Special Report of Session 2016-17 Contents

Chapter 6: Colne Valley, Hillingdon and Old Oak Common

141.This chapter follows the line of route from West Hyde, where the track will emerge from the Chilterns tunnel just within the M25, cross the Colne Valley and pass through rural land between Denham and Harefield. It will then enter a tunnel at the West Ruislip portal in the north part of Ickenham, a densely populated and congested district. The line will continue in the tunnel to the new station which is to be constructed at Old Oak Common. Old Oak Common is an area which already contains a great deal of railway infrastructure, some of which will be demolished. In short, this part of the route starts in the country and continues through a very urban environment. The chapter also includes (and starts with) the relocation to Langley (near Slough in Berkshire) of the Heathrow Express depot now situated at Old Oak Common.

Relocation of the Heathrow Express depot

142.The depot must be relocated to make room for the new station at Old Oak Common. Initially it was to be moved to North Kensington, but this was changed to Langley by AP2, issued on 13 July 2015 (the works involved are set out at the very end of the list in the First Schedule to the amended bill as works 4/1 to 4/9). The relocation involves heavy engineering works which will add to the traffic congestion problems already being experienced by residents of Iver and Iver Heath (villages a few km to the north, within the county of Buckinghamshire). We heard petitions from the Iver Parish Council, the Ivers Community Centre and the Richings Park Residents’ Association (Richings Park is a densely populated district close to the access to the relocation site). Their evidence (supported by the Rt Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP) was that the area is already under great pressure of increased road traffic from various sources, including the expansion of Pinewood Studios, the growth of five different industrial estates, and renewed activity in gravel extraction.

143.Mr Mould QC, for the promoter, accepted the seriousness of these problems, while pointing out that they cannot all be laid at the promoter’s door. There are plans for a relief road, for which Buckinghamshire County Council is the highway authority, and if it goes ahead the promoter will make a substantial contribution to its cost. He explained that a substantial payment to Slough Borough Council is compensation for their loss of land ripe for housing development. Nevertheless we see Iver as something of a special case (see paragraphs 89–92 above).

144.Mr Mould also explained that most of the construction traffic for the relocation will come from the M4 (to the south) and that none will pass through the village of Iver. Only about ten per cent of the traffic will pass through Richings Park. He also confirmed that those affected by the relocation will be eligible to participate in the Community and Environment Fund, the Business and Local Economy Fund and the newly-announced Road Safety Fund.

Colne Valley

145.The Colne Valley has three notable water features which combine to make it a pleasant place to live and a popular destination for visitors. These are the River Colne itself, which flows southwards from the Rickmansworth district, fed by chalk streams from the Chilterns in the west, and eventually joining the Thames at Staines; the Grand Union Canal, which in the north part of this area runs parallel to the Colne, a short way to the east, and then passes through the lakes; and a group of lakes which have formed in worked-out gravel pits, the most important being Broadwater Lake, Harefield Moor Lake, Korda Lake, Harefield No. 2 and Savay Lake.

146.These amenities, especially the lakes, are enjoyed by a variety of people, including anglers, sailors of small boats, water-skiers, ornithologists and hikers, who manage to co-exist by respecting each other’s boundaries and concerns. The attractiveness of the lakes is enhanced by mature woods and trees on their shores. The Mid Colne Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) includes Korda Lake, Long Pond, Harefield Moor Lake and part of Broadwater Lake, which are managed as a nature reserve by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, from which we heard a petition. It is an important habitat and breeding ground for many species of birds, including pochard ducks.

147.The Hillingdon Outdoor Adventure Centre (“HOAC”) is based on the east side of Harefield No. 2 Lake (which is separated from Savay Lake by the Grand Union Canal, running in a separate channel). The HOAC is sponsored by the London Borough of Hillingdon and is highly valued as a resource providing instruction, adventure and recreation for young men and women. We visited the Centre and were impressed by it. It is on a site which contains several buildings, a climbing tower and ropes and other equipment. Much of the activity takes places on the lake, and there is a wooded area on the bank that is used for land-based activity. The lake is also much used by anglers, who sometimes catch large carp.

148.Under the HS2 project, parts of several lakes, and in particular Harefield No. 2, are to be crossed by a viaduct, 3.4 km long, which will carry trains at a height of about 15m above the surface of the lake. It will pass very close to the HOAC site. Its final design lies in the future, but it will certainly be supported by a considerable number of pillars, including pillars constructed in the lake by the use of coffer dams. The construction phase will affect all users of Harefield No. 2. The viaduct will have an effect on water-sports by causing air turbulence on windy days (even power lines, we were told, have that effect) and the high-speed trains may hit large birds (small birds are not often hit by trains, but geese and cormorants would be at risk). The proposal for three ha of wetlands at the north and south of Harefield No. 2 will reduce its surface area and impede access by anglers. For most residents and visitors, however, the biggest impact will be the noise and visual impact of the viaduct and the high-speed trains crossing it.

149.The viaduct is now part of the principle of the bill and we cannot amend the bill to provide for, as a great number of petitioners asked, a bored tunnel which (instead of ending at West Ruislip) would continue through Hillingdon and pass under the Colne Valley. Since we made our ruling in July, after hearing argument from leading counsel for Buckinghamshire County Council, for Hillingdon Borough Council and for the promoter, the independent review of the case for the Colne Valley tunnel has reported against it, primarily on grounds of cost. We are now concerned only with mitigation and compensation.

150.We heard several petitions from those affected by the viaduct, including Miss Sally Cakebread, who lives with her widowed mother at Savay Farm, and Mr Thomas Bankes, the owner of Savay Lake. Savay Farm is an old and beautiful manor house of great historical and architectural interest, listed Grade I. It is the principal building in a small group of buildings in an attractive park-like setting at the edge of Savay Lake, about 350m from where the viaduct will be closest. Miss Cakebread and her mother believe that their home will be irreparably affected. No mitigation is possible other than sound barriers on the viaduct, which will be considered at the design stage. We hope that the Cakebreads will find that their worst fears are unfounded. We expect that Mr Bankes will find a satisfactory new parking space for anglers fishing in Savay Lake. There is an agreed plan, subject to planning permission. We agree that Mr Bankes, as owner, is the appropriate person to apply for permission, but with the promoter bearing the reasonable costs of the application.

151.The future of the HOAC is still not clear, but there is general agreement that it is a matter of high importance. Initially it was proposed to relocate the Centre to the nearby Denham Quarry (just outside the Hillingdon area) at a cost (to be borne by the promoter) of more than £20m. Then the estimated cost increased very sharply, for reasons that we have not investigated, and the Secretary of State wrote a letter indicating that the cost of relocation was unacceptable. On 17 November 2016 we were due to hear the petition of the London Borough of Hillingdon, but we were glad to hear that the Borough had on the previous day been able to reach agreement in principle with the promoter on all outstanding issues. Other aspects of this important agreement are considered later, but in relation to the HOAC the agreement fixed the promoter’s maximum contribution as £26.5m, to be used (as the preferred option) for relocation to Denham Quarry; if that proves impossible the next option is expenditure on mitigation and improvement of the existing site; if that too proves impossible, some other relocation must be sought. The continuing uncertainty is unfortunate, but all parties are committed to work together to the best possible solution.

152.The Harrow Angling Society was concerned about the proposed wetlands and suggested that access should be improved by extrusions of made ground between gaps in the reed beds, a suggestion which we support. There were some petitions from the owners of boats moored in the Harefield Marina or on the Grand Union Canal, and from the owners of boating businesses in this area. They described the marina as an idyllic spot, and showed us photographs and videos (with a soundtrack of birdsong) in support of their case. They seem to take a rather apocalyptic view of HS2 as the end of the idyll. That is, we think, far too pessimistic. There will be noise and disruption, intermittently, during the construction phase of about three years. The towpath will be closed, but only for a short time. The canal itself will be closed only very briefly. For those boat owners whose licences permit them to sleep on board regularly (a limited number) the construction noise will entitle them to temporary rehousing, since effective noise insulation of small boats is almost impossible.

