Oxford-Cambridge rail scheme’s “net gain” commitment shows HS2 failing nature - RSPB

Transport Secretary’s announcement of preferred route for East West Rail timely reminder of HS2’s failure to protect environment

Responding to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapp’s announcement on 30 January of the preferred route for the proposed East West Rail connection between Oxford and Cambridge, the RSPB has said the scheme highlights the environmental shortcomings of its more (in)famous peer, High Speed 2.

In publishing it’s preferred route option for the section of the line between Bedford and Cambridge, East West Rail Co. restated its commitment to achieving “biodiversity net gain” from the project – something HS2 Ltd has so far failed to adopt.

Notwithstanding concerns about the potential impact of the final alignment of the line, and the “unfathomable decision” not to electrify the route, the RSPB claims East West Rail’s net gain ambition marks a line in the sand for large national infrastructure projects to protect and restore nature.

RSPB Operations Director Jeff Knott: “Given the very negative response of HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport to the numerous concerns that have been raised about the scheme’s impacts on wildlife, it is something of a revelation that another national rail scheme right next door is making such positive noises about its intent towards nature. Everything we understand about HS2’s likely environmental impacts points to the high price it will exact from nature. Given the enormous challenges we are facing with the loss of wildlife and habitats, climate change and the threat to ecosystems, it’s not a price we should even be considering making nature pay.”

HS2 Ltd, the public company responsible for building HS2, has never subscribed to biodiversity net gain, instead opting for the less beneficial goal of “no net loss”.

The consensus among conservation organisations is that it is likely to fail to achieve even this target, with impacts on irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland and birds like the barn owl a major concern.

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Posted On: 05/02/2020

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