5 Environmental impacts |
I have always believed that our beautiful British
landscape is a national treasure. We should cherish and protect
it for everyone's benefit.
We will establish a high speed rail network as part
of our programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for
creating a low carbon economy.
70. As with any major piece of transport infrastructure,
HS2 would have significant impacts on the environment. These are
described at a high level in the Appraisal of Sustainability.
The changes to the 2009 design for the London-West Midlands route,
intended to reduce and mitigate negative impacts, are also explained.
If the Government decides to proceed with the scheme, a detailed
environmental impact assessment and environmental statement will
have to be undertaken prior to introduction of a hybrid bill.
71. One of the Government's principal objectives
for transport is that it should contribute to the UK's climate
change targets. There is a lack of clarity in the debate about
whether high-speed rail will make a positive or a negative contribution.
Two very different propositions tend to get mixed up. The first
is that HS2 will of itself significantly reduce carbon
emissions by encouraging people to switch from road and air. The
second proposition is that given a strategic objective of
dramatically improving connectivity and capacity of inter-urban
transport, high-speed rail is a relatively low-carbon option.
72. Mr Hammond hinted at the first proposition by
saying that high-speed rail will help the Government to meet its
climate change targets by "encouraging millions out of their
cars and off the planes onto the train."
HS2 Ltd forecast that, for London-West Midlands in 2043, 6% of
HS2 passengers will have switched from plane and 7% from car,
with 65% from classic rail and 22% new trips generated by HS2.
"A national network could see as many as 6 million air trips
and 9 million car trips switching to high-speed rail each year."
Supporters of HS2 have tended to endorse the view that it will
of itself have substantial carbon benefits.
73. Despite some shift from more carbon-intensive
modes to rail, the Government's official assessment is that the
overall impact of HS2 on carbon emissions is hard to predict but
likely to be very small. A substantial amount of carbon would
be emitted in the construction of the line and HS2 would generate
additional travel (some 30,000 trips per day).
Any reduction in domestic flights into Heathrow would almost certainly
be offset by additional international flights, although these
would be within the EU emissions trading scheme and could be diversions
from Gatwick. HS2 would be powered by electricity, so the carbon
emissions would be determined by the extent to which the UK's
energy supply is "decarbonised". The Appraisal of Sustainability
concludes that the overall carbon impact of HS2 would be "broadly
neutral". At worst it could increase emissions by 24m tonnes;
at best it could reduce emissions by 27m tonnes. "Whichever
scenario takes shape, the contribution of HS2 would be insignificant
when compared to other transport emissions in the UK [at about
percentage of UK car trips that might transfer to HS2 is, in overall
terms, very small; we discuss the impact on aviation below. Table
2: High-speed rail and CO2 emissions in selected European
||Area||High-speed lines in operation (2011)
||Rail passenger use (20091)
||Nuclear and renewables as % of total electricity production (2010)
||CO2 from domestic aviation (2009)
||(million passenger kilometres)
Note: 1 Rail passenger figure for Italy
is for 2008
The World Bank
Union Internationale des Chemins de fer (UIC)
House of Commons Library (SN/SC/5533) EU ETS and
74. In Paris, we heard from the French Transport
Minister, Mr Thierry Mariani, that promoting high-speed rail over
road and air transport was part of the Grenelle Environment Roundtable
However, as Table 2 shows, France and other European countries
with high-speed rail generate substantially higher proportions
of electricity from non-fossil sources (mainly nuclear) than does
the UK. Switching from road or air to rail therefore has a significant
carbon benefit. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended
a radical decarbonisation of UK electricity generation by 2030
and the DfT refers to the Government's "clear commitments
to progressively decarbonise power generation."
Currently, however, the scale and pace of the programme is uncertain.
Table 2 also shows there is no simple link between high-speed
rail and carbon emissions from domestic aviation.
IMPACT ON AVIATION
75. The impact of HS2 Phase I on domestic aviation
is likely to be insignificant as there are no flights between
Birmingham and Heathrow and there will be no direct Heathrow HS2
service. More impact is forecast for the Y network as rail would
compete more effectively with aviation for journeys between Scotland,
the north of England and London. Whilst this would have some carbon
benefits and improve the choice of mode for passengers, the Airports
Operators Association says that the potential for HS2 to attract
air passengers "should not be overestimated". Flybe,
which operates from 38 UK airports but not Heathrow, says the
Y network would have "no impact whatsoever" on its services.