153.The residents on the south edge of Harefield will be pleased to hear that the National Grid feeder station is most probably to be moved further south, away from their homes. The move is not certain because the new site may be liable to flooding, and further tests have to be made. This move will bring it closer to the Ryall family at Dews Farm and 2 Dews Cottages. They are very hard hit by the project and they should be shown every consideration.


154.In Ickenham (which has a population of about 11,500) the environment changes suddenly from being moderately rural to being intensely urban. The park-like atmosphere of the Colne Valley is continued to some extent by the Uxbridge golf course, the triangle of farmland between Harvil Road, Breakspear Road South and the existing railway (“the Copthall Farm triangle”), and the open land to the north of the railway, as far as the Ruislip golf course. But east of the line of Swakeleys Road and Breakspear Road there are densely-built residential areas and congested roads and streets (including the two roads just mentioned). The transition from country to town is marked by the termination of the Rural Support Zone (RSZ) at the point where the existing railway passes under High Road, Ickenham. The houses in Hoylake Crescent (the home of Mrs Beryl Upton, who joined with some neighbours in a petition) and The Greenway are therefore, as matters now stand, on the very edge of the area in which owner-occupiers may obtain some benefit from being in or near the border of the RSZ.

155.We heard some powerful and entirely credible evidence about traffic congestion in Ickenham. Not all of this is down to motorists who are resident in the district. Commuters heading to central London from more distant places drive to Ickenham, park their cars in side streets and catch the London underground. Commuters living further north drive to work through Ickenham in the morning (Heathrow has provided thousands of jobs, directly or indirectly) and drive home through Ickenham in the evening. Traffic accidents (for which the vicinity of Swakeleys Roundabout is a black spot) cause traffic to come to a halt, not just on one road but often over a large area. Sometimes the emergency services are delayed, and often children and teachers are late for school through no fault of their own (particular mention was made of Vyners School, a well-regarded academy with a special section for hearing-impaired children). One local bus has a schedule with an off-peak target of eight minutes, and a peak target of 22 minutes, for a relatively short journey, and even these targets are often not met.

156.That is the background against which, as we are satisfied, the promoter has made determined and realistic efforts to reduce the numbers of HGV movements on the roads of Ickenham. The promoter’s original estimate was of 1,860 two-way HGV movements a day. That has been progressively improved, first to 1,460, then to 1,060, and finally to 550 two-way HGV movements a day. That last figure appears in the assurance (in terms of “reasonable endeavours”) embodied in clause 7 of the draft contract giving effect to the agreement mentioned in paragraph 150 above. It is expressed as a limit of 550 HGV movements a day at Swakeleys Roundabout and, as a separate undertaking, a reduction (“so far as reasonably practicable”) in the number of HGVs using the roundabout at peak morning and evening hours on weekdays.

157.This remarkable improvement in the target, although obviously welcome, has been criticised by some petitioners as having emerged only at a late stage, after much uncertainty, and as still having an element of contingency. That is so, but it does represent a lot of hard work by the promoter in trying to balance the traffic problem against the disfigurement of green spaces by spoil heaps, and in our view the promoter has made a lot of progress towards striking the right balance.

158.The engineering works to be carried out in or near Ickenham are extensive, although not quite as daunting as those at Old Oak Common. To the north-west there is to be a National Grid feeder station supplying power to an autotransformer station to be constructed between Harvil Road, the existing Chiltern Line railway and the high-speed line of route. There is to be a large cutting, the Copthall Cutting, on the north side of the Copthall Farm triangle. It will contain a maintenance siding as well as the high-speed tracks. There will be bridges over or under Harvil Road, Breakspear Road South and the River Pinn, the latter close to the West Ruislip portal. Twin tunnels will be bored for the Northolt tunnel as far as the Greenpark Way vent shaft. In the north-west part of the Copthall Farm triangle there will be a factory for the manufacture of concrete tunnel lining segments.

