The Stone Railhead Crisis Group’s technical team appeared for the third time in front of the HS2 Select Committee on Tuesday 7th May. Representing Stone Town Council on this occasion, Trevor Parkin and Gordon Wilkinson gave evidence on road safety issues, as well as HS2’s latest indicative programme for construction of the Railhead on Yarnfield Lane. Gordon Wilkinson tried to explain the Town Council’s serious safety concerns of HS2’s proposals for the A34/A51 Brooms Road junction, especially for cyclists and pedestrians, which were contrary to national guidance, but faced frequent interruptions led by James Duddridge MP, Chairman of the Select Committee, who seemed unperturbed that HS2 had only belatedly carried out the required Stage 1 safety audit, and had not even shared this with the highway authority. Mr Wilkinson ran into similar problems over similar design concerns at HS2’s proposed signalised junction between the A34 and Yarnfield Lane and lack of progress on meeting the Select Committee’s own demands over the width of the proposed new Yarnfield Lane bridge over the M6.
Trevor Parkin then gave evidence on what the Council considered to be an unrealistic construction programme and HS2’s proposals for using the existing Yarnfield Lane as a haul road, once public traffic had been diverted to the new lane. Mr Parkin endeavoured to explain, through the use of several plans and aerial photographs, how HS2’s ideas were engineeringly unachievable, but once again Mr Duddridge prematurely closed down STC’s evidence before handing over the HS2’s Tim Mould QC to respond. Mr Mould then claimed that the revised programme starting in spring 2020 was achievable, and that he was assured by his colleagues that there was sufficient space to u-turn HGVs to the west of the M6. In his response, Mr Parkin asked for this to be proven beyond reasonable doubt via detailed engineering drawings, and although Mr Mould agreed, he was allowed not to commit to a date for achieving this.
After the meeting, Mr Parkin said that “The whole process is very frustrating because the Committee only seems interested in lay arguments and not in engineering detail, which has the potential to undermine the feasibility of HS2’s project proposals.” Cllr Jill Hood added that Stone Town Council was continually grateful to Gordon and Trevor for their efforts, but that she “was disgusted at the impatient and aggressive behaviour of the Select Committee Chairman, who is clearly unwilling to listen to points of view that differed from his own or those of HS2.”
The SRCG and Stone Town Council will now consider their next move, but vowed to continue to make the case in the interests of local people, even though the HS2 project was unlikely to ever leave London, let alone reach Staffordshire, given its rapidly escalating costs.