‘COME clean’, say Warwickshire authorities who claim they are being ‘kept in the dark’ over a possible year-long delay to HS2 works on a major Southam road.
The A425 Southam Road was originally shut in September and was due to reopen in June this year. But officials behind the controversial rail project have recently told authorities the reopening between Southam and Leamington could be delayed by almost a year.
The original plans to temporarily realign the road were scrapped last year by HS2 at short notice, causing disruption and anger among businesses and residents.
Following news of the latest possible delay, representatives of contractor BBV have refused to give ‘substantial details’ to councillors concerned by the potential impact on the environment and the economy.
A number of councillors have come forward and accused the rail giant of ‘keeping them in the dark’ and ‘box-ticking’ by only informing representatives of ‘predetermined decisions’.
Ward councillor for North Southam Tony Bromwich said: “HS2Ltd is riding roughshod over our community hiding behind an act of parliament which gives them vast powers which they are abusing in a cloak of secrecy.
“They need to stop box ticking by exercises inviting us to meetings only to be told about predetermined decisions.
“Their failure to listen and engage with local councillors or be open to alternative proposals is causing a deep and lasting damage both socially for the community and businesses”
“I have been contacted by many residents, many of who are on very low incomes asking who pays for the extra fuel to get to work? How do I as a carer get my partners medication, my vehicle is suffering lots of damage by of the state of the roads I have to use because of road closures.”
Independent Harbury councillor Jacqui Harris is among those angered by a lack of transparency.
She said: “This issue is affecting my whole ward, especially local businesses from Harbury to JLR and AM in Upper Lighthorne. It is harmful to local residents especially road users who are fed up with it.
“The roads are left in an appalling state and dangerous to road users, especially cyclists. Everyone has had enough of the evasion, lack of answers and we need honest answers and straight talking.”
Authorities are also demanding an urgent explanation and review of the work programme.
In a joint statement Warwickshire County Council and Stratford District Council said: “We are deeply concerned to learn the HS2 construction programme in the Southam area will be delayed and the A425 Southam Road is to remain closed beyond the original date of June this year. Both councils have requested HS2 Ltd to clarify how this delay could be mitigated for our local communities in this area.
“We are currently working closely with each other, Warwick District Council and the emergency services to consider what alternatives HS2 Ltd should now provide to lessen the impact of this delay. A meeting has been scheduled for the end of March to hear the HS2 recommendations.
“We are focusing our immediate energy to take steps to support our communities and local businesses as they to return to more regular pattern of operation, additionally we will ensure the public and school transport system is maintained. Furthermore, we are very mindful of the implications for our farming community and how these delays may affect their harvest season and the wider rural economy later this year.”
An HS2 spokeswoman said the firm was aiming to work towards a solution.
She said: “We recently informed the local authorities that we will be unable to re-open the A425 at the time originally expected. Regrettably, the schedule has been affected by unforeseen additional works required for utility diversions and unmapped drainage routes, which have combined with delays caused by the pandemic and particularly bad weather.
“We are exploring all options to progress work as quickly as possible and are working with the local authorities to discuss a range of solutions.”