A very wrong-headed campaign has been set-up that claims that railways are bad for the environment.

Specifically, HS2 — which a coalition of campaign groups argue is going to destroy lots of woodland, promote air travel and dump tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

It sounds very worrying, but it’s also wrong.

The biggest concern, or at least the one generating the biggest awareness is the damage to ancient woodland. Undeniably, digging up any woodland is generally bad, and ancient woodlands do tend to have a more diverse environment, but if the choice is between digging up some woodlands, or encouraging more people to drive cars — which is the lesser of two evils?

On average, motor cars generate 7 times more CO2 than a modern railway trip, and yet if action isn’t taken to improve the railways, which are straining to cope with demand, then we’re just going to push more people onto the motorways instead.

Not good for the environment at all.

But to build a new railway, sadly, yes, some damage needs to be done to permit the construction works.

Ideally, we have both a new railway and preserve the existing woods, but the patches of ancient woodland are scattered like confetti along the route, and unless you put the entire railway in a deep tunnel, the reality is that we’re faced with making choices, so which is the less bad choice to make?

In fact, there’s much to be said that is good from HS2 in terms of woodland impact. Firstly we should look at just how bad HS2 actually is.

The impact is vanishingly tiny. It’s expected that less than 0.01% of ancient woodland will be affected by Phase 1 of HS2 (London to Leeds/Manchester). Of course, that’s not good for the trees that are affected, but if you were to be really concerned about preserving ancient woodland, would you be attacking HS2, or, for example, the Lower Thames Crossing — a new motorway tunnel under the Thames which has a huge impact for its modest size.

From an environmental perspective, isn’t it a bit odd that a railway is getting more protests than a motorway extension?

Let’s be frank, all ancient woodlands were once brand new woodlands — and HS2’s plans include planting an awful lot more woodland as it is built. Not just as a replacement for what’s lost, but actually taking the opportunity to create whole new woods as well.

What’s being planted today will be the ancient woodland of the future. In the long term, there will be more ancient woodland than exists today, which is a huge benefit for the environment.

Long term thinking – what a good idea.

There is also a woodland fund that will support the cost of repairing ancient woodlands within 25 miles on either side of the railway.

To put that into context – 10% of England is currently classed as woodland, whereas the woodland fund for HS2 has a potential impact of around 7% of England. Obviously, not all of the potential land would be covered in trees by the fund as its replacement only, but it helps show the scale of the tree planting that’s being considered.

In a way, the woodland fund’s huge coverage reminds us that HS2 is not just an isolated railway between cities, but as I have previously shown, a project with UK-wide benefits as its main role is to increase capacity on the older railways by removing the capacity hogging intercity trains so that regional commuter services can be increased.

Improving commuter services helps to encourage motorists out of their cars onto the trains. Another win for the environment.

Another argument against HS2 being put forward from an environmental aspect is that it’ll be a huge carbon emitter during construction. Yes, undeniably that is the case — but the same would apply to say, building new homes or hospitals, and I don’t remember any protests against those on environmental grounds.

The goal that should be supported is how to minimize the impact, or even negate it entirely where possible. Modern technologies are a huge help, and building a new railway to modern standards will emit less CO2 than trying to bolt-on bits around the old Victorian network that we have at the moment.

Incidentally, a lot of the extra costs for HS2 are not due to the railway itself, but overly onerous government contractual conditions forcing the contractors to over-engineer the project and build much larger and deeper foundations than is conventionally required. If you want to reduce costs and also reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by all that excess concrete being used, then normalise the contracts

Another part of their argument is that HS2 is not compatible with other trains. Which is absurd. OK, if you want to push a HS2 train down a tube tunnel, then no, they are not compatible. But on the mainline, then most of the rail network will be compatible to some degree with HS2 trains.

HS2 trains will be able to switch to older tracks — in fact that’s an essential requirement from an engineering perspective — so the claim is baseless.

Obviously, a HS2 train won’t be as efficient when it runs on a regional railway. It’s rather like taking a journey on a motorway then switching to a small rural road. You can still get most vehicles down the rural road, just fewer of them and rather slower.

HS2 is the same.

While it’s good that we live in a country where the environmental lobby is listened to, and can rightly affect outcomes, a lot of the anti-HS2 argument is sadly misdirected. If your main goal is to reduce carbon emissions, which is a good thing to strive for, then of all the things to target as bad, HS2 is so far down the list as to barely register on them.

HS2 is the least bad way of getting people from one part of the country to the other. Unless we literally ban people from traveling, then it is important that the journey causes as little damage to the environment as possible.

Given the choice between electric powered trains, or petrol based road, or even worse, air travel, railways are by far and away the least damaging option for getting around the country.

People shouldn’t be criticizing HS2, but championing it as an exciting forward thinking environmentally enlightened project.

So, in 2020, lets have less of the bah humbug, and more of the celebrating a green transport project.


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  1. As long-standing “eco-warrior” who did his OA Level Sceince in Soctiety back in the late 1980s, I totally concur with this.

    It’s a bit like Extinction Rebellion targeting electric trains on the Jubliee Line and the DLR, it’s very counter-productive.

  2. Stephen Dillo says:

    Yet another rubbish article designed to lengthen the very necessary process of stopping HS2. HS2 has a sole purpose of making long distance high speed commuting a normal part of people’s lives. This alone is complete madness in a modern world of environment awareness. Add the the fact its other purpose is to increase passenger demand at airports creates another major environment problem. So our money is being used at alarming rates to supply a very greedy and overpaid project to destroy our environment. Insane.

    • ianvisits says:

      “HS2 has a sole purpose of making long distance high speed commuting a normal part of people’s lives.” <-- which is in fact the exact opposite of its reason, which is to increase general rail capacity, by shifting capacity soaking intercity trains away from commuter lines, so that more commuters can travel by train on their local journeys rather than driving. Most of the benefit of HS2 is boosting regional railways for local journeys.

