HS2 Ltd is “reneging on Government cycle safety commitments” says Cycling UK

Eurostar on the HS1 line
The Eurostar train on the HS1 line. Flickr CC: Roger Marks

• HS2 Ltd is offering “pathetic” commitments to safety of vulnerable road users

• Charity fears mistakes in Phase 1 (London to West Midlands) risk being repeated in Phase 2a ( West Midlands to Crewe) costing tax payers more and risking lives

• Poor budgeting appears to be the reason for HS2 failures to date as charity says HS2 is “penny pinching on the costs of tunnels and bridges”

Making its submission today (Tuesday, 17 July) before High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill Select Committee, Cycling UK said public company HS2 Ltd is reneging on legally binding commitments made by Government to ensure cycle safety, putting lives at risk and costing the taxpayer more. 

Following petitions from Cycling UK, the Government in 2014 gave assurances that HS2 Ltd 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 Ltd to engage with the Government’s advisory Cycle Proofing Working Group.

Speaking to the committee, Cycling UK’s Policy Director Roger Geffen explained HS2 Ltd 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 Ltd 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 merely offered to “have due regard to the principles of the relevant up-to-date cycling standards and guidance.”

Commenting after his committee appearance, Mr 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?”

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.

Roger Geffen

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 pointed out 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.

Mr Geffen said following his committee appearance:

“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.”

Given the high risk lorries present to cyclists, Cycling UK is also seeking assurances around work sites and lorry safety, which would include further training for drivers, safer lorry design, and construction routes to be planned to minimise danger to cyclists and other vulnerable road users. 


Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. For further information on Cycling UK’s original petition on Phase 2 of HS2, see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/document/2018/02/1802_rg_dft_hs2-phase-2a-bill-petition.pdf
  3. Witnesses called by Cycling UK in their petition to the bill committee were:
    1. John Grimshaw, the founder and original Chief Executive of Sustrans who now running his own consultancy (John Grimshaw Associates), will provide evidence of three locations on Phase 1 where HS2 Ltd is currently refusing to take opportunities to include cycle-friendly links and crossings, and several others on Phase 2a where he fears similar problems could arise if Parliament does not agree to stronger assurances as part of the current Bill.
    2. Phil Jones (who also runs his own consultancy Phil Jones Associates) was the author of cycle-friendly design standards adopted by the Welsh Government and by Highways England.  He is also now working on a revision to the Department for Transport’s cycling design standards, seeking to ensure they reflect continental best practice.  He will testify that the highway design standards now being used by HS2 Ltd were not discussed with the Department for Transport’s Cycle Proofing Working Group (which both he and Roger Geffen sit on) – contrary to the ‘cycle proofing’ assurance given to Cycling UK as part of the Phase 1 Bill – and that some of its requirements would result in roads that are downright dangerous for cycling.

Press contact information

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org