HS2 announcement a sad week for all
Dear Sir, — What a sad week for people, animals and environment in Cheshire, with the Government now having green-lighted the notorious vanity project that is HS2.
Chris Packham was right to call HS2 “an act of ecological vandalism”, given the huge swathes of irreplaceable natural habitat it will decimate — including very important brown hare habitat here in Cheshire (brown hares being one of our iconic native mammals, but with a population decrease of 80% since 1900), hundreds of badger setts and countless other hugely important habitats for mammals, amphibians, birds and insects.
In terms of trees, HS2 represents the single largest deforestation programme since WWI, and at a time when trees represent one of the most greatest assets we have in the face of climate breakdown.
In this respect HS2 represents the very opposite of what we do need, which is large-scale reforestation.
The entire National Forest — a project we should be replicating across the UK — cost the same to create as just one mile of high-speed rail.
The HS2 project will also destroy over 30 ancient (pre-1600) woodlands — these are natural assets which we will never get back in terms of their value to the environment, no matter how much re-planting takes place over the next century as so-called “mitigation”.
Economics sadly doesn’t distinguish between what’s renewable and what isn’t, and HS2 is essentially an economic plan. Ancient woodlands don’t come with a price tag, because they’re price-less.
The geological aspects are also of grave concern, not only due to the famous Cheshire salt content in this region but also the potential wider effects of construction work on other habitat such as the world-renowned Cheshire meres and mosses (glacial drift mosses dating from the Ice Age).
Construction and maintenance work will, of course, hit glitch after glitch — with problem-solving being delegated to private contractors, using what will essentially be an open cheque book of taxpayers’ money.
Meanwhile, local transport links are still crying out to be improved — in this area alone we have many miles of existing rail tracks and stations that could have fairly easily been re-opened, allowing for local train travel as a viable alternative to car use.
The Government should be re-investing instead in the re-opening and improving of local branch lines, increasing capacity on existing networks, in particular through increasing platform lengths and doing away with the often empty first-class carriages.
It should also be seriously addressing our existing public transport not being “joined up”.
I’m constantly frustrated by the difficulty of travelling by rail plus bike — countries such as the Netherlands make this very easy, and it’s really not an expensive thing to do.
Easier local rail travel would have huge environmental, human health and decongestion benefits while also acting as a social “glue”, good public transport bringing people together and enhancing communities.
The sad fact of the matter is that many local communities in Cheshire will be subjected to high-speed rail whizzing straight past them, with all its attendant ecological devastation (in a time of climate emergency, no less), but without being able to get anywhere by decent public transport themselves.
The people, animals and environment in Cheshire stand to lose so much and gain so little from HS2, which is a prime example of a project just not accounting for the value of things that are, in fact, invaluable. — Yours faithfully,
Animal Welfare Party