High Speed Rail Group: Wildlife Trusts HS2 Data Is “Untested” and “Unsurveyed”

The Wildlife Trusts have published a new report they say shows HS2 Ltd got its nature figures wrong.

The report, entitled ‘HS2 double jeopardy: how the UK’s largest infrastructure project undervalued nature and overvalued its compensation measures’, is a review of the ‘HS2 London – West Midlands – No net loss in biodiversity calculation‘ report.

It concludes that there have been “fundamental flaws in the way HS2 Ltd has assessed the value of nature along the construction path of HS2”.

It gives an example: according to its own analysis, Phase 1, covering 140 miles of track between London and the West Midlands, would cause “at least 7.9 times more nature loss than accounted for by HS2 Ltd”.

The report was done by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Regarding its methodology, it said it tried to use HS2 Ltd data where available and ‘additional information’ to “show the type and quality of each habitat”. It said it found much of HS2 Ltd’s data hard to access and that HS2 Ltd’s methodology was inadequate.

In particular, the report suggested that there were “significant mapping errors”, no differentiation made between rivers and streams, incorrect values attributed to existing versus replacement woodlands and grasslands, and an undervaluing of hedgerows.

Responding to this report, the High Speed Rail Group said: “The methodology used by the Wildlife Trust relied upon different data and assumptions which ultimately led to a different score – as they haven’t been on site to collect this data, it is untested, unsurveyed online datasets and desk based assumptions. Unlike the Trust, HS2 Ltd is afforded access to huge areas of land for undertaking ecological survey.”

The Group also said that “The entire construction and the first 150 years of the HS2 operation amounts to one month’s carbon emissions from road transport”.

HS2 Ltd also responded to the report: “Today’s claims by the Wildlife Trusts are incorrect and based on unreliable data from limited desk research. HS2’s data is independently verified, accurate and reliable from extensive, detailed surveys by expert ecologists out in the field, on huge areas of land. We have consistently offered to work with the Wildlife Trusts, but they have so far declined, instead seeking PR opportunities. We share our data with independent experts for review, Natural England have consulted on our methodology and it is rigorously assessed by ecologists.”

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