Where high-speed rail has been introduced and provided a journey
time of less than four hours, it tends to attract a high proportion
of the air/rail market; however, this is often in the context
of a much increased total passenger market and the air services
76. Heathrow Airport Ltd, Manchester Airports Group
and Birmingham International Airport are more positive about the
contribution that the HS2 might make to reducing UK domestic flights
but still anticipate a substantial overall growth in demand for
aviation. Indeed, they expect the Y network to improve the regional
attractiveness of Birmingham and Manchester airports (assuming
airport high-speed rail stations are built). HS2 may also attract
a significant proportion of UK passengers who currently fly to
Heathrow from Manchester, Newcastle or Scotland, or those who
fly from UK regional airports and take onward connections from
Paris (taking HS2 to Heathrow and flying onwards instead). Much
of this depends on the quality of connectivity (speed, frequency,
transfers etc) between HS2 and Heathrow and regional airports
such as Birmingham, East Midlands and Manchester. The
Government needs to make clear how HS2 fits into its wider aviation
strategy. It is not clear that even the Y-network will substantially
reduce demand for domestic aviation. We note that Lord Mawhinney's
report into whether Heathrow should be on the high-speed network
only found against the idea when assessing it on the basis of
it ceasing at Birmingham: "
a direct high-speed link
to Heathrow fully funded from public expenditure, in the context
of a high-speed rail network extending only to the Midlands, is
not likely to provide a good return on the public expenditure
entailed." We would encourage the Government to reassess
this proposal based upon the assumption that the network will
extend to Manchester and Leeds.
77. Some supporters
of HS2 have argued that it would have substantial carbon-reduction
benefits. These claims do not stand up to scrutiny. At best, HS2
has the potential to make a small contribution to the Government's
carbon-reduction targets. Given the scale of the expenditure and
the official assessment, HS2 should not be promoted as a carbon-reduction
scheme. However, if the Government's primary aim is to meet and
reinforce demand for inter-urban travel, HS2 will produce less
carbon than an expanded motorway network or a reliance on domestic
aviation. It is important that the Government makes rapid progress
with reducing carbon emissions from UK electricity generation.
Of course, we must ensure the appropriate protections
for our magnificent countryside. This is why our reforms will
maintain protections for the green belt, for National Parks and
Areas of Outstanding National Beauty.
78. The DfT acknowledges that it would be impossible
to eliminate local environment impacts from HS2 but believes that
sensitive design and mitigation measures could ensure that such
impacts will be minimised.
HS2 Ltd has proposed a London-West Midlands route that avoids
any significant demolition of property except for the Euston station
area; about half the route would be in deep cutting or tunnel,
to reduce noise and visual intrusion on adjacent areas.
HS2 Ltd suggests that the impacts on sensitive local sites will
be quite limited:
No Grade I or Grade II* listed buildings would be
demolished, and no internationally protected sites of ecological
interest would be adversely affected, while impacts to nationally
protected sites are restricted to a few locations. The proposed
route crosses the Chilterns AONB, with all but about 1.2 miles
(2km) of the line in tunnel, deep cutting or in the corridor of
the existing A413 main road.
79. Despite these reassurances, HS2's possible impacts,
on the natural environment, buildings and people, have generated
much concern and opposition, not only to the proposed route but
also to HS2 as a project. There are particular concerns about
the impact on the Chilterns (a designated AONB), the Colne Valley
and parts of Warwickshire. Many local "stop HS2" groups
have formed to protest about what they fear would be increased
noise, visual intrusion, severance and disruption in their locality,
both during construction and when the line is in operation. Some
organisations, such as CPRE, suggested that a route close to the
M1 might be less environmentally-damaging and therefore preferable;
the M40 corridor was generally considered to be unsuitable although
a lower operating line speed and the use of tilting high-speed
trains could make this option viable. Overall, there did not appear
to be a consensus on any alternative route from an environmental
80. We have been presented with two very different
accounts of the environmental impacts of HS2: HS2 Ltd told us
that noise levels would be quite limited, that HS2 would create
a "dual-carriageway for wildlife",
and that 2.9m cubic metres of spoil would be generated and used
to construct bunds or removed avoiding local roads.
By contrast, the Chilterns Conservation Board and others told
us that HS2 (as proposed) would result in damage to 10 Sites of
Special Scientific Interest and 84 county wildlife sites, "the
largest loss of ancient woodland in recent times" (25.8 hectares
) and a "Berlin
Wall for wildlife".
