This is something we should all be saying. BUT, what is HS2? I didn’t know what is was a few months ago, so here’s a brief run-down of what HS2 is and why it’s very, very bad.
What’s a HS2?
According to HS2 themselves, HS2 is “one of the most demanding and exciting transport projects in Europe“. The new line will travel from London to Birmingham, shaving off 20 minutes of travel time for those who can afford it, before branching off to Manchester and Leeds.
Only 2.5% of the UK is left covered by ancient woodland, so it would seem there is not much left to destroy, but HS2 would beg to differ, and it’s getting in the way of progress.
HS2 is setting out to damage and destroy 108 ancient woodlands, whilst also claiming to be the most ambitious ecological project in the UK. Their replanting schemes do little for the people living down stream of Denham Country Park, who rely on the area to help prevent flooding. Replanting does little to make up for the carbon offset that will be lost when trees such as the 300 year old Hummingham Oak are felled, especially when 38% of the saplings planted from November 2017 to March 2018 died during the following summer. Eyewitness accounts suggest this figure could be as high as 80% in some areas.
Replanting does little for protected bat species. Activists at Denham have reported seeing potential bat roosts stuffed with newspaper and expandable foam to prevent bats roosting in ancient oaks that HS2 are planning on felling, and shining bright flood lights at night which can kill bats by entombment¹ – this is a criminal offence. Floodlighting bat boxes has also been recorded at Jones Hill.
Since finishing this post, I’ve learnt about this thing called biodiversity net gain (BNG). It is the requirement for a project to not only match the biodiversity that they are destroying but to exceed it. A few days ago the Environment Minister has said that because ancient woodland is irreplaceable, it is not included in HS2’s BNG target. Not only this but after 30 years HS2 will have no obligation to maintain the BNG sites.
Possibly the main reason for HS2 being approved was that by the end of its 120 year life span it would be carbon neutral.
The Chief Executive of HS2 claimed in 2020 that “HS2 will play a key role in the UK reaching the 2050 zero carbon emissions target”, this is despite a report published by HS2 in 2019, admitting that by the end of its life, HS2 would be a net carbon contributor.²
Anyone who has been paying attention to the climate crisis will be aware that the original claim, even if accurate, is pitifully insufficient. Scientists are calling for action against climate change like the mobilisation seen in WW2, and what we are given is a carbon positive rail line that, according to the Transport Secretary, won’t even be fully operational until between 2035-40.
A UN panel has stated that we need to cut emissions 45% by 2030 in order to reach the global target of limiting warming to 1.5°C by 2050. To put that in perspective, “The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent at 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.”³ Basically, we don’t have time for this shit.
£200bn and counting…
The original budget for HS2 when it started in 2010 was ‘just’ £30bn. In only 11 years, that budget has risen to £200bn.⁴
The levels of overspending are absolutely criminal. Our political system has created a kleptocracy that shifts masses of amounts of public funds into the hands of private firms, fuelling the high speed suicide rail as it tears through our communities, driving us deeper into climate breakdown. There is no return ticket.
Here is a graph that summarises the overspending as of February 2014:
Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO)
According to the Home Owners Alliance, CPOs allow public bodies to force homeowners to sell up if their property obstructs a regeneration project or it’s for the “greater public good”.
From 2011 to 2018, HS2 have compulsory purchased 902 pieces of land, costing almost 600m, but don’t worry, HS2 have your best interests at heart, I think? Responding to comments about unfair valuations, one spokesperson had the gall to say this:
“We have a responsibility to establish a price that is fair both for homeowners and the taxpayer”
Basically they’ll happily undercut ordinary people when stealing their land to ‘save the taxpayers money’, but when it comes to setting their own budgets they’ll overpay themselves by as much as 268%. (see Atkins environmental services contract in the graph above).
HS2 Won’t Encourage Rail Travel
The Independent have theorised that the cost of a London to Manchester anytime ticket will go from £180 on current services to £240 on the new HS2 line. If you have a look on Google Flights you’ll be able to find the equivalent journey for as little as £43.
The same article includes a quote from Stop HS2, saying that HS2 is currently being lobbied for by at least 4 major airports. If you only click on one link in this whole post make it this one, and you’ll see that the line is just a glorified shuttle bus between airports and their respective cities.