159.The promoter has several initiatives for disposing of spoil without having to move it far, or store it in unsightly heaps on the southern part of the Copthall Farm triangle. Soil excavated from the Copthall cutting will be used on various embankments and on the Ruislip golf course and, possibly, the Uxbridge golf course also. Golf is a topic of interest to many residents. Both courses are public courses owned by Hillingdon Borough Council, although there is a private club with its own clubhouse at Uxbridge. The council has decided, after consultation, that the Uxbridge course should be reinstated with 18 holes, and the Ruislip course reconfigured as a nine hole course and a six hole academy course. The promoter will assist in the work at the Uxbridge course if it makes use of a safeguarded haul road at the west edge of the course.

160.The draft agreement between the Secretary of State and Hillingdon covers many topics apart from the HOAC, the reduced number of HGV movements and the golf courses. These include public footpaths, traffic controls and improvements at the Swakeleys roundabout, a local amenity fund of not more than £2m, and monitoring of air quality. Not all the petitioners were wholly content with the agreement, but in our view it goes a long way to meet most of their concerns.

161.Mr and Mrs Gustavson own and reside at Brackenbury House, a fifteenth century Grade II listed manor house on the west side of Harvil Road. Their home will be directly exposed to noise, and their lives would be disrupted, by the construction and operation of the high-speed line, and by the construction of a National Grid feeder station and autotransformer on the other side of the line. We suggested, and the promoter has accepted, that they should be regarded as a special case and have their house purchased on the same terms as on compulsory purchase (see paragraph 46 above).

162.Few other residents raised noise as a particular concern (the recurrent concerns were traffic congestion and air quality). We have not been told that any of them will be eligible for noise insulation. But if any are outside the endpoint of the RSZ and are entitled to noise insulation, they should in our view receive the same treatment as comparable residents in Old Oak Common (paragraph 170 below) and Camden (paragraphs 210–221 below).

Old Oak Common

163.The general location of Old Oak Common is in the London Borough of Ealing, south of Willesden Junction and north of Wormwood Scrubs. It is crossed by the Grand Union Canal. It has for many years been associated with railways; the area sometimes called the “island triangle” (Stephenson Street and its adjoining streets) contains about 200 terraced cottages originally erected for railway employees. It now contains (together with other infrastructure) carriage sheds for the West Coast Main Line and for Crossrail. Although many petitioners referred to the area as tranquil, others acknowledged that there is already quite a lot of railway noise; one petitioner living in Wells House Road referred to her house shaking as a result of train movements.

164.Nevertheless the disruption of the district by the works authorised by the bill will on any view be very severe in its intensity and its duration. In some ways it will rival the disruption at Euston. At Old Oak Common there will be not only the construction of a new HS2 station with an interchange with Crossrail, and an adjacent station on the Great Western Mainline, with many consequential changes of infrastructure. There will also be four tunnel boring machines to be brought on site and assembled. Between them they will bore twin tunnels in two directions—westwards towards West Ruislip as far as the Greenpark Way vent shaft and eastwards to Euston, a combined total of about 30km of bored tunnel producing millions of tons of spoil. The spoil will all be transported back along the tunnels at Old Oak Common and will all be removed by rail. For that purpose there will be a railhead at what is now the Willesden Euroterminal depot, on the north edge of the Grand Union Canal to the west of Old Oak Common Lane. The railhead will also receive spoil from other worksites by means of a system of conveyor belts converging on the railhead and crossing the canal.

165.During the first phase of the works (lasting about 16 months) numerous buildings will be demolished, and their sites cleared. These will include the First Great Western depot (which is close to Wells House Road, a triangular enclave at the south end of Old Oak Common Lane), numerous buildings on either side of Victoria Road (the A4000) and other buildings, including a supermarket, between Atlas Road and the existing railway parallel to Atlas Road. Work will start on the conversion of the railhead. The buildings to be demolished include Plantagenet House on Victoria Road. It is a handsome warehouse but it is not listed. We were asked to direct that its facade alone should be preserved, but we do not accept that the expense, and loss of space for the contractors, would be justified. During the second phase (about ten months) the railhead conversion will be completed, piling and D-walling will be carried out at the HS2 station box, and D-walling and excavation will be carried out at the Victoria Road crossover box (this will allow trains to change tracks and reverse in and out of the station). There will be main compounds at each of these localities. A factory for precast tunnel lining segments will be established at the Atlas Road compound.

