The proposal for a new high speed train line between London and Birmingham is one of Government’s new infrastructure projects that will supposedly help dig us out of recession and deliver a green economy.
But will it really be green?
There are two tests it will have to pass to make this claim. Firstly, the route must be planned so that impacts on protected wildlife sites are avoided as far as possible, and any impacts that are unavoidable should be mitigated, and any residual impacts then compensated for through the creation of new wildlife habitat. You can read more about our position and work on this here.
The second is the carbon test - Will HS2 save any carbon?
That’s what a new report published today and written by consultants Greengauge 21 for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Campaign for Better Transport, and the RSPB seks to answer.
As is always the way with these things, the answer is not black and white.
Instead, we found that HS2 could be a vital component of a green transport system, but only if it’s part of a wider package of policies that make sure HS2 is used to its full, that the extra capacity freed on conventional lines is used to take freight off the roads, and that the electricity used to power the trains is low carbon. If all of these policies in place, then HS2 will save 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 over its 60 year lifetime, comfortably offsetting the 1.2Mt released as a result of building and running it. These savings could then be increased greatly if HS2 is part of a wider HS rail network across the country as that would mean even more flights displaced by rail.
Strip these policies away though, and HS2 is a different story. In our worst case scenario, HS2 results in an increase in emissions.
Our view is that this highlights the critical importance of Government getting its act together on transport policy, and delivering an overarching strategy that will give us a green transport system that is fit for purpose.
Sadly, Government’s tendency instead is to look for quick fixes that give the appearance of progress - more roads, runways and forest-destroying biofuels – that are brought forward as ad-hoc whims rather than part of a grand and green strategy.
You can read the new report here if you want all the detail (including some very attractive graphs), and let us know your thoughts-
What do you think of HS2 and this Government’s approach to transport?