High Speed 2 – We need answers!

I wonder if the irony is lost on ‘the greenest Government ever’ when an environmental NGO is forced to dispute a ‘green transport’ concept – a position it was put in because of that government’s poor decision-making. We would have loved to have been able to welcome High Speed 2. We wanted to see  it work to remove unnecessary traffic from our congested roads and reduce emissions – after all climate change is the biggest long-term threat to ancient woodland.  We had hoped it would benefit the economies of all of the towns and villages it will touch along the way. We wanted it to be truly green and innovative in design and delivery. It held so much potential to be a pioneering project.

But there is a snag! It just ain’t green! The route means that 21 irreplacable ancient woods are going to be destroyed. These are valuable woods, part of ancient woodland which covers just 2% of our land, and once gone, they are never able to be replaced.

Contrary to the belief of Justene Greening MP – Secretary of State for Transport and the minister responsible for decisions being made around High Speed 2 – you cannot simply pick ancient woodland up and pop it somewhere more convenient. Add to this the many more ancient woods within 200 metres of the proposed route that will be damaged, and we are left with lots of questions around how this is a credible ‘green transport’ project?

Chris Byrne – Woodland Trust Caseworker – talks through the concerns for the chosen High Speed 2 route.

Watch our film and please tell us your thoughts – and maybe add your questions that remain unanswered alongside ours:

About Nikki Williams

Head of Campaigning for the Woodland Trust
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS), Woods Under Threat and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to High Speed 2 – We need answers!

  1. Pingback: Is High Speed 2 a fait accompli? | Woodland Matters

  2. Jonmax says:

    It is clear that as everywhere else in the UK and the rest of the world that shortsighted people, companies, governments etc who are only interested in making a quick “buck” do not care about the environment. Enough said! Stop HS2.

  3. Mike Bradley says:

    The whole principal of hs2 is wrong.The railways of britain are fragmented by their very nature and in a state of confusion.I don’t want to go into politics but it seems that the short term acheivements of governments that are short term only makes things worse.It is commonly accepted that we need more trains more track and more rolling stock to meet demand despite extortionate prices.hs2 is only a political gesture in aid of looking as though something is happening in the green agenda and a half hearted attempt at meeting E.U. targets for reducing emmissions.From a holistic point of view all our railways need improvement,not just to save business travellers 20 minutes getting from london to Birmingham.(I mean can they be serious 20 minutes for 30 billion pounds?) All this will do is not only wreck ancient woodlands but divide communities,farms, villages,neighbours,increase noise levels.No this is a political move to make us look as though we are making an effort in the eyes of europe.It’s about time this so called “greenest goverment ever” adopted some common sense and lived up to their promises.Cancel this project and spend 30 billion improving the railways for everbody not just London commutors.If we keep on building over,what was,”our green and pleasant land” the minute amount of ancient woodland left will not be self sustaining and will disappear completely taking all the valuable wildlife with it.I say NO to hs2( please note small letters!)

  4. Lesley Barnes says:

    As a line used to exist between Paddington, and Birmingham Snow Hill, I see no justification in building a new one for HS2.. Also, the Government needs education about CO2 being absorbed by trees.

  5. Marcel says:

    Save your money for more urgent matters
    .Do not touch prmairy growth en woodlands.
    They are irreplacable.

  6. Nick Hillard says:

    My major concern relates to the effective lack of joined up policy decision making. In one part of government, there is great work around valuing natural capital, assessing the value that our natural ecosystems bring to our lives, and in another, there is support for a scheme that is increasingly being shown, based on traditional economic modelling alone, to be fundamentally flawed. Build in a “cost” for the effect on our natural assets and the project looks even more foolhardy. I implore everyone to get involved in the immminent consultation regarding compensation and challenge traditional models in favour of those assessing “true cost”.
    Best regards, Nick

  7. Bernie and Maureen Taffs 3 South View Dunmow, Essex CM6 1UQ says:

    My wife and I are long time supporters of Woodland Trust – the video is really excellent and a joy to watch thanks. Looking at every proposed buildiing project in the UK there are problems with damage to Areas of Scientific interest and perceived distrubance to ancient lands and it is good to consider these things. We do however think that it is quite essential that you propose rather more than dispose if you wish to be taken seriously. We all live in areas that are dreadfully depleted of woodland, especially ancient woodland which is truly wonderful to walk through (we are near Hatfield Forest in Essex next to Stansted Airport!). HS2 tho – and on to the next HS extension, in our opinion, is necessary. We should now (not in twenty-five years time) be able to travel to Scotland by rail in a much much shorter time. We think that you MUST commend alternatives rather than denigrate proposals. Thanks for what you do.
    Bernie & Maureen Taffs,

  8. Slioch says:

    The commentary is very poor, with words garbled and rushed and barely audible at times – I gave up after a minute or so. Not what I would have expected from a professional organisation with an important message to government.

