HS2 closure slashed to 18 months after new diversion route agreed
The planned four-year closure of a public footpath while HS2 works take place could be slashed to 18 months, it has emerged.
Concerns were raised that the closure of the route between Streethay and the Coventry Canal in Lichfield would leave walkers risking their lives by having to cross the A38.
HS2 initially said they had been left with no alternative but to close the route, but now say they hope to strike a deal with local landowners that will drastically reduce the time scale.
Bosses said they hope to open a diversion in late 2023 allowing "safe access" to the canal towpath.
It follows talks with Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, who had called for the installation of a temporary footbridge to allow safe passage.
In a letter to Mr Fabricant, David Speight, project client director of HS2, said: "Due to the extent of our local works, we are not yet able to offer a diversion route for Fradley and Streethay at this time.
"However, subject to concluding arrangements with local landowners, we hope to be able to open a diversion in late 2023 which will allow safe access to the canal towpath.
"This means that even though the Environmental Statement allows for a six-year closure of the footpath, which as you will be aware we had previously reduced to four years to reduce disruption, we now hope it will remain closed for just 18 months."
He added: "To create the cutting we need to excavate over 750,000 cubic metres of earth which will require a large amount of vehicle movements and involve heavy machinery.
"To ensure that this work could be conducted as safely as possible the decision was taken to close the right of way."
Mr Fabricant said while the 18-month closure was "an improvement" he hoped it could be further reduced to a year.
"Unfortunately, the construction of a temporary footbridge was not considered to be practical," he added.
Meanwhile Mr Fabricant has jokingly offered to give Lichfield's section of HS2 to Scotland, where ministers believe the line will transform the country's "economic potential".
Speaking in the Commons, he said: "With millions of tonnes of soil being moved across Lichfield, with roads being closed and the canal being obstructed in Lichfield due to HS2, perhaps we can help Scotland by giving them our bit of HS2?"