Here are just some of the things we need to be aware of with HS2:
– HS2’s website claims it is critical for our low-carbon transport future yet HS2 has admitted it won’t even achieve carbon neutrality over its lifespan of 120 years. For full details see here
– the budget is out of control. Originally budgeted at £55.7bn the increases were covered up. It is now over £100bn. In 2018 a staggering 1 in 4 of HS2 employees were earning 6 figure salaries but in 2019 they let thousands of saplings die as it was too expensive to water them. Summers are getting hotter – they should have factored watering into their budget if they were serious about mitigation.
– replacing ancient woodland with monoculture sapling planting isn’t mitigation anyway as old trees are home to hundreds of insects, mammals and birds. No mitigation whatsoever has been included for the ancient hedgerows being ripped out.
– the environmental impact is being legally challenged by Chris Packham crowdjustice.com/case/rethinkhs2
– despite being a government-backed project,HS2 reneges on environment commitments:
- HS2 ltd. claimed they would achieve no net biodiversity loss through their planting schemes, but under their own calculations there will actually be a significant loss, and this isn’t even accounting for the decades long time-lag between cutting down mature trees /habitats and waiting for new ones to grow.
- There is no independent ecological oversight of what goes on in their sites. They rely on ‘professional judgement’ of their own employees to determine their environmental impact. There’s nothing to stop them under-reporting how many trees they are cutting down, and over-reporting how much they are planting
- They do not provide clear, consistent and transparent information about their ecological work. We don’t know what is going on in their sites.
- They said they would only cut down trees in the winter to protect nesting birds. However they rescinded on this and are cutting them down anyway during summer. It is also illegal to cut down a tree with a nest in it but they are doing it anyway and getting away with it as there is no oversight of their work, they can do what they want.
- The Ecology Review Group that oversees HS2’s environmental impact needs greater power to ensure that environmental targets are in fact met, with consequences and sufficient compensatory measures are put in place if they are not. They are currently toothless.
– The National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure that trains engineers to work on HS2 has been rated inadequate by Ofsted and needs financial bail-outs from the Department of Education
– a failure of governance, high staff turnover coupled with multiple contractors has resulted in serious breaches of assurances.
– in order to minimise visibility of the train line in the home counties, 22 miles of tunnel need to be bored which will require an estimated 6 – 10million litres of water per day, which could run the already depleted aquifer (underground lake that feeds the chalk streams) dry
– Delayed compensation to evicted landowners Like other landowners, BBOWT has not yet been paid compensation for land already taken by HS2. Another landowner, who asked not to be named, said compensation was being withheld to minimise local dissent. “Some landowners feel bullied by HS2,” they say.
– social impact. Many residents are devasted to lose their beloved countryside and woodlands. Stress-related health conditions like heart attacks have been reported in farming families who are losing homes and livelihoods along the route
– Covid-19 has reduced demand for travel and increased need for spending elsewhere.
Please listen to the people I met in Jones Hill Wood (that inspired Road Dahl to write Fantastic Mr Fox) in the Chilterns. I went over last week to visit West Berkshire councillor Steve Masters who has joined the tree protectors.
The perspective of the Midlands and the North of England
According to this Sky News report of Boris Johnson’s decision to proceed with the project in February 2020, two of the biggest backers of HS2 have been the big-city mayors, Labour’s Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester and the Tories’ Andy Street in the West Midlands.
The aim of HS2 is to“level up” economic geography of England. It is felt that HS2 will be a huge boost for the Midlands and for the North of England. More buses and cycle lanes are fine, but they are no substitute for this transformational scheme. Backers of the project says it’s needed to level up the country, increase investment in regions that have been left behind London in recent years, and boost productivity and local economies in major regional centres of the North and Midlands. Plus the existing trains are overcrowded and need a lot of maintenance and more capacity is neded for rail freight in order to take traffic off the roads.
Council leaders and businesses along HS2’s proposed eastern leg are calling for the Government to commit to progressing it at the same time as the western leg – aiding economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak while providing towns and cities with much-needed capacity and connectivity improvements.
Property prices in Solihull are rising as the commute times are set to drop.
However many consider that there are much more cost-efficient ways to acheive all of this than HS2
Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, (who sold his 8 bedroom house that is 100m from the route under HS2’s exceptional hardship scheme for £1.8m) has been a long-term opponent of HS2 which will cut through his county without stopping. But business leaders support it because of the investment it will bring to the area.
Noone is talking about ticket prices yet. How many people will actually be able to afford to take the train…?