, which is desperately needed.
Despite all this and with ever increasing costs, the HS2 bill was passed in the commons in March 2016 and gained royal assent in February 2017.