High Speed Rail (HS2)

Carr Vale Nature Reserve, Guy Badham

The Wildlife Trust has released a statement on HS2.

Wild landscapes are under threat from the Government's proposed High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network as it currently stands. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that ancient woodland and rare peat bogs, among other important habitats are at risk, and that the mitigation and compensation plans being put forward are not suitable.

The recovery of wildlife in the UK requires national infrastructure projects such as HS2 to create and restore more places for wildlife.

HS2 and Wildlife

The Wildlife Trusts in principle support sustainable transport solutions, but current proposals for HS2 come at an unacceptable cost for our natural world, putting the homes of wildlife including barn owls and otters at risk.

The draft Environmental Statement for Phase 2b alone references damage to 12 highly protected areas for nature conservation known as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as well as 111 Local Wildlife Sites and 19 ancient woodlands. These figures do not take into account damage caused in Phase 1 and 2a of the route - nor does it account for other wildlife-rich places without designation, so the real impact is much higher.

Infrastructure projects on this scale have the potential to help deliver the Government's own policies and international commitments aimed to reverse the decline of wildlife and bring about nature's recovery. If properly mapped out they give a unique opportunity to plan development that creates more wild places for wildlife to thrive (see Nature Recovery Networks) - known as a net gain for wildlife.

Currently HS2 Ltd has simply committed to 'no net loss' for wildlife, which does not help to solve the huge declines we've seen in some of our most-loved plants and animals in recent decades.

Impacts of HS2 Around the Wildlife Trusts

The proposed route for HS2 impacts on the work of 14 Wildlife Trusts, putting at risk wild places and wildlife that they care for:

Phase 1: LondonHertfordshire & MiddlesexBerks, Bucks and OxonBeds, Cambs and NorthantsWarwickshire; Birmingham and Black Country; and Staffordshire.

Phase 2: StaffordshireCheshireLancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside; Leicestershire and Rutland; Derbyshire; Nottinghamshire; Sheffield and Rotherham; and Yorkshire.

Wild Places in Derbyshire at Risk

Carr Vale Wetlands

Find out more

Carr Vale, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Taking Action

The Wildlife Trusts have actively engaged in the consultation stages of each phase to date, submitting both a collective response and individual, detailed responses from Wildlife Trusts with specifics on site impacted in their area. In addition, The Wildlife Trusts has produced a visionary report setting out how HS2 could be positive for wildlife, rather than create further loss.

A Greener Vision for HS2

Early on in the planning stages of HS2, The Wildlife Trusts developed A Greener Vision for HS2. This report provides the large-scale thinking lacking from current HS2 Ltd plans and if considered would provide the net gain for wildlife so vital for allowing our natural world to recover, at a fraction of the total cost of the scheme.

HS2 Ltd has proposed a Green Corridor along the route, which we welcome. But this is far from adequate and can only be seen as a start to delivering the more ambitious vision we have set out. 

Greener Vision for HS2 - Summary Report

Greener Vision for HS2 - Full Report

HS2 Consultations

The Wildlife Trusts have responded to various consultations released on each of the planned phases of the HS2 route. Please contact your local Trust to request a copy of their consultation response.

Background to HS2

In January 2012, the then Secretary of State for Transport announced that a new high speed rail network in the UK would go ahead, connecting London with Manchester and Leeds, via Birmingham. 

The current timeline for HS2 to be operational is as follows:

  • Late 2026 - London to West Midlands in use (known as Phase 1)
  • Late 2027 - First passengers on route between West Midlands and Crewe (known as Phase 2a)
  • Late 2033 - Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds route operational (known as Phase 2b).