In principle a new, modern rail route serving the North of England, should significantly improve rail connectivity and reduce road and air travel and the congestion, pollution and carbon emissions associated with them. Providing the new route is integrated with the existing rail network and services, and stimulates development that is sustainable, the knock-on benefits for the countryside should make it a winner.
However, HS2 Phase 2, as proposed, does not secure sustainability benefits, and therefore CPRE South Yorkshire cannot support it. The key problems are as follows.
There is insufficient evidence of integration with the existing rail network or any specific information as to how existing rail capacity will be released for better local services.
Over-emphasis on high speeds and short journey times not only detract from the real potential benefits of a new rail route, but also result in an engineering-led solution and choice of route to enable the fastest speeds, rather than a service-led solution designed to provide the most benefit to the most people.
The impacts on valued landscapes in South Yorkshire and North-East Derbyshire are excessive because the route affects many of the remaining open and tranquil landscapes that currently provide relief between heavily-industrialised and developed landscapes. The aspiration for high speeds means that much of the route lies on embankments and cuttings that would break up wildlife habitats and create physical severance between local communities and their immediate countryside.
You can see for yourself the harm that would be created using CPRE’s interactive maps. In our view the lack of a sound strategic case for HS2 means that the harm to local landscapes and local communities along the route cannot be justified on the basis of wider benefits.