A new evidence report reveals fundamental flaws in the way HS2 Ltd has assessed the value of nature along the construction path of the new UK high-speed railway, HS2.

The report, called ‘HS2 double jeopardy: how the UK’s largest infrastructure project undervalued nature and overvalued its compensation measures’, finds that HS2 Ltd has hugely undervalued natural habitats and the wildlife that is being destroyed by the construction along the route – while simultaneously overvaluing the impact of its nature compensation measures.

For example, Phase 1, which covers 140 miles of track between London and the West Midlands, will cause at least 7.9 times more nature loss than accounted for by HS2 Ltd, the report says.

HS2 Ltd promised that nature would not lose out when natural areas and important habitats were destroyed to make way for the construction of the high-speed rail line. It also made a commitment to ‘No Net Loss’ of biodiversity for replaceable habitats along Phases 1 and 2a of the route, and a net gain for biodiversity along Phase 2b.

Compensating for nature losses relies on accurate baseline assessments of the value of wildlife habitats along the route.

The new report found watercourses, ponds, and trees that were missing from HS2 Ltd’s data. For example, many well-established tree-lined and species-rich hedgerows, which provide berries, shelter and nesting places for wildlife, have been given a lower nature value than the new hedgerows that HS2 Ltd is going to plant.

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The new report, which is published today, asserts that HS2 Ltd’s ‘No Net Loss’ metric –its ‘accounting tool’ for assessing impacts on nature – is untested, out of date and fundamentally flawed. 

Taking a conservative approach to the data, the report highlights alarming errors in HS2 Ltd’s figures and mapping, indicative of a large-scale problem which calls into question the adequacy of all HS2 Ltd’s nature restoration and compensation plans.

“This new evidence is damning and reveals a host of inaccuracies that are built into HS2 Ltd’s current approach. Our report exposes the absurdity of allowing HS2 Ltd to self-regulate without proper transparency and independent oversight. The company needs to be held to account by the UK Government for its failings,” Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts said.

“HS2 Ltd must correct its mapping and errors in its figures and make all its new data publicly available. HS2 Ltd must repair nature in a way that’s commensurate with the magnitude of the damage being caused. The scale of errors means HS2 Ltd needs to provide far more nature compensation than it’s currently offering because it has seriously underestimated the impacts on biodiversity.”

Today, The Wildlife Trusts has published an open letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Mark Harper, and Secretary of State for the Environment, Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, urging them to work together to address the new evidence about biodiversity loss calculation errors by HS2 Ltd and asking for an immediate pause on construction.

Last year, the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and The Woodland Trust told the Transport Committee that 129 ancient woodlands will be impacted along the HS2 route.