HS2 has announced plans to deliver an "unprecedented" green corridor to run alongside the £56bn high-speed railway, to create a network of environmental projects from the capital to the north of England.
The corridor will have new wildlife habitats, native woodlands and community spaces amid efforts to integrate the new railway into the surrounding landscape.
Along the phase one route, spanning 216km from London to the West Midlands, the green corridor will include 7m new trees and shrubs, and over 33 square kilometres of new and existing wildlife habitat – an area comparable to the size of 4,600 football pitches.
The huge rail project has not been without its critics, and has been under scrutiny over budget forecasts, unauthorised redundancy payouts, as well as more general concerns over the impact on homes and the environment in the path of the planned route.
The Woodland Trust has said the "biggest single threat" to ancient woodland is the HS2 rail project, saying 98 ancient woods are threatened with loss or damage from the two phases of the development. London Zoo meanwhile, has sought to stop HS2 works which it said threatened the final refuge of the hedgehog in the capital.
HS2 has said it is working with the Royal Parks and London Zoo to create wildlife corridors around the affected car park while it is being used as a depot for its construction lorries.
The new network of habitats will replace any affected by construction of the bumper railway, while "conserving and enhancing some too", HS2 said today.
HS2 said it will also include the potential to support community projects and develop spaces such as public parks and nature reserves, with the scale of the planned works dubbed the largest ever undertaken by an infrastructure project in the UK.
Here's how the green corridor will work:
Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said the organisation would be calling on local people to get involved as the green corridor shapes up.
Alongside improving connectivity, boosting the economy and unlocking new jobs and opportunities, I’m determined to ensure that HS2 also works for the environment and local communities.
This starts by doing everything we can to reduce our environmental footprint and minimise the expected impact of our construction work. Longer-term, we’ll be leaving behind a network of new wildlife habitats, woodlands, and community spaces, helping to create a lasting legacy along the route.
The green corridor's appearance will be tailored to the surrounding environment, with native tree species used to make sure the new spaces reflect the different regions the line passes through.