The Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee has accepted the main recommendation of the Stop HS2 campaign to minimise the environmental impact of HS2, in agreeing that the line should be slowed down to 186mph, the same speed which Eurostar trains travel on HS1.
The committee is also asking that budgets for environmental protection should be ringfenced, echoing concerns of the campaign that ‘get-out clauses’ have been inserted into the HS2 Hybrid Bill, meaning environmental protection could be sacrificed as part of cost-cutting measures. The committee also warns that the proposals would endanger rare species and criticise HS2 for not conducting surveys along almost half of the route.
The report from the Environmental Audit Committee can be found here.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“When the committee asked how the environmental impact of HS2 could be minimised, we told them the only thing you could do, besides cancelling the project would be to slow it down. The design speed of HS2 has been plucked out of the air to make the business case work, but that comes at a massive cost to the environment.”
“From the start, HS2 Ltd have treated the environmental havoc their project will cause as an inconvenience to be brushed under the carpet. HS2 Ltd have only surveyed just over half the routes and at the committee they admitted that their ‘ancient woodland directory might not have picked up all the sites’. That is how incompetent they are, that after 4 years of working up the project, they don’t even know how many woodlands they will hit, but that is because they simply don’t care. ”
“It is absolutely essential that the environment is protected as much as possible from HS2 and not sacrificed to cut costs. It is great that the committee has listen to so many of our concerns, and we hope this will encourage more people to believe that more concerns will be taken seriously when the petitioning period begins.”
Stop HS2 Chair Penny Gaines said;
“HS2 Ltd have persistently ignored environmental concerns at every level in their plans. From the very basic decisions about speed and route, they have designed a £50 billion railway will have a devastating effect on the environment. This is not just because the speed means that HS2 will blast through sensitive sites. Even HS2 Ltd now say that carbon emissions from building HS2 will exceed carbon savings for over 60 years.
“While dropping the speed of the trains will have some effect on carbon emissions, building the line will cause massive environmental damage. The HS2 tracks will cut through numerous wildlife sites, a huge problem with the design of the railway itself. This is made worse by HS2 Ltd’s plans to use sensitive sites, such as ancient woodland, as temporary construction depots.”
“Stop HS2 have said from the start that there is no environmental case for HS2. We call on the Government to recognise the huge environmental damage that HS2 will cause and cancel this project so they can develop sustainable solutions to the country’s transport needs.”