Environmental organisations based in the West Midlands have reacted with disappointment to this week’s announcement by the government that they are going ahead with the planned high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. Aiming to be operational by 2026, the new multi-billion pound project would cut travel time between the Midlands and the capital by 20 minutes and there are plans to extend the HS2 service further north.
The chief executive of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Stephen Trotter, says that his organisation has already identified over 80 sites that will be damaged by the new railway line, destroying animal habitats and increasing noise pollution in rural areas. Meanwhile, West Midlands Friends of the Earth are more concerned that such a huge investment in just one project will mean that rural public transport will lose out, cutting essential bus routes in the areas that will be most affected by the construction of the HS2.
Not everyone in the region is against the government’s plans, however, with Shaun Spiers of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcoming proposals to build large sections of the train line underneath tunnels, protecting the natural environment and creating less damage to the scenery than most other road and rail projects.
These stretches of tunnel, in areas such as Long Itchington Wood as well as parts of the Chilterns, were not included in the original scheme, but were added after consultations with local people and concerned groups who would have been affected by a train service that ran overground. Despite these changes, the project remains controversial with many questioning the wisdom of spending £32 billion on any project when the UK remains in a recession.