Hs2 be or Not to be
By Matthew Ross
‘High Speed Rail 2’ (HS2) is England’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project to date, phase one of the project, which is scheduled to begin in 2017, will stretch around 140 miles and link the centre of London to Birmingham (figure 1). Trains will travel an estimated 250mph and carry around 1,100 passengers each, with the intention to half the current journey time of 1 hour 24 minutes to only 49minutes. It is estimated that this stage of the project will be finished by 2026 at the earliest and will cost around £43billion with a further £7.5billion to be spent on the trains, nevertheless these figures will likely change during the course of the rail’s construction with around £16 billion set aside as contingency.

One of the biggest and most important questions to be addressed currently is HS2’s effect on the environment. Due to the straightness and directness of the line the rail is at present mapped to run through vast areas of farmland and greenbelt with a number of tunnels created along its route. At the moment the plans show that more than half of the line will be totally hidden through the creation of these tunnels with the aid of cuttings in specific areas to further camouflage it into the surrounding landscape. The hope is that HS2 will also reduce carbon emissions with road users and air travellers turning to the railway as an alternative means of transport. With the aid of three reliable sources this essay will discuss the environmental consequences and benefits of HS2 and attempt to determine its overall effect to the region.
Source Summary
Source one is from “StopHs2.org”. This website represents the campaigning organisation “Stop Hs2”. They’re aim is to “Stop High Speed Two by persuading the government to scrap the proposal” and to “facilitate the national campaign against HS2” . The chair of the campaign group and Head of Social media is Penny Gaines; she is the websites main author and provides the bulk of the website’s facts and figures. She has appeared on the BBC news and radio to voice her opinion against the project where she has illustrated the damage it will cause to the country. Within this source is the idea that the environmental damage caused by HS2 could threaten a number of key areas, including; 350 unique habitats 67 irreplaceable woodlands and 24 sites of scientific interest. In terms of the carbon dioxide emission the writer suggests that it is not the train that will cause the brunt pollution but the extra electricity required (350 megawatts). This is the predicted amount of power required for Phase 1; the extra power required for Phase 2 is as of yet unknown.
The source also indicates that the predicted eight week response time for the government consultation is too short, considering the results of a YouGov Pole which showed a 53% opposition to the project (Figure 2). This compared to a consultation conducted previously about tractor speed limits, which the public was given twelve weeks to respond to.
Overall this source represents a deeply resistive opinion; its reliability is questionable as some of its “facts” are debateable. However it gives a very strong environmental case and will act as an ideal comparison to sources two and three.

Source two is from go-hs2.com. This website represents those in favour of the project. The source represents and is backed by with a number of different organisations, including; Centro (The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority), Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Airport and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. They argue that the benefit of HS2 will be massive and with a KPMG report suggesting that the project would bring fifty thousand jobs and four billion pounds to the West Midlands.
The environmental case is also put forward as an opportunity for regeneration. The main argument is the vast reduction in Carbon dioxide (CO2) production, High Speed Rail (HSR) produces around a third of car emissions and a quarter of that produced by air travel. The trains are electric, and whilst generating power is currently a substantial contributor to the country’s carbon footprint (480 Mega Tonnes in 2012, Figure 3), the hope is that as more renewable sources of energy are developed, the more efficient HS2 will become. Plus with “The Climate Change Act 2008”, which outlined plans to reduce the country’s CO2 transmission by 34% for 2020 and 80% by
2050, the source illustrates that HS2 could have a large part to play in meeting that target in time for the deadline.
In terms of the overall environmental effect on the countryside the source provides very little, other than “HS2 requires much less land than a new motorway” and that the noise and visual pollution will be almost negligible. The suggestion is that with the country’s increasing road congestion, which costs £2.3bn a year, more people will turn to air travel and increase CO2 emissions exponentially.
Ultimately the source’s fundamental argument stems from CO2 emissions, it has very little to say about the actual route and the effect on the countryside, but it provides a strong and reliable opposing view (through observation of its sources) and is of equal competition and standard to source one.

