Cycling in Yorkshire

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Possibility that HS2 Access Roads Will Become Walking & Cycling Paths

Stop HS2 Poster
Stop HS2 Poster, by John Winder, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

HS2 access roads could be turned into walking and cycling paths, reports New Civil Engineer.

Temporary roads have to be built for workers to access HS2 sites. Rail minister Andrew Stephenson said he had asked HS2 to look into re-purposing them after construction of the railway line.

Quality Design

The paths would be built to a quality design, with a 3m cycle path and a 2.5m footpath, separated by a grass verge, and some distance from the train line.


The total length could be 320km, from London to Manchester. Work is already under way on the first 80km, to be known as the Buckinghamshire Greenway.

Funding and Feasibility

New Civil Engineer says funding would come from the government’s 5-year £2 billion cycling and walking budget. £2 billion sounds like a big number, but it is only £400 million per year; it is surprising it isn’t already fully committed to local projects.

A feasibility study was commissioned by David Cameron in 2013 and completed in 2016. One of the consultancies involved in it was Phil Jones Associates, and Mr Jones said, ‘The whole is greater than the parts. You could build a hundred cycling schemes in a hundred towns, but by linking them together it becomes something more substantial.’

The feasibility study said that the project could serve as a catalyst for greatly improved cycling infrastructure nationwide to a level that is seen in the Netherlands. When the study was eventually published in 2018, the DfT and HS2 Ltd both refused to fund the active travel infrastructure.

History of the HS2 Project

In 2012, HS2 was supposed to cost £34 billion. Since then the bill has skyrocketed:

  • in 2015, £56 billion
  • in 2019, £88 billion
  • in 2021, £98 billion

The HS2 Phase One bill passed through Parliament in 2017, but it is claimed that the Prime Minister and other Ministers misled Parliament about the true cost.

Phase 2a (Lichfield to Crewe) was approved by Parliament in February 2021. Phase 2b is Crewe to Manchester. The Eastern leg from Lichfield to Leeds has been truncated, and will only go to East Midlands Parkway.

The Woodland Trust says that HS2 is a grave threat to ancient woodlands, and that destruction has already begun.

‘Any transport system that destroys irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland can never be called “green”.’

woodland trust

The government initially projected a Benefit-Cost Ratio of 2.4, later revised down to 1.8. An independent review by Lord Berkeley rates the BCR as 0.66, making it poor value for money.

Cycle paths alongside HS2 would have a BCR of between 3 and 8, making them far better value for money than the railway line. Cycling and walking schemes cost relatively little, and have significant benefits notably in public health.

Whereas HS2 train fares are likely to be affordable only by business executives, walking and cycling paths would benefit everyone.

Possibility that HS2 Access Roads Will Become Walking & Cycling Paths

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