In addition, noise calculations did not allow for "worst-case
scenarios", such as unfavourable wind directions, the land
take was unquantified and the amount of spoil would be "absolutely
gargantuan" (perhaps 11m cubic metres) and its disposal impacts
much greater than described by HS2 Ltd.
Even the width of the corridor is unclear.
The Chilterns Conservation Board
and National Trust
pointed out that they were not merely seeking to protect local
interests but had responsibilities and legal duties to protect
certain land and property on behalf of the nation. In the case
of the Chilterns Conservation Board, its duties relate to the
Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; in the case of the
National Trust, it relates to Hartwell House and grounds, which
it holds "inalienably", through which the proposed HS2
would pass. These
organisations also pointed to the Government's undertakings to
be the "greenest government ever" and to protect the
national environment, particularly Areas of Outstanding Natural
81. The divergence of views on likely impacts of
HS2 is partly because detailed environmental assessments have
not (yet) been carried out nor noise protection measures designed.
It might in some cases be due to a lack of dialogue and communication
between HS2 Ltd and the major objector bodies. Some have stated
that requests for information have been blocked or delayed without
The groups are concerned that the Environmental Impact Assessment
will not be undertaken until after a decision (to proceed) has
been taken, by which time it will be "too late".
82. The DfT's economic case methodology does not
put a monetary value on landscape costs.
The Government's recent Natural Environment White Paper sets out
proposals to change this approach and to include the value of
"natural capital", which may be much higher than the
market value of the land:
Later in 2011, [DEFRA] will publish new supplementary
guidance to HM Treasury's Green Book for use by all Government
Departments on valuing the natural environment in appraisals.
In fact, HS2 Ltd has already undertaken an "indicative"
assessment of the landscape value for HS2, which it puts at £4.5bn.
If this figure were to be deducted from the benefits of HS2 (London-West
Midlands), the BCR including WEIs would fall to 1.56 (see Chapter
83. We recognise
that HS2 is likely to have substantial impacts on the countryside,
communities and people along its route. It is unfortunate that
a direct route between a station to the west of London and the
West Midlands crosses the Chilterns AONBa national asset.
Because detailed assessments have not been undertaken, it is difficult
to be clear about the precise scale of the impacts or the effectiveness
of mitigation measures. Our visit to the Arup sound laboratory
suggests to us that noise impacts may be less than feared but
for other factors it is impossible to tell. We recommend that
the revised business plan for HS2 should take account of the Government's
new approach to economic appraisal, which places a monetary value
on natural capital. It should also make explicit whether this
approach would suggest changes to the alignment or design of the
route proposed by HS2 Ltd. We would encourage the Government to
place greater emphasis on following existing transport corridors.
Consultation, Challenge and NIMBYs
84. The DfT and HS2 Ltd undertook formal public consultation
on the HS2 proposal earlier this year. The consultation was intended
to gather views on:
the proposed national high speed rail strategy [...]
and on the proposed line of route for an initial London - West
Mr Hammond described the consultation as "one
of the largest and most wide-ranging ever undertaken by Government."
Some 50,000 responses were received. Many people who responded
to the consultation did so due to concerns about possible impacts
on their homes and local environment. Many also submitted strategic
arguments in favour or against HS2.
85. Despite the considerable scale and content of
the consultation exercise, some major stakeholders, such as 51m
and AGAHST, expressed disappointment and frustration with the
process. AGAHST complained that there has been a lack of impartiality
in the process; that residents on the Y sections were effectively
excluded as no information was provided on the route north of
Birmingham; that economic and environmental information was inaccessible
or not available; and that Ministers implied that they would proceed
regardless of the consultation.
The Chilterns Conservation Board, 51m, National Trust and HS2
Action Alliance also criticised the consultation process, particularly
in terms of a failure on the part of HS2 Ltd and the DfT to engage
with them, to debate strategic issues, resolve technical issues
or to consider alternative proposals.
Complaints about lack of consultation or engagement might simply
reflect the fact that such discussions as there were did not produce
the results which opponents wanted. We have no way of judging
whether or to what extent that has been the case.
86. Following its establishment in 2009, HS2 Ltd
established three challenge panels (strategic, technical and analytical)
"to provide independent expert scrutiny on different elements
of [its] work." These panels continue to meet. Of the three
groups, currently comprising 22 people (all men), only the Analytical
Challenge Panel contains any evident critic of high-speed rail.
