High Speed 2 trains should be slower, MPs say

 
Marion Dakers
POLITICIANS have come up with a new way to make High Speed 2 more green – slow down the high-speed trains, adding to journey times but cutting back on fuel.

MPs looking at HS2’s environmental credentials said today the new railway should consider lowering the top speed of its services to curb the use of electricity until a greener way to generate power can be found.

“The government needs to show real commitment to dealing with the impact that HS2 will have on our countryside and wildlife,” said Joan Walley MP, chair of the environmental audit committee.

However, officials for the London to Manchester and Leeds railway told the committee that cutting the top speed from 360km an hour to 300km would slash the cost-benefit ratio of the £42.6bn project by 25 per cent.

Today’s report also calls for a standalone budget for green issues around HS2 and an independent watchdog to monitor the railway’s effects on the environment for the next 60 years. The route will cut through 41 key habitats and 19 ancient woodlands.

The committee criticised HS2 for failing to examine the entire route for dangers to rare animals as part of its goal for “no net biodiversity loss”.

HS2 acknowledged that it needs to complete some protected species surveys and aded: “The levels of environmental protection set out in the Environmental Statement are higher than for any other project of such a significant scale.”

Campaigners against the new railway said the green obligations mean HS2’s budget will swell further. “The report could not be more damning: the environmental impact has not been properly considered, HS2 trains will be far from green, and those trains cannot run at top speed,” said Richard Houghton of the HS2 Action Alliance.