Thursday, 1 April 2010

Oxford Canal to be filled in for high-speed railway

The Department of Transport have finally decided that the new high-speed railway from London to the Midlands and Scotland will run over the current course of the southern Oxford Canal between Aynho and Wormleighton, so effectively truncating the canal.

Transport minister Lord Adonis, who was speaking at a presentation on CrossRail at the Guildhall in London, was apologetic about the effect that the railway would have on the canal but gave us little hope that there was any way to change this.

"We recognise that the canals in Britain create hundreds of jobs and each year many barges - perhaps one hundred - are used on Britain's canals but sadly progress is progress. Constructing a high speed rail link is a priority both in terms of the economic boost for British manufacturing and the many jobs it will create."

When pressed, Lord Adonis suggested that it may be possible to keep small stretches of the canal in water, notably through the centre of Banbury, it was inevitable that the course of the canal would be obliterated.

"Sadly yes, at least 28km will disappear completely. However, the rich heritage of the canal will not be entirely lost as the new railway station at Fenny Compton will be named Fenny Compton Simcock International Parkway."

The Guardian has, unsurprisingly, been the most vocal critic of the plan, and their article today pulls no punches. The Banbury Observer, meanwhile, is chiefly concerned about the impact the development will have on the town's Grade II-listed bus station.

Only in Britain could we allow our waterways heritage to dissolve bit by bit like this. I just don't know whether to laugh or cry. Actually, maybe I do.

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