The Strategic Challenge Panel comprises eight transport and local
government experts who are almost all publicly supportive of high-speed
rail, including the Director of Yes to HS2, the Director of Greengauge
21 and the Chairman of Network Rail.
Mr Hammond said that the details of the challenge panels were
a matter for HS2 Ltd but he thought they had "worked well".
87. It is disappointing
but perhaps unsurprising that DfT and HS2 Ltd have not been able
to reach agreement on technical issues with major objectors such
as 51m and those with statutory roles such as the Chilterns Conservation
National Trust. We do not pretend that any consultation process
could have led to opposition melting away but some factual issues
might have been resolved and areas of disagreement narrowed. It
is also of concern that the Government intends to reach a decision
on whether to proceed with Phase I before information on the Y
network is published and before many of the environmental impacts
for both phases are clear. We recommend that no decision is taken
until such strategic information on Phase II is published, appraised
and consulted upon.
88. The previous Secretary of State has been accused
of comparing opponents of HS2 with the Luddites and "NIMBYs"
(Not In My Back Yard).
In Manchester in June this year, Yes to HS2 launched a bus poster
campaign"Their lawns or our jobs". Professor
Begg, Director of the campaign, defended the posters.
Meanwhile the Stop HS2 campaign toured the country with a 10ft
inflatable white elephant.
89. What should
have been a serious and factually-based debate about how best
to address the transport, economic and environmental challenges
of HS2 has too often been reduced to name-calling and caricature:
Luddites, NIMBYs and white elephants fought out a battle of "jobs
versus lawns". We urge the Government to desist from disparaging
opponents of HS2 as NIMBYs and for both sides in the debate to
show respect for each other and to focus on the facts.
171 Prime Minister David Cameron, letter to National
Trust, 20 September 2011 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/8777913/David-Camerons-letter-to-National-Trust-in-full.html Back
HM Government: The Coalition: our programme for government,
20 May 2010, p 31 Back
Booz & Co, HS2 London to the West Midlands. Appraisal of
Sustainability. A report for HS2 Ltd, February 2011 Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, p 5 Back
Economic Case for HS2, p 19 Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, p 50 Back
For example, Network Rail, Ev 292. Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, pp18-19 (based
on London-Birmingham, 2043) Back
Booz & Co, HS2 London to the West Midlands. Appraisal of
Sustainability Non Technical Summary. A report for HS2 Ltd,
February 2011, p 15 and Ev 262 Back
Grenelle is also discussed by CPRE, Ev 191. Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, p 53 Back
The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, in its report,
Electricity Market Reform, said that "the Government needs
to be more explicit about its ambitions" and that "It
should set out an intended pathway of gradually reducing carbon
intensity to 2030". (Fourth Report of ECC Committee, April
2011). The Government is shortly due to publish proposals and
policies for meeting the fourth carbon budget (2023-27). Back
Q365 Niall Duffy Back
For example, London-Paris: briefing note provided by House of
Commons Library, unpublished. Back
Prime Minister David Cameron, letter to National Trust, 20 September
2011 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/8777913/David-Camerons-letter-to-National-Trust-in-full.html Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, p 55 Back
Ev 267 Back
Ev 262 Back
See also Ev w62. Back
Ev 286 Back
Letter from Steve Rodrick, Chief Executive, Chilterns Conservation
Board, to Mrs Ellman, Chair, Transport Committee, 12 September
Q 350 Back
Qq 331-332, 337 Back
Ev 286 Back
Q 324 Back
Q 318 Dame Fiona Reynolds Back
Ev 292 Back
English Heritage said that, without additional work, they were
unable to judge the impacts of HS2 on the historic environment
and its heritage assets, Ev w232. Back
Ev 161 Back
Qq 331-332 Back
Qq 551-552 Back
HS2 Ltd estimates that the land cost (including buildings) for
HS2 London-Birmingham will be £930m. See Ev 286. Back
DEFRA, The Natural Choice: securing the value of land,
Natural Environment White Paper, June 2011, Cm 8082, para 3.42 Back
Ev 267 Back
Oxera email 6 September 2011 Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, p 25 Back
HS2 Consultation, February 2011, p 6 Back
Ev 166 Back
Qq 326-360 Back
Ev 286 Back
Q 548 Back
Financial Times, 25 June 2011, p 2 and Q 510 Back
Q 97 Back