HS2: a damaging project for the environment

HS2 is designed with no thought for the environment and the flimsy props have long since fallen away.

The design of HS2 is fundamentally damaging to the environment. By choosing a design speed of 400kph, the HS2 tracks have to be almost straight, meaning that it blasts through sensitive wildlife sites rather than curving around them. The latest analysis of the Proposed Route for the Wildlife Trusts suggests that around 500 wildlife sites will be directly or indirectly affected by HS2. Ten Sites of Special Scientific Interest (the very best of our wild places), 150 Local Wildlife Sites and 42 proposed Local Wildlife Sites (including 43 ancient woods and 9 Wildlife Trust nature reserves) are all directly affected and will be damaged or destroyed by the line.

Early on proponents tried arguing it would help modal shift, but the latest HS2 Ltd figures show that around a quarter (26%) of passengers would never have travelled at all: this far outweighs the 1% who would otherwise have used air travel and the 4% who might otherwise have driven. Nearly 69% of HS2 travellers would have used less power hungry conventional speed trains instead.

HS2 does not link to either Heathrow airport or HS1. This is fundamental design flaw: although HS2 Ltd looked into both a ‘Heathrow spur’ and a route joining HS2 and HS1, neither will be in the Hybrid Bill on Monday.

The Heathrow spur was ‘paused’ last year: with the Davis commission on airport expansion not due to report until 2015, the HS2 plans will not link to any airport suggested as a result of the inquiry.

The link to HS1 was dropped last month, even though the idea of a through-link to the continent had featured in the HS2 proposal from the beginning. It’s of note that HS1 was also proposed with the idea of fast trains from Paris to Manchester and Milton Keynes, but those trains never materialised….

HS2 will do nothing for our carbon emissions: HS2 Ltd say it will cause increased carbon emissions beyond 2086.

The damaging effect of HS2 matters to everyone who is concerned about infrastructure in their own area. In an article about why the environmental damage HS2 will cause is important for Sussex, Ian Hepburn Head of Conservation for Sussex Wildlife Trust explains

Here’s why: HS2 is the first major infrastructure project to be developed in the new era of environmental policy heralded by the Natural Environment White Paper. The coalition Government proudly proclaims that our trajectory for development is a bold shift from ‘no net loss to biodiversity’ towards a ‘net gain for nature’. That had us (almost) cheering through the streets. It looks like the kind of policy shift that really could benefit nature. After all, it was based to a large extent on the wonderful report crafted by Professor Sir John Lawton and his colleagues which embraced the idea of effective ecological networks, generated through ‘bigger, better, more and joined up’ wildlife areas.

HS2 is the first real test of a Government-sponsored major infrastructure project at a time when Government policy is to do better than simply ensure ‘no net loss of biodiversity’. Has it passed the test? Will we see wildlife assets properly looked after, safeguarded, enhanced, and protected? Er… no. Not a chance on the basis of current plans. The best estimates are that there will be a substantial net loss of important wildlife habitats with around 500 wildlife sites directly or indirectly affected along the entire proposed high speed railway. This includes 27 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 21 Wildlife Trust reserves. Species populations that will be damaged include those with European level legal protection such as Bechstein’s bats and a significant proportion of our barn owls, with no guaranteed mitigation or proper compensation.

The HS2 Phase 1 Hybrid Bill is being voted on on Monday: write to your MP asking them to vote against it. And if are in London on Monday please come and support our demonstration at Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament on Monday 28th April, We’ll be there between 12-2pm.

One comment to “HS2: a damaging project for the environment”
  1. UK Supreme Court advice that all options still possible may be proven wrong with the vote in Parliament for the wrong HS2 phase 1 on Monday/Tuesday. MPs do not have to justify their vote or have a technical or environmental competence. Their whipped vote will occur for mixed reasons some nothing to do with the route being wrong. A Prime Minister without the ability to listen and act to the wiser judgment of its majority of the people is not leading the nation forward but acting contrary to common sense. MPs voting for or abstaining from the Hybrid Bill are acting for occupation of the wrong land areas wasting Billions of pounds of borrowing the nation should invest on wiser projects. It is expected over 30 MPs will dare to brave the fall in line policies of the 3 parties. Hope more MPs will see you considered decisions and change their vote by thinking and changing their minds to align with your requirement and not a party dogma please.
    Circa 620 MPs judged this project wrongly and the population will no doubt explain this in the votes ahead.

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