    • Sykobee says:

      What utter tosh. The price of a season ticket from Birmingham to Euston would be tens of thousands, and the 49 minute journey time still has the travel at either end, making it an undesirable commute.

      It’s quite simple, HS2 increases the capacity by taking high speed trains off of the existing lines, which are far more suited to local rail services. By removing the fast services, far more slow services can be put into the large service gaps.

      Is it perfect for the environment? No. But Perfect is the enemy of Better. Taking a train to the airport instead of a car is better, and that flight is still going to occur because we do not currently live in an ‘environmental dictatorship’.

      I am sad about the ancient woodlands, but the new growth woodlands are far better at CO2 sequestration, and as there will be more woodland created than destroyed, it’s a net environmental good. Instead of concentrating on HS2 woodland cuttings, how about fighting for grouse moor reforestation (the current moors are manmade and unnatural).

      I’m not the biggest fan of HS2, I feel there are a lot of questions about the Euston end of the route, and feel that maybe the high speed aspect could be toned down, which could adjust routing to be better, and the cost is a lot (but it’s spread out, for something that will likely be in service hundreds of years).

    • Rob says:

      “Purpose to increase passenger demand at airports” – not sure many people think ‘ooh now I can get a faster train to the airport I’ll be able to take a flight that was previously impossible because the previous trains took longer’… I doesn’t make logical sense. The same people will be getting the same flights. All that the airport connections achieve is providing a non-road faster connection for those people. HS2, as others are saying, id primarily about releasing capacity on existing lines, but was, perhaps misguidedly, “sold” on the more sexy sounding speed aspect.

    • Graham J. CORRY says:

      It’s all about capacity, nothing to do with speed.
      Similar protests went up in the 18th century for canals, also 19th century against railways, 20th century against Motorways.
      It is a real shame that High Speed was named, as HS2 gives a bad impression.
      Having more capacity at long last will allow people to sit on a 5 hour journey.

      I am so surprised by the amount of ignorance around.

  3. David Shrike says:

    Most of the anti-HS2 protestations are NIMBY’s eco-washing themselves. Ten years ago, if you’d asked them about carbon emissions as they climbed into their 4×4’s to pop down to Morrison’s, they’d have denied there was even a problem. Now “it” is being built near them (they don’t care what “it” is – just happens to be a railway this time) suddenly they’ve discovered their love of the environment.

    They fool no-one but themselves. And some lazy journalists who can’t be bothered to fact check, let alone think or understand.

    One wonders what “environmental assessment” the NIMBY’s conducted into the effects on flora and fauna of their protest camps (both of them) before they waded into the woods with their plastic gazebos, tarpaulins and braziers. (They irony, moaning about carbon emissions as they sit round a wood burner; moan about water contamination whilst they p*** in a ditch, and I’m sure they’ll be taking all their rubbish with them when they finally get evicted.)

    StopHS2 has always been a dishonest campaign. One of the aspects of using dishonesty to achieve their aims is they doesn’t care just how dishonest they are. Any lie will do as long as it sounds plausible, why bother to check facts. As StopHS2’s campaign has dwindled and most have given up and moved on, the lies from the die-hards are getting more and more hyperbolic.

    The biggest problem with HS2, is it isn’t happening soon enough. It would be great if they could get cracking on the Northern segment sooner, but the Bill isn’t even in Parliament yet.

    • Ian Reed says:

      I note that in your rant against those opposed to HS2 not one fact is given in favour of it. It certainly can’t be the cost as that has continually been going up from £33 billion to what looks like more than £100 billion.
      It can’t be for saving time leading to greater productivity as clearly people are able to work on trains.
      It can’t be connectivity as there will be few point HS2 can stop due to it’s speed.
      It can’t be to the environment with the huge destruction of so much countryside and the cost of running such a high speed train. Remember the faster you travel the more energy is required.
      It can’t be getting more people out of car of which there is scant evidence.
      I can’t be because cars use petrol as by the time HS2 does start to run (which at the moment looks to be in the 2040s) most cars will be electric.
      So why do you want HS2 built?

    • Adam says:

      David, your entire argument is based on straw-man fallacy. For me personally, HS2 isn’t built anywhere near where I’m based, and promises more trains on my local line. However, I’m still opposed to the insane projected price tag, environmental impact notwithstanding. There are better solutions than HS2.

  4. Pete Millar says:

    Of course the loss of ancient woodland is no big thing, unless of course you live near the ancient woodlands in question all for the sake of splashing billions of let’s not forget tax payers money. If businesses need this now, not quite as high speed line building then maybe they can stump up a few billion towards it. If you really want less cars on the roads a resurrection of the old branch lines and reasonably priced existing rail fares might convince people from their car but I can travel for a quarter of the cost of a ticket in my car. I’m just taking a wild guess that a ticket on HS2 won’t come cheap. Also don’t forget the traffic pollution that will occur while people are held up while this white elephant churns up what’s left of this once green and pleasant land

    • ianvisits says:

      Resurrecting the odd branch line as you put it wont solve the capacity crunch at the railway stations. It wont solve the capacity crunch on the main commuter lines that people get to work each day on.

      The primary purpose of HS2 is to create enough capacity on the regional lines so that they can provide the sort of commuter service that people will want to use instead of driving to work.

      As for businesses paying for it — that’s what they pay taxes for already — to help fund government spending.

    • The thing is, there is no single “big business” that could afford to do this, which is why big infrastructure projects have to be funded by the tax payer.

      We can all hypothesise that fares will be expensive, but the railway will only pay its way if there are seats occupied by bottoms. If it’s too high, then they’ll be carrying an awful lot of fresh air. My best guess is that there will be fares which will be every bit as competitive as they are now. LNER has Kings Cross to Edinburgh at £27 one way (just a few mins ago). If these sort of fare deals are not on offer, then I’ll eat my hat.