  9. peter says:

    we have to find a new (or perhaps old) way of stopping ‘the powers that be’ of riding roughshod over our environment and us (we the people)

  10. David Park says:

    A good and valid presentation.
    But (also):
    I asked at an HS2 presentation/exhibition if passengers on the existing trains had been polled to find out if the potential time-saving of 20 minutes for the London-Birmingham trip would make any difference to them. The answer was that no such poll had been carried out – so who really needs HS2?
    What we do need are new power stations, probably nuclear. Have we enough money for both ‘projects’?
    Rather like a husband wanting a faster car whilst the wife says that the fridge/freezer needs to be replaced – who wins?

    • Eric J.Friend says:

      No, we haven’t the money for both ‘projects’, David, fairly obviously. But there is an equally obvious answer as to which ‘project’ is the more important right now.

      • Will Hedges says:

        Yes, this project raises a very fundamental question that few seem to be addressing. Why do we need to reduce travel time from London to Birmingham by 20 mins. and who and how many really benefit and by how much. The culture of more and faster is one that needs to be very seriously questioned. Finite resources and climate change — a clear and increasing reality, must change both the way we live now and how we adapt and change to meet a very challenging future. “Less but better” would be a good starting point. Getting more cars off the road is essential, producing more and cheaper clean transport is imperative, while preserving as much as possible of our existing countryside to make the future worth living.

  11. Eric J.Friend says:

    I would like to see trains, using the existing network, carrying cars, as they do through the channel tunnel. HS2 was proposed partly to reduce journey times between north and south and partly to reduce road usage. Reducing journey times could be managed on the existing network through better organisation and proper use of modern, electronic signalling methods, enabling more trains and higher speeds. Reducing road usage could be achieved by allowing cars onto trains : if I want to use my car hundreds of miles from home, I must first drive it there; but if I were able to put it on a train, I could take it with me by rail, thereby saving fuel and road congestion in one small step. HS2 would not be needed. Anyone join me ?

  12. Terence Edgar says:

    It is a huge waste of money that the country can ill afford, to the detriment of many for the benefit of a few. A fraction of the cost would be better spent on improving the present rail structure and other forms of public transport.

  13. Graham Smith says:

    Why do people want to rush off to London? Most of it is an overpopulated, overpriced, unfriendly dump with a few redeeming features such as the Houses of Parliament, St Pauls Cathederal and some excellent museums. If there is money available it should be invested in the North of the country.
    The present rail service to London can’t cope because too many people are using the railways. This situation will only get worse as the UK population continues to expand and battles over woodland and land use will become even more serious in the future.
    The ONLY answer is to stabalise and reduce the UK’s population so that pressure on land and nature can be eased but, unfortunately, no political parties, religions, “green” charities or people with influence will face up to this fact.
    This is not just a UK problem it is the world’s biggest problem.

  14. PK Harling-Challis says:

    As a fan of maps for sharing/showing information I think it would be useful to have a link to a more detailed Ordinance Survey map than shown here (http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/assets/content/bcc/docs/transport/high_speed_rail_link.pdf) that can be zoomed in on and HIGHLIGHTS ancient woodlands that are impacted by all of the the proposed routes.

    Also a quote from the page listed above: ” Likely width of corridor is 75m (25m for two
    running lines with parallel service road and 25m buffer zones either side)” which is much wider than described in the film.

  15. Steve Bewers says:

    There is no such thing as “Good HS2”. As the video said the track, cuttings and embankments will cause irreparable damage to our already threatened, rare, ancient habitats. We will lose huge areas of natural heritage to greed for the sake of a few minutes travelling time for a very few people.

    Has anyone considered the auditory impact of this monstrous idea? My particular interest is the Chiltern Hills AONB through which this hideous thing would carve it’s way. This area has been called “The Lungs of London “, certainly it is a beautiful oasis of genteel tranquillity, which is why the Prime Minister’s country retreat is there. The noise from this thing will be devastating. Even if you’re not in the ruined valley it runs through the howl of the beast will echo all around the woods and hills for miles. In it’s turn that will destroy the peace that so many people seek and the ecosystem that other species require to survive.

    All areas this thing passes through will suffer, wildlife will die, local economies will suffer, ancient woodland will continue to dwindle. We cannot afford the environmental cost. Oh and the economics don’t add up either, there is nothing Green about this, it’s not even intended to carry freight, it has no saving grace.

