A CAMPAIGN group fighting to save Cheshire from the 'devastating' effects of HS2 have backed a report criticising spiralling costs.

Mid Cheshire Against HS2 has lent its support to Lord Berkeley's independent report calling the high speed rail project 'the wrong and expensive solution'.

Lord Berkeley

It concludes that better travel connectivity benefits for the north could instead come from improving regional transport routes on road and rail, rather than a single line to London.

Lach Dennis Parish Council member Kathy O’Donoghue, a MCAHS2 member, said: "Lord Berkeley’s report confirms everything we have been saying for years.

READ >>> HS2 'potentially devastating' as plans stand, say town councillors

"The ten-year construction phase alone will devastate Cheshire towns such as Northwich, Middlewich and Winsford.

"People operating local businesses will find it impossible to maintain profits while major arterial routes A556, A54 and A553 are realigned, minor roads closed or diverted and construction compounds and HGVs affect the area.

READ >>> HS2 compound could be in place for three years at Rudheath

"The real cost of the Herculean task of squeezing HS2 through Cheshire’s salt industrial area safely enough to last for HS2’s 120-year lifetime is unknown but will be eye-wateringly high."

Phase 2b of the estimated £88 billion rail project – the Crewe to Manchester leg – would pass between Winsford and Middlewich, up to Pickmere and curve around the A556 to the east of Northwich.

A 4km-long train depot is also proposed at Wimboldsley.

An additional key concern for Cheshire comes from its mining history. Centuries of salt and coal mining have created weak and unstable ground.

Geologist Ros Todhunter, of MCAHS2, said: "Locals know only too well the time, technical challenge and cost it took to stabilise Northwich alone.

Winsford Guardian:

"The problem for HS2 will be magnified by putting an ultra-high speed line across many kilometres of working rock salt mines, subsiding salt solution sink holes, mineral reserves and nationally significant gas storage caverns – a problem that HS2 Ltd apparently didn’t recognise until 2013."

In July, the project was said to be at risk of rising £30bn above its original budget – with Lord Berkeley warning it may not reach Manchester until 2040.

READ >>> Roads diverted and homes demolished to make way for high speed rail

Ros added: "What astounds me is the ever-growing cost and ever-reducing benefits of HS2.

"And if people think that the expensive bits of HS2 are covered in the Phase 1 section from Birmingham to London, they are in for a shock. HS2 Phases 2a and 2b will cost a fortune."

Lord Berkeley was deputy chairman of the government-commissioned report into HS2, run by Lord Oakervee, but withdrew his support after claiming it had been unduly influenced by HS2 promoters.

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: "There have been many individual views expressed about HS2, however we await the publication of the government’s official review.

"HS2 Ltd has provided full co-operation to Oakervee and his review team, and if the government decides to proceed we have a highly skilled team in place ready to build Britain’s new railway."