      Yes, by all means bring back some of the axed branch lines, but they’ll need to connect into mainline trains stopping at junction stations. But most of our mainlines cannot cope with more trains stopping at intermediate junction stations. So it’s a chicken and egg situation – HS2 is needed to remove some of the long-distance express trains off the conventional network to make way for more localised services providing the good quality feeder services that any re+opened branch line needs to be successful.

  5. Relative to motorways, railways are of course better for the environment, especially when electrified.

    The main problem with HS2 is that it uses an unnecessarily long route out of London, requiring tunnels of 40-50km through the suburbs and the Chilterns.
    I believe HS2 should be scrapped and replaced with the superior alternative route recommended by HighspeedUK.(www.highspeedUK.co.uk), starting in the North.

    • Melvyn says:

      HS2 does not need all these tunnels it’s been forced into building unneeded tunnels at extra costs because of the sort of people who live in the Chilterns as I doubt if this would have occurred in working class east London if Kings Cross had been the terminus. Simply look at HS1 which mainly runs above ground through east London, Essex and Kent !

      A recent suggestion has been to build a Station on HS2 where it crosses the east west railway thus giving the chilterns their own station and with east west rail feeding GWR services into HS2 from Wales and the West Country!

  6. Ian Reed says:

    First let’s remember that HS2 started off as a ploy by the then Labour government as a sop to voter. The price tag when first announced was £33 billion. Since then it’s been changed to £43 billion, then £56 billion and the latest figure is £88 billion with some saying it will finish north of £100 billion.
    And for what? So some people can get from A to B a bit quicker.
    The original speed of HS2 was for it to travel at 250MPH but because of the increase of energy that’s required to achieve this speed and the very real fact that the track would not take this speed it’s had to be cut. The government even said it would help productivity by allowing people to travel fast there by losing less time travelling ignoring the fact that people are able to work on trains.
    The total cost of to the environment is not just the loss of both ancient woodland and destruction of vast areas of other habitats. It’s the ongoing cost of running HS2 with it’s high speed.
    You talk of the so called impact HS2 may have in reducing cars on the road this is going to be at best less than one percent.
    I could go on with various facts and figures but needless to say for the huge cost of HS2 which will be at least £88 billion there has been and remains many other ways to improve travel not just between the main cities but to the benefit of the whole country and for far less.
    It’s time this huge white elephant was laid to rest and common sense started to prevail. After all none of us know what the future holds especially with the country soon to leave the EU.

    • Melvyn says:

      The £33 billion figure was simply for stage 1 London to Birmingham and then when stage 2 was announced extending to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds the figure was increased accordingly. Although it’s worth noting the amounts quoted include a over large contingency amount which has been used by Anti HS2 brigade as a base cost !

      We now have Northern Powerhouse Rail which is really a stage 3 of HS2 but it’s costs despite covering a bigger network will no doubt be misused in the same way !

      As for woodlands well just think of the damage a motorway with 2×4 lanes will cause the alternative to HS2 and with far less capacity.

      HS2 is in reality just a normal railway built with standard gauge track but with bridges and tunnels large enough to allow for duplex trains as used on French TGV network and thus providing capacity for growth without building and more railway!

      Hopefully, an announcement on the full go ahead for HS2 is only days away given the enthusiasm Boris Johnson as Mayor of London showed for Crossrail and NPR is not viable without full HS2 ..

      It’s worth noting that building HS2 will include upgrades to existing rail and indeed road network something that’s not been explained by the poor HS2 publicity team who need replacement with a new management to build the railway

    • Ian Reed says:

      Please will you not confuse people with statements that are not true.
      The initial plans for HS2 as of 2009 London to Birmingham costing £17.8 billion with the second phase bringing the total figure to over £30 billion. Nowhere in any documents of that time does it state the £33 billion is for phase one of HS2.
      The HS3 is nothing to do with HS2 and has only been propose over the last few years to an alternative to HS2 although recently several people have started to think of these two projects together.
      Your argument for woodlands makes no sense as no one is proposing to build motorways and even if they were motorways can easily be built around them unlike HS2 because of it’s need to go fast must take the most direct route.
      Your argument that HS2 is just a normal railway makes no sense as it requires in most cases concrete instead of the usual ballast because of it’s high speed. The most glaring fact that it is designed to stop at far fewer places making people who now can travel to London or Birmingham from their local station will instead need to travel to those cities thus increasing traffic on the roads.
      While there may be small scale upgrades to some rail and roads it’s simply nothing that could be done if HS2 were scrapped and the money invested in the rail system across the whole of the country.
      I also note that you have ignored the ongoing cost of this project which even now before the start of any real work stands at £88 billion and shows no sign on stopping there.
      So in future would you please make sure your facts are correct.

    • Rob says:

      HS2 is essential to unlock capacity and improve services on existing lines – by removing the fast Intercity trains onto HS2, creating space for more regional and local services.
      This can benefit lines far away from the main HS2 route as it will mean services that terminate at stations or use the lines where capacity is released can be improved. Places like Aberystwyth, for example, would benefit from capacity released at Birmingham, with more services from Aberystwyth able to terminate at Birmingham.

      There isn’t an alternative to HS2 that can achieve this same capacity improvement – not any that wouldn’t cost even more than HS2 overall or mean decades of disruption to existing routes. This makes them unfeasible as Network Rail are already planning billions on upgrading the existing network as much as is possible. Look at the disruption and chaos the Thameslink Upgrade caused or the West Coast Mainline Upgrade in the 00s – an upgrade which is at capacity already.
      Tinkering around the edges of the existing network can only achieve so much and it is very challenging and expensive to achieve and will take a lot longer to do than building HS2.

