HS2 should go further
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The government has rejected the call from MPs for more ambitious environment objectives for the HS2 high-speed rail line.
In its response to the environmental audit committee’s April report on HS2, the government insisted that “no net biodiversity loss” was an appropriate objective for the scheme on the basis that it was already a “very challenging” target for a major infrastructure project. The response, published on 11 June, also discounted the call to provide greater “environmental compensation” for ancient woodlands destroyed by the rail line.
“It is disappointing that the government will settle for no overall biodiversity loss when it could use the enormous budget for the scheme to provide more gains than losses for the environment,” said EAC chair Joan Walley.
Describing the government’s limited ambitions as “a wasted opportunity”, she added that, if ancient woodlands and other critical habitats are lost, “they should at least be much more fully compensated for than currently planned by the government’s off-setting system”.
The government also largely rejected the EAC’s proposal for compensatory habitats away from the HS2 route that might provide better results for wellbeing.
On carbon emissions, the committee suggested the government look at reducing maximum train speeds until electricity generation has been sufficiently decarbonised.
Although the response noted that the company behind HS2 would examine running slower trains, it emphasised that lower speeds could reduce the number of travellers shifting to the rail route, ultimately producing less overall UK carbon benefit.
The government accepted EAC advice to set up an independent body to monitor and report progress against the “no net biodiversity loss” objective.
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