Up and down the line, woodland that people grew up in and still enjoy to this day is being destroyed, but there’s one woodland in particular that most people in the UK would have grow up with collectively, and that’s the woodland in the book Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Jones Hill Wood has another name: Roald Dahl Wood. This is where Roald Dahl was inspired to create the story we all know and love. The Bunce family still farm the land to this day. The above photo was posted by Green Party Candidate Mark Keir, who commented that the clump left in the felled area was left while a pair of robin nested there. Once they were scared off this was felled too. As of the 28th of April, Natural England have given HS2 the go ahead to fell the remainder of Jones Hill wood, despite presence of the protected Barbastelle Bat.
Bonus Info! Fuck You Natural England
Woah woah, now hold on. Natural England- that sounds like a good thing right? Well if you think pimping out our remaining woodland is a good thing then Natural England should be your heroes.
Licensing Policy 4 was introduced in 2016 to allow for “lower than standard survey effort”. The idea is to save time where it can be reasonably assumed that local populations will not be affected by work. HS2 Rebellion state that LP4s are normally used in limited circumstances like a domestic roof extension and not for major infrastructure projects, frequent use, or in circumstances where there are rare protected species present. Some speculate that LP4 was created specifically for HS2 as a work around.
Licensing Policy 4 was used in Jones Hill to allow for the destruction of woodland that housed protected bats, and is whats being used across the country to allow HS2 to continue ignoring environmental laws without consequence.
At Jones Hill, HS2 were also given bat licenses, which effectively allows them to “disturb, kill, move, and transport bats as they see fit”, which you can hear a full explanation of on the Stop HS2 YouTube. At 2:08 you’ll see HS2 workers firing sling shots at bird nests. Delightful.
The Bigger Picture
This is probably quite full on if this is the first you’re hearing about HS2, and you may be thinking, well why the hell has such a thing been allowed to go ahead? It’s not ignorance or incompetence, the evidence against the project is too overwhelming for these qualities to prevail.
Corruption is the answer, and it’s really not that complex or covert either. It doesn’t need to be because the major parties and big business know that within our current political system there’s nothing we can do about it.
The Tory government are in so many pockets it’s ridiculous, it seems every industry has got a piece of them. Middle and working class people – most of the UK – are the ‘only’ groups that don’t benefit from a Tory rule but due to lack of education and brainwashing we vote for them anyway, so there’s no incentive for them to treat us well.
It’s not just the Torys though. It was Labours Transport Minister who announced HS2 in 2009, and now following the political assassination Corbyn, we’re stuck with Starmer’s flaccid opposition. Make of that what you may, I only see one way out of this mess.
What Can You Do?
Join a protest camp! Or even just visit for the day. They’re full of lovely, welcoming people, and fresh blood is a constant need for these movements. With the PCSC Bill in the House of Lords, and no sign of any amendments being made due to an 80 seat Tory majority, soon living on a protest camp will be punishable by 3 months in prison or a £2500 fine. So if you’re thinking about joining a camp, stop thinking about it and just go. If you’re interested please shoot me a message on insta or send me an email and I will help out as much as I can. Contact details are at the bottom of the page.
Click here for a comprehensive layout of the camps, and contact information for each one too.
Donate! Living on a protest camp is a full time job, and there are many people doing so much good work in ecology, fighting legal battles, community outreach, etc. Either donate to the campaign which can be done via the above mentioned websites, or donate directly to a camp or individual by visiting their socials. You can also donate by visiting the Stop HS2 store, or by taking supplies to camp.
Lastly, share this post! Educate your friends and family on the absolute cluster fuck that is High Speed Rail 2.
Thank you 🙂
Lost Along the Line documentary: Highly recommended watch – “Lost Along The Line is the groundbreaking directorial debut from environmental activists turned filmmakers, which exposes the challenging truth at the heart of the UK’s “most sustainable infrastructure project ever””
- HS2 Rebellion: Activists block HS2 bridge over the River Colne
- Fantastic assessment of how data is represented in the HS2 carbon report: Stop HS2
- Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments
- Letter from Kelvin Hopkins MP
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Euston tree house picture (top of article) – credit Freedom News, see license for non-commercial use