HS2 - the good, the bad and the uglier
Government claims that the proposed High Speed 2 rail line announced last week will have less impact on our local countryside do not stack up. The Chilterns Conservation Board has looked closely at the changes to the line through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and found some improvements, but many things have got worse:
- The total length of HS2 line in the Chilterns AONB is longer: 21km now instead of 20.5km
- The longer green tunnel past South Heath reduces the visual impact of HS2 but will destroy even more of the ancient woodland at Sibley’s Coppice
- Much of an ancient lane (Leather Lane) north of South Heath will be destroyed as it is diverted over the HS2 line
- The 2km cutting between South Heath and Wendover Dean is now 7m shallower on average - this means that the overhead gantries and possibly the trains themselves will be visible
- The tunnel past Amersham emerges in Mantles Wood near Little Missenden and will destroy more of this ancient irreplaceable woodland – a longer tunnel would protect it
- The green tunnel at Wendover is now nearly 1km longer, and will reduce the ugliness of the line but won’t make it invisible. The tunnel will have tonnes of spoil heaped on it and two-thirds of it will be above ground level – it will be a very visible artificial addition to the countryside
- The line runs on a viaduct to the south of Wendover – this is now nearly 4 metres higher so will be even more visible. Embankments along the line near Wendover are now up to 4 metres higher.
Claire Forrest, Information Officer at the Chilterns Conservation Board, commented:
“Some of the changes to the line will reduce its impact on the Chilterns countryside but it’s important to look at the detail. Green tunnels will help to hide the railway but they are basically cuttings with lots of spoil heaped on top – they destroy woods, fields and hedges. The deeper tunnel past Amersham will make the line almost invisible but excavating through the chalk could have serious implications for local drinking water supplies and for the River Misbourne.”
High Speed 2 still represents an environmental and social disaster for the Chilterns countryside and towns and the Conservation Board will fight on to protect this nationally-important area.
View the detailed maps showing the route through the Chilterns.