HS2 “reneging” on Government cycle safety commitments

HS2 is reneging on legally binding commitments made by the Government to ensure cycle safety, putting lives at risk and costing the taxpayer more, according to Cycling UK.

Making its submission yesterday before High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee (West Midlands – Crewe), Cycling UK said HS2 is offering “pathetic” commitments to the safety of vulnerable road users.

The charity fears mistakes made during Phase 1 (London to West Midlands) risk being repeated in Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe), citing poor budgeting as the reason for failures to date, adding that HS2 is “penny-pinching on the costs of tunnels and bridges”.

In 2014, following petitions from Cycling UK, Government gave assurances that HS2 would discuss how to provide cycle friendly conditions in HS2-related highway works, broadly in accordance with well-established design standards adopted by both Transport for London and the Welsh Government.

The principle of designing for cycling from the outset is known as “cycle-proofing”, and the assurances required HS2 to engage with the Government’s advisory Cycle Proofing Working Group.

Speaking to the committee, Cycling UK policy director Roger Geffen explained HS2 had first attended the Cycle Proofing Working Group in September 2017, where the public company admitted it had no money to cycle-proof any Phase 1 works. Cycling UK is now seeking stronger assurances that HS2 will adopt best practice design standards and apply them consistently along the West Midlands to Crewe corridor.

Mr Geffen told the committee that Britain has traditionally designed cycling out of its roads, and HS2 Ltd has the opportunity to change this. He explained HS2 Ltd “had not respected” the assurances given to Cycling UK and were missing out on the opportunity to connect communities severed by the rail line.

Cycling UK received a proposed new assurance from HS2 Ltd the evening before it attended the bill committee on design standards, which offered to “have due regard to the principles of the relevant up-to-date cycling standards and guidance”.

Following his committee appearance, Geffen said: “Offering vaguely to think about something HS2 Ltd should be doing anyway is pretty pathetic. If the Welsh Government and Transport for London can adopt good design standards, why can’t HS2 Ltd?”

Via expert engineering witness, founder and former CEO Sustrans, John Grimshaw, Mr Geffen outlined how communities will be split and public funding wasted if HS2 Ltd continues to cut corners and design out cycling provision, particularly from bridges and tunnels across the HS2 route.

This point was picked up on by Committee member Martin Whitfield MP, who said if HS2 Ltd fails to include the option for cycling and walking on bridges and tunnels crossing the railway, local communities will be split.

As part of the charity’s evidence, expert witness Mr Grimshaw cited Yarnfield Lane near Stone in Staffordshire as an example where HS2’s current designs for a bridge will exclude cycling despite there being an established route in place already. Consequently, an opportunity to create safe cycling conditions will be lost forever, making it impossible for secondary school children and local people to cycle safely between Yarnfield and Stone.

Geffen said: “Cycling UK believes HS2 Ltd is reneging on the Government’s own commitments to cycle safety. HS2 Ltd could be a model of best practice for cycle proofing. However, employing sub-standard cycle provision and penny-pinching on the costs of tunnels and bridges means they’re on the opposite course.

“Cycling UK wants HS2 Ltd to adopt the excellent cycle design standards already in use in London and Wales, and we hope Ministers will support this.”

Phil Jones, chairman of Phil Jones Associates and expert witness during committee proceedings said: “We are spending billions on HS2, and all it’s going to take to cycle-proof it is crumbs. What the people along the West Midlands to Crewe corridor needs is for HS2 Ltd to deliver on the assurances it has already given.”

An HS2 spokesperson has since responded to the claims: “HS2 will help improve connectivity, boost the economy and unlock jobs and opportunities across the UK. To help ensure HS2 leaves a positive road safety legacy for local communities, £36.5 million has been made available through the Road Safety Fund for Phase 1 and 2A, ensuring areas along the route benefit from high-quality road and cycle safety projects.

 “HS2 will continue to engage with various organisations to identify opportunities where cycling can be incorporated into the design for the UK’s new high speed railway.”

HS2 went on to clarify that it has offered to give Cycle Proofing Working Group (CPWG) members periodic updates on how cycle-proofing is being implemented. "There is a rigorous design assurance procedure in place, with designs challenges to ensure cycling provision is considered," said a spokesman.

"We will continue to work with Cycling UK on our developing plans for Britain’s new high speed railway."

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