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CPRE comments in advance of HS2 hybrid bill

22 November 2013

HS1 tunnel in Kent HS1 tunnel in Kent (c) CPRE

Ahead of the publication of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill on Monday 25 November 2013, the Campaign to Protect Rural England is concerned that the Government appears to be back-tracking on commitments to secure any environmental gains from HS2.

To maximise the positive impact of HS2 the Government must shift travel from road to rail, regenerate brownfield sites in northern cities, reduce carbon emissions, and offset landscape impacts, for instance by burying pylons along the route.

Background

CPRE believes the case for a new north-south railway has been made, but we are yet to be convinced by the Government's plans for HS2. Some of the main questions for CPRE are:

1. Are there any significant changes to the route to protect the countryside?

Recent changes to the route, such as increased tunnelling, have either been in urban areas or to facilitate major new developments. No major changes to the route of phase 1 are expected. There may be additional mitigation announced in some places, for example to reduce the impact on the habitats of protected species that have been discovered as part of environmental surveys.

2. Will HS2's environmental case have improved?

HS2 must rebalance our transport system away from roads and the economy away from the south east to the north. Yet the Government's deregulation of the planning system and plans for a major return to road-building have weakened the potential for HS2 to lead to environmental benefits, whether its carbon savings or reducing pressure on the countryside.

3. Is HS2 aiming for world beating or just bog standard design?

Other countries have aimed for iconic design in their new railways but we are concerned that photomontages of HS2 have shown ugly, concrete viaducts striding brutishly across the countryside. At CPRE's annual lecture in November 2012, the Secretary of State announced he would set up a design panel for HS2 but nothing has been heard publicly since. The High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 permits the letting of design contracts so CPRE is concerned that if the panel is not set up at the start of 2014, it will be too late to embed exemplary design in the project.

4. Has the cost of rejected route alterations been provided?

HS2 Ltd has faced criticism for rejecting proposals to reduce HS2's impact as too costly, without stating how much more expensive alternatives would be compared to its own proposals. CPRE believes greater transparency is essential if the process of deciding on mitigation is to be credible, particularly with the communities directly affected.

 

More details about our position and our research are available at www.cpre.org.uk/hs2

 

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