HS2 (High Speed Rail) Update

On Thursday 12th October, representatives of HS2 and the chosen contractors’ consortium were in attendance at Sulgrave Manor to answer villagers’ questions in respect of the construction of the new High Speed Railway Line.

Contracts have now been let in respect of that section of the line which affects Sulgrave. The contractors are a consortium calling itself CEK (Carillion, Eiffage and Kier). The contracts have been let in two stages. Stage One is a 16 month period to develop a design, a programme and a target cost for the construction of the works. Stage Two is for the construction of the main works and this is expected to take between four and five years to complete.

Current estimates are that the scheme design work and costings should be completed by November 2018. The Government Treasury will then have until March 2019 to decide if the designs and costs are acceptable. Assuming this to be the case, construction can then commence and it is anticipated that works in the Sulgrave Area will begin at about the middle of 2020. The general civil engineering work is expected to be completed by 2023 followed by a two year period for the installation of the railway systems, signalling and overhead lines. Following a year of systems testing, the line is expected to be in use by 2026 or 2027.

The scheme design work now in progress will include traffic management schemes for the vehicles involved in the construction and off site movements. Until these designs and management schemes have been completed it follows that many of the questions expressing villagers’ legitimate concerns remained unanswered and the plans on display were no more than those showing the horizontal and vertical alignment of the line which have appeared many times on this website.

However, assurances were given in respect of one of the main concerns of Sulgrave residents, namely “how will the works in progress affect journeys to Banbury and Brackley?” The plan below shows the temporary roads that will be built to bypass the bridge constructions whilst the work is in progress. When completed, the bridges will allow traffic to follow the original road alignment. For the sake of clarity, I have also shown these in blue dots on the simple map of the route on the O.S. 1:50,000 map. Although temporary, these short sections of road will have to be built to the standards required by the Northamptonshire County Council as Highway Authority.

Click here to see a bigger version and use your enlargement facility and computer scroll bars to examine it.

Temporary road diversions on the Banbury and Brackley routes shown in blue dots (schematic only).

It is not anticipated that there will be any permanent road closures.

All villagers are naturally worried as to increases in traffic around the construction sites, especially heavy goods vehicles. In advance of the completion of the detailed design and traffic management scheme, representatives of HS2 and the contractors were not prepared to predict the sort of numbers which will be involved and this must therefore be a matter for continuing concern. In this context, the detailed engineering design will include mass haul diagrams wherein the designers make every endeavour to balance the cut and fill i.e. the material excavated from the cuttings should only be taken to the nearest embankment, rather than elsewhere along public roads. In its Petition to Parliament in 2016, the Parish Council stressed this very point and will be keeping a close eye on this matter as the design progresses. Following on from the petition, HS2 were directed to assure the Parish Council that there would be continued consultation on this important aspect of the scheme and CEK are therefore contractually obliged to honour this assurance. A transcript of the hearing of the Parish Council’s petition, presented by then Councillor David Walker, can be seen here.

In the context of representations concerning HS2 made on behalf of Sulgrave, the dedication and hard work of former Parish Council Chairman Ken Christy should not be forgotten. Newer villagers may not be aware of his appearance before the Select Committee as a petitioner. See here for the very comprehensive case made in the petition.

There will be a number of preparatory schemes in advance of the main construction work, notably the improvement of the Greatworth Junction with B4525, as shown below. Villagers will remember the fatal accident involving a much loved Sulgrave resident a few years ago and the early improvement of this junction must be welcomed.

Proposed improvements to the Greatworth turn off the B4525 Welsh Lane.

It is difficult to estimate the probable noise impact upon the village of the works in progress. The best that can be said at the moment is that working hours will be restricted to 08.00 to 18.00 on weekdays and 08.00 to 13.00 on Saturdays.

The design will attempt to minimise the noise of passing trains by the use of earth bunds, even on the edge of cuttings. Noise screens are not ruled out but are generally an unattractive last resort. With 16 trains per hour, each 12 carriages long, the measures will need to be robust, to say the least!

HS2 Senior Project Manager Dave Williams and the contractor’s representative, Interface Manager Simon Matthews, will be keeping in close contact with the Parish Council and will be submitting regular updates for display on this website.

Colin Wootton


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