In advance of the Government’s expected approval of the High Speed Rail Project (HS2); Sarah Lee, Head of Policy for the Countryside Alliance, said:
“The Countryside Alliance welcomed the Transport Secretary’s decision last year to wait before ruling on the fate of HS2, acknowledging that the environmental costs of the project had not been properly evaluated or acknowledged in the business plan, and that the route past Birmingham had yet to be properly consulted upon.
“However the Government has not solved ether of these glaring problems, and instead looks set to give the green light to the scheme without full consideration of the devastating impact HS2 will have on Britain’s countryside or the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people living along the route.
“At present the costs of HS2 – both to the environment and the public purse – are simply too great to justify going ahead with the scheme, and the Countryside Alliance therefore urges the Government to reconsider the impact that High Speed Rail will have on Britain’s countryside and rural communities before taking this decision.”
The Countryside Alliance has set out its opposition to High Speed 2 as follows:
§ High speed rail projects are hugely expensive and therefore must offer significant benefits to justify investing public money.
§ The Countryside Alliance believes the economic and environmental costs of the proposed HS2 project have not been properly evaluated and the Government has so far failed to make a sound business case.
§ In context, the Government is proposing to spend upwards of £17 billion on a high speed rail project with a weak business case at a time when most departmental budgets are being cut by at least 20 per cent because of the deficit.
§ The countryside, its communities and important wildlife habitats must be a factor in any evaluation of major projects that affects them and should be protected if a sound business case is not made.
§ The proposed route from London to Birmingham will cut through areas that are currently untouched by the transport system. The route will damage some of the most picturesque countryside in Britain, including the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
§ If and when HS2 stretches to Leeds and Manchester forming a “Y-shaped network”, the implications for these residents and sites of natural beauty will also be significant.
§ Despite people living along the planned route being the most affected they will gain little or no local benefits. There are no proposed stations outside London and Birmingham. Therefore high speed rail travel will be more accessible for people living in urban areas but not for people living in the countryside.
§ Regrettably the impacts that cannot be monetised – damage to landscape and biodiversity – have yet to be seriously addressed by the Government and people who will feel these impacts most acutely are not being given a fair hearing.