HS2 go-ahead sees mixed reaction

The go-ahead has been given for the first phase of a high-speed rail line, linking London and Birmingham.

Approval has been given to stage one of HS2 despite a huge campaign by those who say the £33bn project is a waste of money and bad for the environment. Some opponents have said they may now seek judicial review.

Explore the map below to find out more about people's objections and what the government has done to try to mitigate the impact of the line.

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Green-belt land Wildlife sites Heathrow The Chilterns Conservative heartlands Euston station Interactive map of High Speed 2 proposed route

Green-belt land

The planned route encroaches on green-belt land in a number of areas, including around London and Birmingham.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England argues plans for new out-of-town parkway stations would have a "devastating" effect on green belt and that the economic benefits would be a fraction of those that would be achieved from town centre stations.

The campaign group wants, in particular, changes to the proposed Birmingham interchange station, which it says will "encroach into the green belt next to Birmingham Airport".

Wildlife sites

County wildlife trusts are concerned the proposed route will pose a threat to wildlife. They estimate more than 150 nature sites could be affected, including 10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Four nature reserves will be directly impacted, they say. They are Finemere Wood Nature Reserve and the Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve, managed by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve, managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, and Park Hall Nature Reserve, managed by the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country.

The government has said that extra tunnelling and route amendments mean that the impact of more than half the route will now be mitigated. However, the wildlife trusts say this could actually make the damage to wildlife worse.

Heathrow

The second phase of the government's plans include a possible future spur to Heathrow Airport in west London.

The HS2 line from London to Birmingham is expected to open in 2026, followed in 2032-33 by high speed links to Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow.

However, in November, the Commons Transport Committee said a case for routing HS2 via Heathrow had not been set out clearly and needed further analysis.

Labour, which supports HS2, has suggested the first phase main route should actually travel via Heathrow, creating a hub at the airport and thus making it easier for travellers from south-west England to get on fast trains to the north. It would also protect the most sensitive parts of the Chilterns, the party says.

The Chilterns

The proposed HS2 line crosses the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). Environmental and local campaigners say the picturesque landscape will change forever if plans are approved.

The government was due to make an announcement on HS2 in December, but delayed it to incorporate miles of extra tunnelling to try to appease opponents. It has added 7.5 miles of tunnelling and 3.5 miles of deep cuttings along the 13 miles of proposed line through the Chilterns AONB.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has said additional tunnelling would be "essential" if HS2 is to be built through the area.

Conservative heartlands

A number of Conservative MPs have expressed concerns about the rail link, which passes through Tory heartlands. Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan has been one of the most vocal Conservative critics and says she is prepared to resign over the project that cuts through her Chesham and Amersham constituency.

Dan Byles, Conservative MP for North Warwickshire and Bedworth, and Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, have also voiced concerns.

To try to win over critics, ministers have added a overall total of eight miles of tunnelling along the route - mostly in the Chilterns. The changes include extended tunnelling near Amersham, in Mrs Gillan's constituency, near Ruislip in north-west London, Turweston and Wendover in Buckinghamshire, Greatworth, Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire, and Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.

Euston station

Campaigners fear the planned remodelling of Euston Station will lead to disruption that could last for many years.

Last year, a study from The TaxPayers' Alliance said passengers would face slower and less-frequent services if the scheme went ahead. Creating the London to Birmingham HS2 would mean Euston station in London "becoming a building site for seven years", it said.

Labour's Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, told MPs the station was already overcrowded and lacked the infrastructure in surrounding streets to be the terminus for a high-speed rail link. The proposals would also mean the demolition of the homes of more than 350 of his constituents, he said.

The government has said its revised route halves the number of homes affected.

See detailed maps of the entire route on the Department of Transport website: High speed rail route maps

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