Taxpayers reportedly face a £40m bill for a mesh shield to prevent endangered bats from being hit by high speed HS2 trains.
HS2 has bowed to pressure from conservationists who argued HS2 should not be built to preserve the ancient woodlands which are home to rare Bechstein bats.
Public procurement records show that French engineering firm Eiffage is working with British firm Kier to build an 850 metre bat tunnel over the new track at a location in Buckinghamshire, the Telegraph first reported.
“Bechstein bats are one of Britain’s rarest species of bat and are protected by strict UK environmental legislation,” a spokesperson for HS2 told the Telegraph. “The protection structure at Sheephouse Wood, which was designed following extensive consultation with leading bat experts, will keep the bats away from passing trains and allow HS2 to meet our legal obligations to avoid harming them and other bat species.”
“In addition, this structure is designed for four tracks, making it possible for any future local services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes to operate in the area,” the spokesperson added.
Lord Berkeley, the former deputy chairman of a review into the future of HS2, said that spending £40m on a bat tunnel seems “excessive.”
At the time of the 2010 election, the cost of HS2 was estimated to be upwards of £20bn. Lord Berkeley’s independent review into the project predicted it could climb to £107bn.