Our latest report – High Speed Rail and Nature Networks – focuses on how high speed rail can help move our transport system towards biodiversity net gain.

What this report seeks to do for the first time is to explore in detail the HS2 project’s impacts on nature across its lifecycle, from planning through to its consenting and design processes to its construction and operation.

This is set in the context surrounding a project of this scale, of the changing policy landscape, wider constraints such as the views and needs of land managers, and wider opportunities such as technological and social change.

You can access a summary version of the report here: High Speed Rail and Nature Networks – Summary Report

The full version is available here: High Speed Rail and Nature Networks – Full Report

HS2, according to the report, is as much an “environmental” project as a transport and economic one. You are as likely to find environmental professionals working on the route as engineers, with the project creating more green jobs than any other. The scale of HS2 means there are enormous career opportunities, for instance for ecologists to work on a range of habitats and species early in their careers.

While there will inevitably be visible impacts at this stage of HS2’s construction, just as there have been with other infrastructure projects like HS1, the string of nature reserves that have since grown up along it shows how building railways can go hand-in-hand with nature restoration. HS2’s flagship ‘Green Corridor’ takes these ambitions to the next level, restoring and enhancing habitats and delivering ecological connectivity at the landscape scale.

The report finds that besides connecting nature, HS2 will be essential in connecting people to nature. Post-pandemic, more people are expected to want to access larger and wilder areas by sustainable transport. Besides providing capacity, an extended high speed rail network could catalyse wider public transport upgrades, such as improving the case for reopening the Borders Railway to Carlisle.

Exploring case studies from railways across Europe, the report highlights where HS2 is at the centre of new thinking and best practices, such as how it is revolutionising the collection and usage of green data across the supply chain. It also highlights opportunities for HS2 to leverage new environmental and agricultural laws, so as to work in partnership with a wider range of landowners and NGOs.

Jérôme Furgé, HSRG Board Member and Director of the Align JV commented:

“HS2 is essential for the transport future of the UK, and we are so proud to be able to deliver it in a way that protects our environment. Align are delivering the Chiltern Tunnel – the longest on the line of route – and in doing so are building over 130 hectares of new habitats, reusing construction materials and contributing to local nature conservation and wider community benefits. HS2 is developing new standards and innovations that will be taken on by countless infrastructure projects, and this will be a major part of the project’s legacy.”