In the 21st century countries are competing to produce the latest modes of transport to maximise the nation’s prosperity and quality of life. In 2012, transport sectary Justine Greening passed the law for a new high-speed rail in England (HS2). The BBC news stated that David Cameron’s father-in-law Lord Astor was against the HS2. He believed the high-speed rail was a ‘Pooh trap for ministers, who loved grand projects’. Like many environmentalists, Lord Astor thought there was another cheaper alternative that wouldn’t destroy the countryside. In order for the British Government to create the HS2 environmental and social compromises must be made; thousands of metres of countryside are to be destroyed, pollution will increase and wildlife would decline all for a shorter journey. Mike Whitby offers an opposing argument by stating the HS2 will provide sustainable economic growth for the region, bringing with it 40,000 jobs. However, there is no justice or consideration for the loss of habitats, cultural heritage and demolition of people’s homes the proposed line will cause.
Normally environmentalists would promote the use of trains due to the reduction of cars on the road. However, in this case many fear the potential ecological impacts. Warwick Councillor Bob Stevens claimed the development of the HS2 will threaten over 140 wildlife sites and 40 ancient woodlands. Nevertheless, the government are continuing to ignore the environmental impacts the new rail line will cause by focusing on its economic benefits. With over 2,000 members of the Wildlife Trust ignored what hope does this have for the wildlife that will be destroyed?
Infrastructure projects have caused the isolation and destruction of animal’s habitats and these developments have changed the areas microclimate (Spellerberg, 1998). As geographers it is difficult to predict the environmental consequences the HS2 will cause and what species will be affected the most. From previous research the Madrid-Sevilla high-speed train line located in Spain had a wildlife kill rate of 36.5kills/km (van der Grift 2001). Research highlighted that 57% of the deaths were birds, 47% were mammals and 3% amphibians. Britain’s HS2 will be 70km longer than the Madrid-Sevillia train line this could make the death toll even higher.
Imagine visiting an area of natural beauty home to birds, bats and otters, but returning the following year to see a 250mph train passing through every seven minutes. This is what will be happening in the county of Water Orton, Birmingham. Funding has been spent on the area over the past few years to maintain wildlife by Water Orton’s nature reserve, however, this investment now seems as waste. Neil Wyatt said the HS2 route would cause a mile of the River Tame to be diverted. Not only would this affect the geology and topography of the land but also increase pollutants entering the river making aquatic marine ecosystems more vulnerable (Spellerberg, 1998).
It can be seen that the HS2 will increase the region’s economic growth, nevertheless groups need to work together to reduce environmental impacts and maintain wildlife.
BBC News 2012, Political Week in 60 Seconds, Scotland, HS2 and Top Gear. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16548254. Last Accessed 01/03/2012
Astor 2012, David Cameron gets a rail dressing down, from his father in law. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/11/david-cameron-hs2-father-in-law. Last Accessed 01/03/2012.
Spellerberg, I.F., 1998. Ecological effects of roads and traffic: a literature review. Global Ecology and Biography Letters 7, 317-333.
Whitby. M 2012, HS2 go ahead sees mixed reaction. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-16483814. Last Accessed 01/03/2012.