I have received correspondence from constituents who have continued concerns about HS2 and the impact it will have on the environment.
On the recommendation of the independent Oakervee review commissioned last year, the Prime Minister has given the go ahead to HS2, alongside major improvements to local transport networks up and down the country.
I want to assure those concerned 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. I am also 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.
For those who have raised concerns about areas of ancient woodland that will be impacted by construction, I would like to note first that 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 also worth noting that over 80% of the total area of these 43 sites will be untouched by HS2 and remain intact.
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 £1.6 million of the £5 million provided for the Fund for Phase One has gone towards supporting approximately 121 hectares of new native woodland creation, and the restoration of 174 hectares of plantations within ancient woodland sites.
I also appreciate that some of you have concerns about habitat clearances, and I can reassure you that HS2 Ltd and its contractors are obliged to comply with all relevant legislation on nesting birds. Indeed, all birds, as well as their nests and eggs, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and all HS2 vegetation clearance is accompanied by measures to prevent any breach of the law. When habitat clearances need to be undertaken during bird nesting season, these clearances are carried out in accordance with guidance from trained ecologists, in line with Natural England guidance.
A Working Method Statement is completed before clearance work starts and appropriate ecological supervision is also provided. Work can only commence when an ecologist has finished a pre-commencement site survey and given a Permit to Clear. All work needs to be monitored by the on-site ecologist, and the ecologist can halt works if necessary. Buffer Zones are implemented if breeding birds are present during works, to allow work to continue in the surrounding area.
I hope the information above demonstrates how seriously we take our responsibility to protect the environment. In the future, HS2 will help us cut emissions, it will open up our country and we are taking great care to take every precaution to minimise any risks in building this high speed railway.
Thank you again for all those who took the time to contact me about this.