IT is an issue that has split the country, and is set to divide much of Cheshire’s landscape.

Phase 2b (western leg) of HS2 – the high speed rail project estimated to cost tens of billions of pounds – is planned to travel from Crewe up to Manchester, slicing through acres of countryside on its way.

Ever since plans for mid Cheshire were first unveiled early in 2013, campaigners to stop the scheme have been locked in a battle with HS2 Ltd, leading to regular changes and alterations until a ‘final’ route was confirmed last July.

With this came vocal concerns about Cheshire’s notorious subsidence, the cutting off of farmland, and lengthy compensation battles for home and business owners.

The first HS2 services to reach Manchester won’t do so until 2033 at the earliest, following on from HS2 reaching a new Crewe ‘hub’ six years earlier, but nevertheless campaigners in Cheshire are backing the national fight to shut down the premise altogether.

Ewen Simpson, of Mid Cheshire Against HS2, said: “HS2’s ability to create a jobs nirvana is as illusory as the economic benefits. It is our view that the economic future of Northwich will be blighted.

"Access to HS2 will be locally non-existent – the prospect of access at Crewe is highly questionable. Most are unaware that to build a twin track railway requires a construction corridor between 200m and 400m wide.

"Our area would be disrupted for at least two years during the construction of this white elephant, with over 54,000 HGV movements to and from the construction site.

"The A556 will have to be re-aligned, as will many other roads in the area, affecting many more people than the 2016 route. Many appear to be sleepwalking into HS2. To us HS2 is a nightmare.”

From the 4km-long ‘rolling stock depot’ for maintenance at Wimboldsley to the realignment of the A556 – and the years of work that comes with it all – HS2 is an issue that impacts everyone.

The frustration among residents stems from the lack of assistance they feel they have received, the comments they made during the consultation they feel were ignored and the minimal benefit-cost-ratio (BCR) for those who will actually be impacted and displaced by the route’s construction.

Farms could see access roads split in two by the new track, homes would be demolished to make way, and the green fields near the Verdin Arms would be replaced by an RSD sandwiched between the West Coast Mainline and A530.

Clive Green Lane would be ‘realigned’ on a flyover above the railway lines. Similarly, the A54 and A533 face realignment, and the Shropshire Union Canal Middlewich Branch – not far from the site of a 70m breach which caused £3 million worth of damage earlier this year – would have to be crossed.

Stanthorne and Wimboldsley Parish Council chairman Rob Morrey said: “The main thing that has come out of the meetings is the uncertainty for people right across the parish. If there were just HS2 train lines going through as originally planned, everyone understands what they are. There is no detail whatsoever about this 150-acre site for the RSD. HS2 don’t know what it will look like – it’s absolutely ridiculous at this stage of planning.

“There is no support. People are having to make life-changing decisions on something which may never even happen. There is a huge impact on businesses, farms, private residences, the school – what do they do? They can’t know what the 150-acre site will look like.

Mr Morrey also raised concerns about the environmental implications of a proposed outdoor wash-down facilities for the trains, reportedly planned as part of the RSD – itself set to be the size equivalent of 15 Grand Junction Retail parks.

“There is no Nimby-ism here,” he added, “just genuine concern about this large, inconceivable infrastructure that will impact people across the region.”

The proposed route splits Middlewich and Winsford, with the residents directly affected left in limbo.

Fiona Baker, of Birch Lane, was told she would be eligible for HS2 Ltd’s Need to Sell scheme, aimed at homeowners who have a ‘compelling reason’ to sell but can’t as a direct result of the announcement of the HS2 route. She is a carer for her 86-year-old mum.

She said: “We are on our fourth application and we have been turned down three times. When we went to the meeting they said we were qualified and should have no problems, but when it has come to applying it’s not like that – we are having big problems with it.”

“As of the latest plans we are now looking at having a four lane track through the middle of one field, and our road will have to go over the track. Across the field there will be a construction base

“I am now a carer for my mum who lives in Sandiway, and I need to be within 5 minutes of her. That won’t be the case with all this work going on.”

Jane Allison, who’s lived in Birch Lane for 16 years, is just a few hundred feet south east of the epicentre of the Winsford and Middlewich works – a new raised track with the raised A54 passing over the top, complete with a large ‘satellite construction compound’ to aid in the project.

She said: “Our property is worthless, like quite a few along Birch Lane.

"We don’t have grounds for the Need to Sell scheme, so basically everything that we have saved all our lives for – and paid our mortgage into – isn’t worth anything at the moment.

"We have all been very vocal, very active, but nothing happens. The word consultation as far as we are concerned is a joke.”