166.During the third phase (about 17 months) the high-speed station box will be excavated and linked by twin tunnels to the crossover box. A logistics tunnel will be constructed between the HS2 station box and the Atlas Road compound. The Heathrow Express depot (which is also close to Wells House Road) will be demolished. During the fourth phase (about 14 months) the station box will be constructed and the tunnel boring machines will start work on the twin tunnels leading westwards (the Northolt tunnel) and eastwards (the Euston tunnel), with all the spoil being removed by rail from the railhead.

167.During the fifth phase (about 26 months) excavation of the twin tunnels will continue, with spoil removed by rail from the railhead. The Crossrail turnback will be constructed to the south of Wells House Road, and work will start on the Great Western Mainline part of the new station, to the east of Wells House Road. During the sixth phase (three years) the south end of Old Oak Common Lane will be closed to vehicular traffic and its level will be altered to accommodate the new works. Pedestrian and cycle access will be maintained. Fitting-out of the major new works will proceed: the HS2 station, the Great Western Mainline Station and all the tunnels.

168.The promoter has given to the local authority, the London Borough of Ealing, a comprehensive set of assurances in a 12-page letter dated 8 January 2016. These cover numerous topics including access, mitigation funds, the Crossrail turnback, the construction and use of conveyors to move spoil from the station box to the Victoria Road worksite, community engagement, and the reduction of construction traffic on the roads. One aim is to reduce the number of daily HGV movements by 150 during the third and fourth phases, mainly by the use of conveyors.

169.Despite these assurances, ten years of major works will cause real hardship to many residents, who will suffer from noise, air pollution, traffic congestion, and general disruption of their lives. Those most affected will be the residents of Wells House Road, Midland Terrace, Shaftesbury Gardens, and Stephenson Street. The residents of the most easterly part of Wells House Road (that is, those whose houses also have a frontage onto Old Oak Common Lane) are subject to safeguarding, because the work on the Lane may encroach on their gardens. They will therefore be eligible for the Express Purchase Scheme, whether or not they are owner-occupiers (this appeared to come as a surprise to Ms Amanda Jesson, even though she has for a long time devoted much of her time and energy to representing the interests of the residents in Wells House Road).

170.In our view all the owner-occupiers in the streets mentioned above should, if they are not eligible for the Express Purchase Scheme, and whether or not they will be eligible for noise insulation, be treated as if eligible for the Voluntary Purchase Scheme, including the Cash Option. It would be disproportionate as between rural residents and urban residents, in our view, for these owner-occupiers not to participate in a scheme available to many owner-occupiers in the RSZ who will not be as severely affected, either during construction or when the high-speed railway is in service. We would not extend this scheme to owner-occupiers in Goodhall Street, or to residents of the new residential block known as the Collective, since they will not be as severely affected.

171.We heard a petition and evidence presented by Double 4 Ltd, a company which occupies part of the Euroterminal site on terms which (as the company acknowledges) give it no security of tenure. The company runs a successful and socially useful business which includes the recovery and repair of vehicles of all sorts that break down, or are involved in traffic accidents, in the London area. We heard evidence from Mr Dale Wilkes, its managing director, and from Mr Ralph Goldney, a consultant on rail freight. Mr Goldney had prepared an alternative layout for the railhead site which would, he said, enable Double 4 to continue to occupy part of the site. We do not direct the promoter to adopt that plan. Even if the plan were more convincing, the promoter has the sole responsibility for the operation of the railhead, which is absolutely essential to the removal of millions of tons of spoil by rail, and the promoter must arrange the operation of the railhead as advised by its own engineers and experts. We do, however, encourage the promoter to assist Double 4 so far as it can (see paragraphs 93–94 above).

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