Thank you for contacting me about HS2 and the environment.
On the recommendation of the independent Oakervee review commissioned last year, the Prime Minister gave the go ahead to HS2, alongside major improvements to local transport networks, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, up and down the country and that remains the position at the time of writing.
HS2 remains a hugely important infrastructure project, both for the transport network and wider UK economy. Indeed, HS2 will deliver thousands of extra seats for rail passengers, help level up the country and play an important role in helping the UK to reach its ambitious net zero carbon emissions objective by 2050.
The Government's view is that HS2 will play an important role in the UK’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. I understand that HS2 will offer some of the lowest carbon emissions per passenger km, seven times less than passenger cars and 17 times less than domestic air travel in 2030. Indeed, HS2 is expected to help reduce the number of cars and lorries on the road and cut demand for domestic flights.
It is estimated that the total carbon emissions produced by both constructing and operating Phase One for 120 years would be the same as just one month of the UK's road network.
HS2 was also the first major transport infrastructure project in the UK to commit to achieving ‘no net loss’ in biodiversity.
Assuming HS2 goes ahead, I am pleased that a green corridor will be created alongside the railway. This will involve the planting of seven million new trees and shrubs, including over 40 native species, along the Phase One route from London to the West Midlands.
There are approximately 52,000 ancient woodland sites across England, and of these, 43 will be affected by Phases One and 2a of HS2. It is worth noting that more than 80 per cent of the total area of these 43 sites will be untouched by HS2 and remain intact.
I want to reassure you that HS2 is using a combination of approaches to compensate for the ancient woodlands lost during construction. This includes translocation of soil to other woodlands to improve their biodiversity, planting new woodland and restoring existing ancient woodland.
The HS2 Woodland Fund – overseen by the Forestry Commission – funds projects to support the creation, restoration and enhancement of woodland on private land or in partnership with multiple landowners. I understand that the Government has committed £7 million to establishing this Fund, and that the first £1.6 million for Phase One has already been allocated to supporting approximately 115 hectares of new native woodland creation, and the restoration of around 160 hectares of of plantations within ancient woodland sites.
A Permit to Clear System applies for all birds during the nesting season. This involves an ecologist with appropriate qualifications assessing existing survey data and then verifying this with surveys of the site in advance of the vegetation clearance taking place. Once the area has been confirmed to be free of nesting birds then clearance can commence.
It is welcome too that an overall £70 million funding package has also been made available to enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside, and help improve road and cycle safety in towns and villages along the HS2 Phase One route.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP