The Chilterns Conservation Board today condemned the Government’s decision to proceed to the next stage of building a high speed rail line which will plough through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“We are appalled that the Government has committed to destroying nationally-important countryside when it has a legal duty to protect it,” said Conservation Board Chairman Mike Fox, “It has also blatantly ignored the results of the public consultation which showed massive public opposition to HS2 and ignored the recommendations of the Transport Select Committee. The public rightly do not want £32 billion of their money spent on a project which still has no solid business case.”
The outcome of the public consultation is supported by a recent YouGov poll in which two-thirds of the public were opposed to money being spent on the HS2 line.
The route selected by the Government runs through the heart of the Chilterns AONB and will cause huge damage to this national heritage asset.
“The extra tunnel announced will make no difference to the impact of HS2,” said Steve Rodrick, Chief Officer at the Conservation Board.
“There will still be 9km of the line running above ground in the Chilterns creating great visual blight and noise pollution. The tunnels could also affect drinking water supplies and the health of our rivers. The scale of environmental damage to this nationally-protected area would still be huge and unacceptable.”
The Government has extended the length of the green tunnels running past Wendover and South Heath. These type of tunnels can be very damaging to wildlife and important sites however as they involve the excavation of cuttings which are then covered to create a tunnel. They can also cause great disruption to traffic and to walkers as their construction will sever roads and rights of way for many months.
The Government has not addressed the many flaws which still remain in the environmental and business case for HS2. The green claims made for HS2 have already been discredited as running trains at up to 250mph will mean huge energy consumption. In addition, the rural economy along the route will be greatly affected as farms and businesses are destroyed and tourists stay away from the degraded countryside. The visual ugliness of the HS1 corridor through Kent proves that high speed rail lines can never blend in.
Mike Fox of the Conservation Board added: "The Government is now basing its entire case for HS2 on a supposed need for much greater capacity on the rail network as a result of some very high forecasts for passenger growth. The tragedy is that it is very likely we will end up with a hugely-expensive and under-used white elephant travelling through treasured countryside which has been destroyed forever. The Chilterns Conservation Board will fight on to protect the beautiful countryside in our care.”