HS2, the new relief road and the B4009 coming the A4010.


Your Parish Council has been gathering information about the impact of HS2 and all the proposed new infrastructure on our Parish ever since the new railway was first approved with a route that would pass close to us. In the eight years since we attended the Committee hearings in Parliament, there have been regular, currently monthly, meetings with HS2 representatives at which we have sought details of the expected increase in noise and light pollution and the disruption to the Parish caused by the construction and operation of the new railway and the proposed Stoke Mandeville relief road. These meetings have proved, in the main, to be unsatisfactory. Our requests for information, maps and reports have fallen on the polite, but apparently deaf, ears of a long succession of HS2 representatives, who seem to stay in post only for very short periods . We understand this is by no means an unusual experience for many of the parishes in Buckinghamshire that are being affected by HS2.

More recently, following the closure of Marsh Lane, we sought assistance from the North West Chilterns Community Board (the ‘Community Board’) and its traffic sub-group. This resulted in a meeting being arranged with Buckinghamshire Council and HS2 representatives at which we finally were provided with detailed information and, after the meeting, documentation. The meeting agenda had two items: first the impact of the closure of Marsh Lane on North Lee Lane, which has seen traffic increase by over 60% since the closure; and second our search for information as to the consequences of HS2 and related infrastructure for the Parish. It would seem there is now a proposal to re-open Marsh Lane and provide it with a junction with the Stoke Mandeville relief road, although it is too early to see whether this will be part of the final plans.

For our Parish there is both good and bad news. The good news is that Buckinghamshire Council has shared a survey with us which shows that, based upon the depth of the cutting in which the railway will run between Stoke Mandeville and our Parish, we should suffer minimal noise pollution from HS2. Minimal does not, however, mean no noise. The noise from the railway one kilometre from the track is estimated to be no more than moderate, specifically a maximum of 46 Db, the equivalent to a dishwasher or moderate rainfall. This is below the level where the Government is prepared to consider mitigation. The survey also indicates that the traffic noise from the Stoke Mandeville relief road, in particular where it will run between HS2 and the Parish, will be of the same order, although potentially more noticeable as the noise will be all but continuous while the trains will run according to a timetable, perhaps once every 15 minutes. The reason for the delays in providing us with this survey and its predecessors appears to be that the survey was originally commissioned for Aylesbury Vale Council. As our parish was not within that Council’s boundaries nor within one kilometre of the proposed centre of the new railway line, we were not on the circulation list. Now that we are within the unitary council’s jurisdiction the same restrictions on circulation do not apply.

The Chairman of the Community Board traffic sub-group and others at the meeting suggested a number of simple and inexpensive measures that could easily be included to reduce the noise pollution from the Stoke Mandeville relief road. HS2 would not agree to these, apparently due to financial constraints. The Deputy Buckinghamshire Councillor responsible for transport, who was also present, then made clear that the Council is unlikely to provide financial assistance lest this encourages others in the County to seek financial assistance to provide mitigation of the pollution increase in circumstances which the Government considers mitigation is unjustified.

The Parish Council has invested in a noise survey to establish a noise baseline before the changes are implemented and if the HS2 survey proves optimistic and the Parish suffers unexpectedly high levels of pollution we will investigate how we can provide mitigation even if assistance, including financial assistance, is not forthcoming from elsewhere. The HS2 survey did not deal with light pollution from the Stoke Mandeville new relief road, in particular from the local high point where the relief road is to pass our side of HS2, but a council officer present at the meeting did inform us that this was currently under review with a view to minimising light pollution as far as practicable. In addition, the speed limit on the relief road is expected to be set at 40 mph. If all this proves to be the case, this should assist keeping light and noise pollution levels low, but not non-existent.

The bad news is that the outlook for traffic in the Parish appears generally poor and worsening. In addition to the new Stoke Mandeville relief road, the A4010 is to become one of two designated routes for traffic, including heavy goods traffic, between the M40 and Aylesbury: the other is the A413. Furthermore this and the expansion of Princes Risborough will see the A4010 no longer passing through the town but instead using a new by-pass, which will include upgrading the B4009 from the Longwick roundabout through Great Kimble and then under the railway bridge in Little Kimble to form part of the A4010. This is all in addition to the increase in traffic from both the 3,200 new homes as part of the expansion of Princes Risborough and the new houses demanded of the Parish by the Council, the damage from which can only be partially mitigated by the Neighbourhood Plan. The Community Board traffic sub-group has produced a detailed strategy setting out, amongst other improvements required to the existing A4010, what such an upgrade to the B4009 should involve but the Council has made clear that its funds are limited and suggests central government may need to assist.

There will be some funds available from the developers of the Princes Risborough expansion and the much smaller developments in the Parish but the latest plans see the upgrade of the B4009, and in particular improvements to the Little Kimble railway bridge, as the last stages of the Princes Risborough expansion and so unlikely to occur before 2038. In short the traffic along the A4010 and the B4009 can only increase, with increasing likelihood of ‘rat runs’ developing throughout the Parish as vehicles seek to avoid the inevitable traffic jams at Little Kimble railway bridge and the Terrick roundabout. There is also some evidence that Bishopstone and Marsh Lane may already be being used as an unofficial Aylesbury by-pass. The policy remains that HGVs should only enter the Parish between the B4009 and Bishopstone to gain access but there is a risk that policing this will become increasingly more difficult.

Our three unitary councillors, Steve Broadbent, David Carroll and Clive Harris, are aware of the situation and concerned, in particular, with the increasing non-vehicular safety issues when crossing the A4010 in Great Kimble and Little Kimble. They are looking into how improvements might be made before the major changes are implemented. Transport for Buckinghamshire has, however, estimated the cost of a new ‘Toucan’ or ‘Pegasus’ crossing, signal controlled crossings designed for pedestrians and cyclists and pedestrians and horse riders respectively, at in the order of £120,000, with the cost reducing to £80,000 if there is no signalling control[1]. The estimates were made in July 2020 so the costs are unlikely to have fallen and may have increased.

[1] Transport for Buckinghamshire, Traffic Calming in Buckinghamshire. A guide for the implementation of Traffic Calming Measures, July 2020 p36.