HS2 is an expensive folly causing mass destruction of woodland and habitat

NEW AND COMMENT: Today, in The Times, the report is that Great Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has decided that costs in the building of HS2 are out of control. The project is a folly. It should never have started. Costs have ballooned. The grand schemes of building track beyond Birmingham to Manchester and beyond have all come to nought.

As I see it the vestigial end result is going to be a high-speed track from just north of London to Birmingham. It won’t even get into Euston station because it’s proving to be too difficult and too costly to reshape Euston station and to get the high-speed track into that station.

Apparently, the costs just for the work around Euston station have ballooned to £4.8 billion compared to an initial budget of £2.6 billion. The work there has been paused for two years and no doubt it will fizzle out completely.

So we have a folly of a national project which wasn’t even needed in the first place which has caused the mass destruction of habitat for wildlife. People ask how many trees have been chopped down for HS2. We don’t know exactly but it is a huge number. The Woodland Trust has a page on this topic. There is a picture from above of Little Lyntus, an ancient woodland in Staffordshire which has been entirely wrecked by HS2.

Little Lyntus from the air, an ancient woodland in Staffordshire wrecked by HS2. Image: James Reader / WTML.

The Ham&High local newspaper reports on the HS2 “tree felling frenzy”. The author states that HS2 is cutting down 12 or 14 of the remaining trees in Euston Square leaving just one. The biggest was a London plane over 5 m in circumference. It was saved five years ago but now it is gone. And here’s the madness: the felling of trees in and around Euston station is all for naught again because the redevelopment of that station is going to be halted and HS2 will stop well short of Euston station. This is mass destruction for no purpose. It is the destruction of the environment because of this government’s sloppy management and bad decision-making.

The Times reports that the paused to the development of Euston station means that, “Old Oak Common will be the railway’s only London station when services to and from Birmingham Curzon Street begin between 2029 and 2033”.

This government is utterly hopeless in terms of environmental protection. The Woodland Trust have produced a useful map which I can publish you showing the woods under threat from HS2. Let’s remind ourselves, once again, that these woodlands are habitats for wildlife in Great Britain. It’s a double whammy when you chop down trees. You destroy a wonderful tree that might have been there for hundreds of years and which is home to wildlife. So, you destroy habitat as well.

The Woodland Trust campaigned and lobbied government about the impacts of phase 1 of HS2. They listened to a certain extent but not to everything they said. They say that “the loss of these irreplaceable habitats is devastating for the people who deeply care for these special places and for the plants, fungi and animals that call these places home.”

Eighteen ancient woods and 24 veteran trees are threatened by the western leg of HS2. From the point of view of the environment, those losses might never materialise because as mentioned above I believe that HS2 will stop at Birmingham. That will save the environment but the financial wastage and cost is ridiculous. The damage so far is enormous and the benefits to the economy and to the people of Britain are going to be minimal in my view. It is a vanity project now which is out of control. The future of this project is in doubt.

Jeremy Hunt told LBC (the radio station) that he is concerned about disappointing people in the North when cancelling the project in that area. It will be. Apparently, there’s a leaked photograph published by The Independent newspaper indicating that the government is considering scrapping the Birmingham to Manchester leg. This will save £35 billion. It is painful to note that £2.3 billion has already been spent on that part of the project. That will be entirely wasted money; taxpayers’ money.

Hunt is looking at all the options but is determined to find a way to deliver the project that doesn’t cost taxpayers billions and billions of pounds. It already has Mr Hunt and for environmentalists and wildlife campaigners and advocates it is a catastrophic disaster. It wouldn’t matter so much if it was going to actually benefit substantially to the lives of British citizens but it’s not.

It’s going to save about 30 minutes or something on the journey between London and Birmingham. Big deal.

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Post Category: Environment > deforestation