Carving up the countryside - CPRE
PUBLISHED: 15:36 24 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:15 20 February 2013
Some of Warwickshire's quietest corners are under threat thanks to the proposed high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham, as Nicholas Butler reports.
The most central county in England has no large cities or industrial centres, so for most travellers Warwickshire is not the beginning or the end of a journey but part of a journey from somewhere to somewhere else. Small wonder then that the latest form of transportation will pass straight through the county without stopping.
Straight indeed, for the high speed of a high speed rail can only be maintained on a line without curves. And straight it will go through open countryside because this is the cheapest land that money can buy.
Entering Warwickshire near Fenny Compton, the line will pass Stoneton and Wormleighton, almost graze Hodnell Manor, cross the Oxford Canal near Wormleighton and narrowly miss Ladbroke. It will leave Southam to the west, demolish Lower Farm on the A425, tunnel under Ufton Wood, cross the wide valley that contains the Grand Union Canal, and the Fosse Way, before entering our prized possession, the Green Belt. It will bisect South Cubbington Wood, eliminate the tiny hamlet of Stareton, pass through Stoneleigh Park, and pass thence over the Avon and through the countryside between Kenilworth and Coventry, through Burton Green and on to the Meriden Gap.
The Meriden Gap, six miles wide at its narrowest, is our ewe lamb. It is this land that stops Birmingham and Coventry from running into one another. Time and again developers have been refused permission to build there, but the new railway will destroy this vestigial idyll before leaving the county at Middleton, near Sutton Coldfield.
Thirty trains an hour will pass at 250 mph between Wormleighton on the south-east of Warwickshire and Middleton on the north-west. Those who travel will see the best the county has to offer. Those who live near the line will see the irreparable ruin of beauty and tranquillity.
Such is the route proposed, the straightest and cheapest, but it is happily the one that, by immediate and common consent, the railway must never take.
The railway must come. Our transport system is out of date, the roads and railways overcrowded. High speed rail will ease this burden and save journeys by air.
The railway must come, and it must come through Warwickshire. So where will it go? Put it alongside any of the M roads and it will harm the towns and villages that these roads narrowly avoid, beside slowing to a speed that precludes viability. So it may run alongside existing railway lines, or the existing lines may be upgraded so that the new trains can use them.
The advent of high speed rail will do our county little good and bring pain and sorrow to many. In seven years time work will begin and those seven years will hardly be long enough for us to press for the least disruptive, least damaging route through a county already criss-crossed with roads and railways.
To contact the Campaign to Protect Rural England phone 01926 494597 or visit www.cprewarwickshire.org.uk