      In many areas our railways are at capacity. We can’t fit more trains safely on the tracks, especially when we are mixing local, regional and fast intercity services. The fast trains require a much larger amount of free space ahead of them compared to the local services, further reducing the capacity. Reopening closed lines doesn’t help where those lines feed into existing lines or terminate at stations which are at capacity. Segregating the existing fast services onto HS2 partly solves those issues.

      If we don’t build HS2, the railways will become even more crowded and people may be deterred from using them and turn to driving instead. This will increase traffic on the roads leading to more demands for road building – we’ve already had government announcements of more road building! This is the planned 2018 road building – BEFORE the additional in the Tory 2019 manifesto: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/roads-ruin-uks-most-controversial-road-plans

      Which, of course, is even more destructive to our countryside and environment.
      Yet the wider benefits of HS2 to existing lines, beyond the immediate benefits of the route itself, will encourage people out of their cars because rail becomes more convenient and more attractive because it’s faster and more comfortable.

      The local environmental damage caused by the construction of HS2 is indeed severe, but only out of context when not compared to the damage caused by the many planned and future road improvements.

      With further expense, more of the HS2 impacts could be mitigated or avoided – eg with more tunnels – but the POLITICAL decision has been not to do that. Yes, they could make the route more bendy with a lower line speed to avoid more ancient woodland, but this would remove the attractiveness mentioned above about journey time improvements.

      Overall, when the wider rail service improvements that HS2 unlocks are taken into account, there should be a net BENEFIT to the environment from reduced car dependency leading to reduced air pollution and less demand for ever more road expansion.

  7. Rosemary Bennett says:

    Railways are good, but not in the way HS2 has been conceived. The Chiltern Line which runs from Marylebone to Birmingham is very underutilised and could increase its capacity with better timetabling and longer trains. This should have been investigated and implemented first. The proposed route of HS2 will do nothing to improve north west to north east rail communication, as all its branches are north-south.
    The spiralling costs are alarming and the billions of pounds projected to be spent could finance many other public transport projects all over the country. The environmental impact is unacceptable in terms of all habitat loss (not just ancient woodland) – there is a climate emergency and HS2 is not sustainable.

    • Rosemary, there is very little capacity on route between Birmingham and Marylebone. There is very little capacity south of Bicester and virtually none south of Princesses Risborough. Same in the other direction, very limited capacity north of Dorridge.

  8. Warkman says:

    What a totally wrong misguided report.
    You ignore the fact of it’s environmental effect on the countryside it will decimate.
    You ignore the fact, that, with minimal stations on the route, people will drive extra mikes, sit in traffic jams to get to one of these stations.
    This is a Vanity project that will run mostly empty trains

    • Melvyn says:

      HS2 will have stations in city centres where people have travelled from since the 1830s and classic compatible trains will use HS2 to save time and then rejoin the existing network to serve existing stations just like trains already do on HS1

      Plans for stations like Crewe envisage full length trains arriving from London which will then split into two trains serving different destinations on existing network.

      As for nonsense about cost of fares pop along to St Pancras International and see how many passengers use javelin services to Kent !

    • Ian Reed says:

      Oh Melvin again please get things right.
      Travel on HS2 as compared to today will not be the same.
      For example. Someone living in say Rugby can today get on the 125 and travel straight to London. Afterwards if HS2 is built and the alterations that the government want to introduce this same person will either have to make the journey by road or go by train to Birmingham then via HS2 to to London. Please explain the sense in that?
      The Javelin service is a double edged sword. Great for those living near Ashford but for those near Canterbury or Maidstone that have had their services cut to not so good.

    • Ah! The classic “environmental Impact” response. Google the HS1 crossing the River Medway, to see the little, compared with a motorway (M2) true impact that a high-speed railway has compared with a major road schemes.

      Trying to add extra capacity on the West Coast will, in reality, cause even greater environmental “damage” for almost the whole line between Euston and Wigan. It passes through major conurbations where housing sits close to the existing boundary. The destruction of so much housing at a time of greater housing need, is simply the economics of the mad house.

  9. Kind of new says:

    So many commenters are missing the point here. HS2 is about creating capacity on existing lines. Once all of the long distance high speed trains are removed from the existing network there will be more space on lines and at stations for local trains. Re opening branch lines can’t be done without expanding main stations and adding capacity to the lines around them. If we don’t build HS2 how do people propose we increase capacity without disrupting the existing lines and stations for decades?

  10. Cliff Kilshaw says:

    I totally agree with the comment re HS2, opponents are missing the main case for H S2, in that it will create a huge capacity boost by freeing up the WCML out of London, both for passenger and freight traffic – it is not just about faster journeys, they will also attract people away from air travel, which has happened, for one example between London and Paris.

    • Ian Reed says:

      The WCML could easily be upgrade for a fraction of the cost HS2 is now likely to cost so that argument really is an old one as is that of speed. The government gave up on that one years ago.
      One thing that with air travel say to Paris you may not know is that HS2 will not connect to HS1. No the government stop the small link needed to connect the two together. Due to the cost. Strange when you think this whole crazy thing is set to come in over £88 billion

    • MKM says:

      Ian Reed – simple question if you believe the WCML can be upgraded.

      Did you regularly travel to or through London Bridge or Blackfriars during the Thameslink upgrade works?

  11. Chris says:

    I don’t think the author knows much about ancient woodland, they have evolved since the last ice age so haven’t been new Woodlands as he describes, you cant replicate millennia of complex evolutionary ecosystems by planting new trees, it just isn’t that simple. Seems an odd statement to make that we can reduce environmental impacts by destroying ancient woodland!