Source three is the independent summary report of issues raised by the Environmental Statement (ES), reference will be made to the ES to provide evidence for specific claims. This source stands to give a neutral perspective on HS2, and outline all the concerns and comments put forward by the general public in each of the twenty six Community Forum Areas (CFA). It also had to intensely scrutinise the ES (produced in partnership by the Department of Transport and HS2 Ltd). The assessor is anonymous but has been specially selected by Parliament elected examiners. The assessor had to provide staff with sufficient experience and knowledge of the subject to be selected.
The report covers thirteen different environmental issues, including; Agriculture, Cultural Heritage, Ecology and Waste and Material Management. The CFA delegated an issue raised within one of these categories had to refer to one of twenty six key areas on the Phase One route (figure 4). The report found that the most people where concerned about “Tunnels” “Community” and “Noise Pollution”.

The Report thoroughly explains each point and lists them in order of public importance. Each CFA has been analysed separately with “average type of response” and “primary concern” recorded and processed in bar graphs and pie charts (Figures 5 and 6, CFA 3- Primrose Hill to Kilburn). The data shows the range of opinion concerning the priority of each issue in each CFA. This data allows each site to be analysed individually and gives each area a specific set of its own personal concerns to be addressed.

Code Category AG Agriculture, Forestry and Soils
AQ Air Quality
CH Cultural Heritage
CM Community
CO Compensation
EC Ecology
EM Electromagnetic Interference
EN General Environmental Issues
EX Expense
GB Green Development / Planning Applications
GV Government
v Upgrade Existing Infrastructure
LL Lower the Line
LQ Land Quality
LV Landscape and Visual Assessment
MH Mental Health / Anxiety Concerns
NS Not Specified
Other Other Issues
PC Public Consultation Process / Time
Pos Positive for the Line
PV Property Value
SE Socio-Economics
SU Sustainability
SV Sound, Noise and Vibration
TR Traffic and Transport
TU Tunnel
WM Waste and Material Resources
WR Water Resources and Flood Risk Assessment

As the source is Independent and conducted to review the ES there is no obvious favourable bias “against” or “for” HS2, however the data illustrates a large amount negativity towards the project in terms of the public opinion expressed in the report.


1. http://stophs2.org/news/10028-hs2-facts-and-problems Consulted on 23/10/14
2. http://stophs2.org/about Consulted on 23/10/14
3. http://www.go-hs2.com/BenefitsOfHS2/EnvironmentAndRegeneration.aspx Consulted on 23/10/14
4. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hs2-phase-one-environmental-statement-volume-3-route-wide-effects Consulted on 23/10/14 for PDF report
5. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-private-bill-office/2013-14/HS2-Independent-Assessor-report.pdf Consulted on 23/10/14
6. http://assets.hs2.org.uk/sites/default/files/inserts/HS2%20London%20to%20West%20Midlands%20EIA%20Scope%20%26%20Methodology%20Report%20revised_0.pdf Consulted on 23/10/14
7. http://www.hs2.org.uk/about-hs2/facts-figures/route-trains-cost Consulted on 23/10/14
8. http://www.hs2.org.uk/interactive-map Consulted on 04/11/14
9. http://www.bca.uk.com/blog/?p=1262 Consulted on 04/11/14
10. http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=185644&&page=3# Consulted on 06/11/14
11. http://www.itraveluk.co.uk/maps/england-large.php Consulted on 06/11/14
12. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/citydiary/11167820/City-Diary-Taxi-Leeds-transport-boss-shuns-the-train-after-top-tier-HS2-dinner.html Consulted for use of image on14/11/14
13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Speed_2 Consulted for use of image on 14/11/14.
14. http://www.bdonline.co.uk/pictures/741x405/4/5/4/1780454_130828-WEA---HS2-Curzon-St-1-web.jpg Consulted for use of image on 14/11/14
15. http://stophs2.org/news/10028-hs2-facts-and-problems Consulted for use of image on 4/12/14
16. https://www.centro.org.uk/ Consulted on 4/12/14
17. https://gohs2.wordpress.com/about/ Consulted on 4/12/14
18. http://www.kpmg.com/uk/en/pages/default.aspx Consulted on 4/12/14
19. http://www.carbonbrief.org/media/161237/screen_shot_2013-03-28_at_12.15.45.png Consulted for use of image on 4/12/14

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