    I was brought up among those wooded hills, I still go there to relax and re-make my connection to the ancient beech woods and open downland. The land is home to countless species that depend on the ever declining habitat that these woods offer. HS2 offers nothing but destruction.

    • With a consultation that gave us a one route option you are correct Steve, it is hard to see a good HS2. We know we are not the only ones with unanswered questions – it is indeed shocking to think that we want to suffocate the ‘lungs of London’ and take away what can never be replaced or restored

  16. Mike Payne says:

    I live on the outskirts of Brum and I am aware of the arguments of proponents of HS2.Besides tthe ecological arguments in your excellent video, I am not convinced by the economics.Local people will not benefit-planning blight(red lining), disruption and who will be able to pay the high fares:the elite who see property in the city as cheaper than London, and consequently will drive up prices in the midlands.Jobs? will construction jobs suck in foreign workers, and how many will go to Brummies and other locals.Look at the past historical example of BART(Bay Area Rapid Transit)-San Francisco; that didn’t benefit locals.-OK so there are supporters on both sides of politics, but which construction firms will benefit most, and which political parties did they fund?Finally what about spending money on existing railways-Cornwall etc

    • Thank you for your post Mike. That someone local to the scheme doesn’t see any postive ways in which Birmingham will benefit is distressing. We must all continue to push Government and HS2 Ltd on these issues

    • Queen Bendy says:

      We do not need HS2 to stop overcrowding on trains, all we need is more carriages on existing trains. When will these politicians stop feeding us lies so they can fill suitcases with our money and destroy our environment ?

  17. Mark Gibbens says:

    I can see many of the arguments on both sides of this. I am sure we do need new transport links although I hate seeing more development in our countryside.If there has to be development it will always be more sustainable if the pot of money is spent over a longer time period to ensure that maintenance takes place to ensure the success of the scheme.

  18. Tim says:

    I support the preservation of woodland and would be happy to be actively involved but; and I am sure that I am not alone in this: For reasons that belong in another conversation, I cannot support any organisation that is a proponent of the theory of climate change being caused by anthropogenic emissions of co2.

    I wonder if there are any conservation organisations that do not support this theory and if any of the ones that do would be kind enough to supply a list.

    • Slioch says:

      I don’t think you will find any conservation organisation that does not support the theory of the anthropogenic cause of global warming via emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Nor, similarly, will you find any scientific academy throughout the world. The reason is that such bodies base such support on scientific evidence and that is clear.

  19. thehutts says:

    I think your video is very good but I am not entirely convinced on the arguments against green bridges. Other countries seem to have made green bridges work. They’ll never replace the ancient woodlands in our lifetime but might be an acceptable compromise in some cases given the right design and depending on the associated BAP species in the woodland concerned. Sally

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Hi Sally
      Chris has just recently been over in the HS2 area, so sorry for our delay in getting back to you. Here is her assesment of the situation with green bridges……
      Chris tells us
      The problem is we have no guarantees about the “green bridges”, they are in reality a greenwashed form of cut and cover – they will destroy the ancient woodlands that the route passes through and these cannot be replaced, no matter how long they have to recover. Examples we’ve seen in other countries haven’t been on the scale of those currently proposed and we have no guarantees about what is proposed for HS2.

      If we are lucky the construction will be such that a deep enough soil/subsoil can be placed over the tunnel roof to establish a healthy woodland. We would be luckier still if this is colonized by the other plants that make up a woodland ecosystem, further luck will bring the fungi, lower plants, and insects. Time (and management?) will work on the complexity of the woodland – establishing a dead wood resource, developing the canopy structure, maturing trees increasing the habitat niches within the wood etc etc. Finally giving us a secondary woodland to link up our tiny fragments of ancient woodland remaining on either side of the track.

      However, let’s also imagine we have no luck – after the maintenance contract ends (10 years?) and the pot of mitigation money has run out. The shallow rooted species specially chosen for the site shrivel up and die because of the couple of years of drought (further disabled by the tree tubes that should have been removed years before). Ravenous herds of muntjack or escapee wild boar munch their way through the desperate survivors (although the badly maintained fences around the site still deny access to local walkers). The ground flora translocated from the original ancient woodland (the 50% of species which survived the original move) are engulfed by a monoculture of bramble. Maintenance work needed on the roof of the tunnel x years later reveal that the cheapest method of access is through the “green bridge” roof and the structure is removed for repairs. It is later replaced by a mown grassland which is easier to maintain and rip out when necessary.

      As with any project, the devil is in the detail – what separates our two scenario’s are money and luck. So I don’t want to expose our ancient woodlands to the government’s generosity at the end of an expensive project / the winds of fate any more than I have to.

  20. Pingback: STOP HS2 | While waiting for the Queen’s speech…

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