  12. MilesT says:

    If perfect is the enemy of good enough, then I would suggest that good enough is the enemy of the essential and the simple:

    * Increased (largely dedicated) 125-150mph capacity in the south to release more capacity for commuter and freight on current lines (refurbished as needed). Dedicated line to start at Old Oak Common with shuttle metro to Euston, minimising Euston rebuild, dedicated shuttle into central Birmingham from a park and ride hub station, and taking a route that minimises cost and environmental impact (less straight).
    * linked investment in improving rail across North, with dedicated track for 125-150 mph service.
    * improve investment in Broadband and remove VAT from videoconferencing hardware, reducing need for much business travel.

    If there is a real desire for current HS2 proposal, then why not double down on environmental impact and develop a 3-4 runway airport en-route on Bucks/Warks borders, creating an “airport for England”. And close Heathrow, Birmingham, maybe Manchester and scale back other regional airports in the Midlands. Similar to 1st choice of Roskill commission in 1960’s (which local opposition got overruled to the second choice at Maplin Sands, somewhat similar to “Boris Island”.

    • Melvyn says:

      Pay a visit to Euston and you will find little worth keeping given the old Euston Station was demolished in the 1960s and the current station consists of a large hole surrounded by disused buildings from the days of red star parcels and post office mail facilities.

      Anyway the site for the new HS2 station has almost been cleared and with or without HS2 will now form a major redevelopment site !

      Anyway , go along the road to Kings Cross Station where work is underway to reinstate the 3rd tunnel with two tracks in order to increase the number of trains that can use Kings Cross and then go to Euston which has plenty of platforms but needs extra approach tracks and HS2 is designed to create extra tracks !

      As for speeds on current WCML the introduction of digital signals is likely to allow existing and recently ordered trains to run at up to 130/40 mph on sections of the route especially at the southern end . But won’t solve long term capacity problems which HS2 is designed to do.

  13. Mark Robinson says:

    You seem to have a limited understanding of ancient woodland. Its very age means it is extremely species rich, a state developed over many hundreds of years. Woodland planted elsewhere will take an equally long time to establish that diversity and possibly never if those species are unable to find their way there. And quoting percentages of how much ancient woodland will be lost is pretty meaningless when there isn’t much of it in the first place. Lack of protest over the Thames crossing? Two wrongs don’t make a right. Ridiculous sums of money being spent to shave a few minutes off journey times.

  14. Victoria says:

    I’m understanding that the motorist is now using, should be using and will be using electric cars, anyway , trees and the like are still here today irrespective of petrol emissions , so please re read this comment instead of expecting me to understand yours

    • Melvyn says:

      Electric cars still need electricity to work and generating electricity incurs looses which waste energy compared to using fuel directly – Electric cars are just E Carettes for petrolheads

  15. Melvyn says:

    @Ian Read WCML can be upgraded – Been there spent billions of pounds and yet without tilting Pendolino. Trains is still basically a 100 mph railway and one which is nearly full especially at its southern end . So how do you upgrade a line hemmed in by development.

    As for HS2 having to run in a straight line well that’s a basic difference between road and rail where roads can hug the contours of the lands but railways work best on level alignment thus need more bridges or tunnels to go through the landscape. Simply look at problems encountered at places with inclines .

    Re someone in Rugby well they will not only continue to use their existing trains but have a better service as long distance trains will be diverted via HS2 freeing up paths for more local and freight trains on historic network. Some of their trains might even be diverted via HS2 giving a quicker service to London.

    As for residents of Kent they now have a bigger selection of routes to London including direct links to Stratford and St Pancras thus removing need to use crowded buses or tubes at London end !

    A link between HS1 and HS2 will eventually be built but hundred of millions cost of inadequate link via North London Line won’t have been spent

  16. Victoria Tapson says:

    Here’s my plan, invest soon in an electric car and use the road, in the past couple of years I have almost stopped my travelling anyway and use digital tech instead,

  17. jason leahy says:

    I haven’t read or heard of any plans to power HS2 trains with 100% renewables,this can be done easily,Transport for London is going to buy power for tube trains directly from a wind farm using a so called virtual wire.If renewables are used then there will be one less argument against HS2.
    Greener types and methods of making concrete have been developed with some in limited production such as Solidia firms cement that has a 70% smaller carbon footprint as 40% less energy is used in manufacture and CO2 is actually absorbed by the cement.For details listen to BBC World Service People Fixing the World episode The concrete cleaners 20 Aug 2019.
    The argument that there will be train incompatibility could be due to confusion,the £27 million trains for the London,Birmingham,Manchester and Leeds line will be Continental Berne or GC loading gauge with higher roofs as HS2 new bridges and tunnels are to be built to a higher structure gauge with taller ceilings,£40 million British loading gauge trains with shorter roofs for the Scotland bound services will be built to fit under existing low bridges and tunnels,this is why Alstom said it can build double decker trains that terminate in Manchester and Leeds and single decker tilting trains that terminate in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
    If the Victorians hadn’t of felled forests we would have few railways.
    Greta Thunberg says trust science,so should the Green Party and XR,scientist believe high speed trains reduce emissions,for example Project Drawdown,a list of the 100 best solutions to combat climate change compiled by a team of scientists lists high speed trains above regular trains.

    • Melvyn says:

      The only trains announced for HS2 are classic compatible trains which can use both HS2 and current WCML . It’s unlikely that larger gauge trains will be ordered until stage 2 is built.

  18. Raksha says:

    So how long will it be for HS2 to be carbon neutral? And what percentage of new trees planted will survive? For example through our summer droughts?
    May i add that sights of specific scientific interest with rare bats are due to be decimated.
    You make itbsound as if it will be all alright if trees are planted, ehat about the animals i.e rare bats that will become extinct.
    I am happy to swap houses with someone who would like to live near HS2 construction sites as a NIMBY like me. Any takers? Thought not.

    • ianvisits says:

      HS2 estimate that the construction will be carbon positive within 120 years.

