The proposed High Speed Rail 2 cuts through many green spaces
160 wildlife sites are threatened along the proposed high speed rail route between London and Birmingham across seven different Wildlife Trust areas.
High Speed 2 (HS2) is the proposed new High Speed rail network for the UK - connecting London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned about the impact HS2 will have on the landscapes and habitats and the damage it will cause to wildlife and ecosystems along the proposed route.
HS2 Phase 1 from London to the West Midlands is currently planned to be in operation by 2026. The government has committed to continue HS2 northwards, connecting Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds via two high speed lines running either side of the Pennines. This is known as 'HS2 Phase 2' and commonly referred to as the ‘Y-route’. Hybrid Bills will be required to secure the powers required to construct and operate HS2.
HS2 in Hertfordshire and Middlesex
In Hertfordshire and Middlesex, the route will cross the Mid-Colne Valley SSSI on a viaduct bisecting Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve. The 80 hectare site is renowned nationally for the diversity of breeding wetland birds and the numbers of wintering waterbirds such as gadwall, shoveler and great crested grebe, and summer moult gatherings of tufted duck. In addition Daubenton’s and pipistrelle bats, which are European Protected Species, could be threatened. Broadwater Lake is one of the most important sites in the UK for Daubenton’s bats.
A greener vision for HS2
The Wildlife Trusts own research shows that investment in green infrastructure, habitat restoration and creation as part of HS2 is both affordable (within the scale of the overall budget for the project) and cost-effective. To demonstrate this the Wildlife Trusts affected by Phase 1 and 2 of HS2 have identified and mapped habitat creation opportunities along the route. These areas were subsequently refined to identify the areas where the opportunity for nature restoration is greatest and most cost-effective to devise a strategic corridor (or stepping stones) of habitat that would reconnect fragmented habitats and strengthen local ecological networks.
This work has been published in summary form and as a longer Reference report. You can read a copy of the report here. It shows how a ribbon of natural areas, wild havens, green bridges and cycle ways could be created along the corridor of the HS2 route. Initial costings suggest that environmental restoration on this scale could be achieved with less than 1% of HS2’s overall budget of £42bn and a Cost Benefit Analysis undertaken by researchers at Newcastle University show that the benefits of restoring nature and providing access will outweigh the costs.