      It’s impossible to say how many trees may die in the future — obviously — but all landscape developers overplant to allow for some die-back (as do most home gardeners).

      As for bats, well, your claim is plain batty — as bats are a protected species and it’s actually illegal to do what you say would happen.

  19. Raksha says:

    Actually it has already happened to the bats so maybe I am not so batty after all.
    A white elephant that will take 120 years to be carbon neutral! No takers on living near the construction site then!

  20. JP says:

    Hoorah for dispassionate argument! Brave are you to dive straight into grey areas. There is little or no grey in the land of your modern hu-person-being. Black or White, On or Off, One or Zero.
    Upgrade some say. Hee hee!
    Hello I’d like my Mocha upgraded please. Certainly here’s some chocolate powder.
    Capacity increase. Oh…
    Hello I’d like the capacity of my Cappuccino increased please. Certainly here’s another brand new one …
    I hope that I’ve been less splenetic than some and whilst perhaps facile, it never hurts to step back from the (no)platform edge, climb the footbridge and gain a wider clearer view of all things that need to be considered.
    Happy Nearly New Year one and zero. Um, all.

  21. Adam says:

    If it really is more about capacity than speed, then why not use the old Grand Central route? It would cause so much less disruption and demolition as most of the route’s alignment has been left in situ, it goes to the same places as HS2 except Birmingham which can be connected via Rugby anyway, and it would cost much less than the current planned route for HS2.

    • Graham says:

      Sadly so much of the GCR route has been built upon and in fact, although Sir Edward Watkins had it designed in the late 19th century for 100mph cruising, the reality is such that there no advantage as there is no spare capacity at Marylebone and with the alignment the speed would be very difficult to go much above 110mph, thus it would be slower the existing London to Birmingham routes.
      Result would be a very costly bandaid type route.

    • Melvyn says:

      The GCR is home to steam trains a perfectly good use for an historic railway

  22. Karen Lewis-bell says:

    This project is not good value for money. It only serves people in London, Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds – the rest of us that may want to use HS2 will have to travel (more car journeys) to HS2 stations. Over £100 billion of tax payers money could be used for several green railway projects that don’t do as much environmental damage as HS2, such as electrifying the west coast main line & opening some of the Beeching cuts lines. What about taking cars off the M5 with new rail capacity going South to Devon & Cornwall? The current line is subject to increasing sea damage. There are already 2 lines connecting London to Birmingham, there is no need for a third that devastates the countryside in its path. The devastation not only includes ancient woodlands but also ancient & veteran trees & hedgerows & agricultural land, etc, etc. I have seen all the new trees planted by HS2 ltd in Warwickshire all die as they were not watered. This is the greatest deforestation project since world war 2 and with the loss of mature trees and increased concrete caused by this project we will see increased flooding. I could go on! Rethink HS2!

    • Melvyn says:

      Classic Compatible trains will use HS2 and then rejoin existing network to reach existing stations all the way to Scotland!

      While Northern Powerhouse Rail will expand the network of routes .

      It’s only trains built to larger gauge that will be restricted to HS2 and no plans to build these trains has been announced and is unlikely until stage 2 is built.

    • Julian B says:

      Electrify the WCML? Don’t wan to come across as a pedant but wasn’t it electrified in the 1960s?

      Yes there will be environmental impact from HS2 and any tree removal (deforestation as you call it) is not ideal. But on balance it seems that impact if HS3 will be far less than equivalent road schemes.

      As Ian and many others have commented previously, HS2 is about CAPACITY. I’d really recommend reading Modern Railways to get a full briefing on the pro’s and con’s of HS2.

  23. Alan Fox says:

    Brave of Ian to take this stand! From my perspective , the country cannot justify £100 billion on this vanity project. How many hospitals/ nurses would that fund? The North desperately needs transport improvement : a FAR better use of scarce funds. And then there is the construction and planning blight creating 30 years of misery for millions of people. The issue of freeing up capacity may be valid, but instead why not abandon “first class” (usually 30% occupancy or less). That would generate capacity for ordinary folk.

    • The Ham says:

      Let’s assume that we’re going to use the funding from HS2 for the NHS (which is to confuse capital spending with current spending, but we’ll let that slide for now), over what time frame?

      The spending on health in the UK is around the £130bn a year figure, so an extra £100bn would appear to make a big difference. However that would mean a health spending of £130bn, £230bn, £130bn, and then carry on as before.

      That would mean that you’d have one amazing year and then it go back to normal.

      Clearly that would be of little use (even if you were to replace inefficient buildings with better ones that’s not going to make much difference).

      Which means that figure gets spread over a longer timeframe, even 10 years is likely to be too short and would cause problems when you came to “slashing £10bn a year from the NHS” (as many news organisations would put it).

      However once you get to 20 years/£5bn then the benefits start to get too spread out too make much difference, but would still attract the negative headlines when the money ran out.

      Once you reach 40 years/£2.5bn a year it’s such a small amount that we could just choose to do so anyway.

      Just on a slightly different subject, capacity. The existing trains on the west coast main line have 469 seats or 589 seats (combined seating of both these trains 1,048), this compares with the expected 1,100 seats of a HS2 train.

      Now whilst this appears a lot, the amount of rail growth seen between London and the North West between 2009 and 2018 was for every 100 passengers in 2009 there was then 170 passengers in 2018. This compares with the predictions used to justify HS2 which expected the numbers to grow to 125 in the same timeframe and 152 by the opening of Phase 1 of HS2. As such we are already ahead in terms of passenger numbers compared to where we should have been at the opening of Phase 1.

      Likewise we’re not that far off the 200 passengers expected at the opening of Phase 2. It is entirely possible that we may need to do some of the other things which are used as alternatives to HS2 just to allow us to keep up with current demand until HS2 is fully open.

      Similar growth had been seen between London and the West Midlands and between London and Scotland. With further growth expected for 2019 when the updated figures are released.

      Even the lowest amount of growth (London to East Midlands) is only marginally behind expected passenger numbers (121 Vs 125), even then the overall figure (London to Regions which benefit from HS2) is 149, which is still well ahead of the 125 it should have been at that point in time.

  24. Kate says:

    You seem to be purposefully missing the major points of the protests, which is that the damage caused is in no way proportional to the benefits gained. HS2 simply does not save enough time compared to other routes, and will only cause more people to work in London, thus driving up house prices further north. It’s a huge amount of money and destruction to save 30 minutes for a tiny percentage of people, and simply not worth it.

    As for concerns about major motorways, my area (Bucks and Oxford) is also facing a threat from the Arc, a proposed motorway and road network to link Oxford and Cambridge, destroying even more of the natural habitat and consuming small villages in the countryside. It really does feel like we are facing environmental threats on all sides, for vanity projects that only think of benefits for the few.

    • ianvisits says:

      You’ve managed to miss the main point of HS2, which is to improve regional railways by taking the intercity trains off them, so that regional commuter services can be improved. HS2 not just about shaving a few minutes off a journey between Birmingham and London, but letting people in all the other towns and cities get to work without being squashed in over crowded trains because an intercity train just soaked up enough railway track to hold two more commuter trains.

  25. Sharon says:

    I expect many people in the past were very dismayed when the West Coast line was built, 100 years ago.
    But I’m sure that many of you use the West Coast line trains today.

  26. Chris Mayes says:

    The only way to persuade me its not yet another scheme to hollow out tthe ge rest of the uk in favour of london is to start it in the north. Otherwise… im against it.

  27. DanR says:

    By even the most optimistic schedules for HS2 opening it is likely that nearly 100% of new cars will be battery electric vehicles.

    This is based on the established trend of EV sales doubling around every two years and the current trend of cost reduction in batteries meaning that the cost of ownership for a BEV will be lower than an ICE vehicle by 2022/23. By 2028 the purchase cost of a new BEV will be cheaper at all size ranges, the total cost of ownership will be much lower.

    The CO2 benefits of HS2 are therefore illusory.

    The second element with BEVs is that we already have the technology for them to run autonomously on motorways particularly if all cars were using similar systems.

    If all the cars on the motorway are autonomous there is no requirement for a speed limit based on human perception instead one based on energy requirements and sensible range (~150mph increasing over time).

    High-speed running will be demonstrated on purpose built roads before the rest of the network is converted.

    • Myre Mains says:

      I’d like to see a Mathematician’s response to your suggestion that Self Driving Cars will render trains obsolete.

      A Self Driving Car will only carry a limited number of people [four, so at least 375 will be needed to replace every commuter train] and something will need to be done with it once it has discharged its occupants.

    • The Ham says:

      Starting from first principles, diesel cars have a higher carbon footprint than diesel trains when similar loading values are used (cars have an average loading factor of 30%, 1.5 people per car, whilst trains are 30%-40%).

      Therefore on a like for like basis diesel trains are more efficient, the same will be true for battery cars Vs battery trains, however most rail travel is undertaken (and will continue to be done so) from trains with no batteries add they draw their power direct from the grid.

      Such trains are more efficient again.

      Now whilst it would be possible to increase the loading rates for cars it’s going to be easier still to do that for trains.

      Whilst there’s likely to be a place for electric cars, many of their journeys could be made by walking or cycling or e-scooters all of which would be much, much, much better environmentally.

      Those who are likely to be using long distance rail travel are more likely to be using such methods for their local travel than those who have gone to the expense of having an electric car.

      In fact those who suggest that we could travel less if we used technology more (such as home working) are right, to a point. We are much more likely to travel a lot less overall. However that doesn’t mean that we’ll be using trains less.

      Let’s take someone who travels 7,700 miles a year in their car. They could make changes to their life to reduce 6,000 miles of driving (working from home, moving to be able to walk to work, cycling to the gym, etc.).

      However a there’s still 1,700 miles of other travel which they could continue to do (visiting family, going on holiday, etc.) it’s possible that they could hire a vehicle for 700 miles and travel 1,000 miles by train.

      In doing so the amount that they travel has fallen significantly yet the amount they use the train has gone up.

  28. Tim Weller says:

    We are beginning to realise that growth of everything and everyone has no future on a planet that cannot expand in line with our never ending demands. Better to accept that now and live more simply in a world with collapsing life support systems from all our ecocidal behaviour.

  29. David SHANNON says:

    Do the estimates of HS2 impact allow for the fact that few journeys start or finish at stations. How many journeys require a road vehicle to reach and depart from the stations? Factor this in and what environmental benefit survives?

  30. CS says:

    How refreshing that the author cuts through the media commentariat and highlights the undoubted benefits of HS2.
    It has always been commonplace in this country to decry major infrastructure projects in the planning and construction phases (eg Humber Bridge,Channel Tunnel,M25) but with the passage of time, these assets become accepted as essential enablers of economic growth – “It’s all about the economy, stupid”.
    This is a project in the right place at the right time: historically low financing (interest) costs, an imperative to support the regional northern economies (plus an immediate fillip during the construction phase) and an opportunity to improve environmental emissions and congestion by displacing road dependency for passenger traffic and freight.
    As some have suggested, the phasing could be altered eg a north to south
    build, but the Grand Design is entirely valid, and I wholeheartedly support it.

  31. Tim Weller says:

    This very wrong headed campaign to spend £80 BILLION of life damaging greenhouse gases is wanted by the very people who, for 50 years, have been destroying our UK railway network. They are so misguided, they have been giving planning permission for homes,shops,offices and roads to run down railway lines instead of trains. Honestly!
    They are campaigning, too for the 87 Kms Western Orbital Motorway and, refuse to FINISH the principal, mainline 120 Kms Black Country Railway. In total, we have 106 Kms of freight only or existing, UNUSED, double track railway lines in our 2 million population of the Black Country and Birmingham!

  32. MilesT says:

    @Melvyn re Euston.

    Although there has been lots cleared away for the rebuild this should form part of a simpler cheaper rebuild funded by development over the rebuilt station

    Issue is with track widening north of station resulting in housing loss and blight (and a big compensation payment to Stanley Johnson). This does not need to happen if a simpler northern express scheme starts/terminates at old oak

  33. Duncan Martin says:

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments above, but I have read enough!

    1. The project was mis-sold by politicians. They tried to make it sexy by focusing on time savings, when it never was.
    The present railway tries to accommodate three types of train – freight, limited stop trains (currently operated by LNWR) and fast, long distance expresses. (S of Milton Keynes it also has to fit in suburban services) The first two types fit together- their average speed is much the same – but the fast trains take up the space of several slower ones
    The current tracks are full in spite of billions being spent on a highly disruptive upgrade a few years ago. The best way of adding capacity is to build a new route which can be done without disruption. HST2!

    2. Speed. 300km/hr is the standard for new passenger lines, with train designs readily available, so our politicians went for even faster, 400 km/hr for which there is no need on our small island. The higher the speed, the straighter the line must be, and this dictated the chosen route. Ironically, so much of the route is in tunnel or has a lower limit for other reasons that the trains are being built for the lower speed after all. Fortunately for us up North, because the faster trains wouldn’t have been able to tilt, and so would have been slower than the existing ones.

    And if it had been designed for the lower speed they could have created a route close to the existing line, where the transport corridor is virtually a very long brownfield site, and links could have been made between the old and new routes.

    Of course the biggest missed opportunity was the failure to create a crossrail linking Euston and London bridge. This would have saved a fortune on the rebuilding of both stations…

  34. Waywarden says:

    The idea that HS2 trains are compatible with the general network is not quite true. Two types of train are being designed, one is captive to the HS network and one is compatible with network rail lines. The “classic compatible” train is considerably noisier than it’s captive alter ego.

    The constantly mobile business case seems to have settled on capacity as a plausible reason to build HS2. Even using capacity as a prop it’s a very shaky business case with a frankly pathetic return on investment. Anyone who deals with HS2 ltd will tell you that they are completely out of their depth and that between the wobbly supply chain and the churn of staff it’s hard to see how costs will ever be brought under control. Of course the consultants are doing well out of it all.

    Yes I’m a NIMBY, after all my backyard is all that I’ve got, but having been involved in large infrastructure in the past I understand that it’s always built in someone’s backyard. The real difference with HS2 is that, even after after all of this time it’s benefits are nebulous, it’s timeline and it’s costs are drifting and it’s reasons for being are outdated.

  35. Mrs K. Danby says:

    Will it enable me to travel from Crewe to Macclesfield without having to first go to Stockport or Manchester Piccadilly? If not, it’s not a lot of use to me!

    I think rail travel is by far preferable to road travel – or air travel – but in many parts of Scotland, road travel is necessary in order to even REACH a railway, and when the railway IS reached, travel is by polluting diesel trains. From my point of view, any scheme which makes the railway more efficient and accessible to the more isolated areas of the UK – Devon and Cornwall, Derbyshire, Caithness and Wester Ross is of more value than increasing capacity and speed between the major UK cities.

    • ianvisits says:

      If the goal is to reduce road travel, then increasing capacity where trains are overloaded is essential — and it can be done at the same time as totally unrelated projects to improve little used trains in more rural areas.

  36. David SmartKnight says:

    Just because ancient woodland was once new woodland does not mean you can remove an ancient woodland and replace it with a new one and the 2 things are equal. In the midst of mass extinction – WHICH WE ARE IN – the very last thing you want to do is destroy biodiverse habitats – which is what ancient woodlands are – in fact they are CLIMAX habitats – they are as biodiverse as they can possibly be – vastly more biodiverse than a new woodland. But that is a fraction of the story. in a time of dire climate crisis with skyrocketing carbon dioxide emissions – WHICH WE ARE IN – the last thing you want to do is downgrade the capacity to sequester carbon. The equal last thing you want to do is generate more carbon in the atmosphere (which construction will massively do) and the best thing you want to do – is dramatically reduce the activities that generate carbon in the atmosphere – which includes reducing transport FULLSTOP.

  37. David Hawkins says:

    Why does HS2 have to terminate at Euston ? That seems like a very steam age solution. How many travellers to London have a final destination near Euston ? Hardly any ! Euston is hugely expensive to develop and extremely disruptive. Why not connect HS2 to HS1 and terminate trains at Stratford or even Ashford ? Passengers to central London could use Old Oak Common and transfer to Crossrail passengers for Docklands can go directly to Stratford and DLR. And this way we can have direct trains from Birmingham to Paris.

  38. Inspector Tree says:

    I had hoped to learn something from your article but it turned out to be a waste of my time, nothing that can be used as counter arguments to the protests. So here i am wasting a bit of your time so you understand how annoying it is

  39. jomerry says:

    I think the author does not know much about the biodiversity or climate. The services provided by ancient woodlands have been far undermined in this article, you can not replace veteran trees with saplings. They are precious because there are so few left.

    As for HS2 being a climate mitigating project. That is very questionable. It will not be carbon neutral in its 120year life span due to its construction and operation.

    Sorry but the money spent on this project could of been used on something better than a train hardly anyone can afford.

  40. Alex says:

    Whoever wrote this ridiculous article is talking out of his arse..
    He probably works for HS2

    • ianVisits says:

      The website called IanVisits is written by a person called Ian — me in fact — and no, I am not paid by HS2.

      However, I do try to present the issues with facts rather than just throwing around childish insults.

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