Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent

October 13 2018, 12:01am, The Times


About 61 woodlands that are said to be irreplaceable will be destroyed by the train line CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES

The impact of HS2, the railway to link London with the North, will be “far worse” than first feared, the company behind the project has admitted.

The line to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester will lead to the destruction of almost 900 homes, 1,000 business premises and at least 61 ancient woodlands.

The scale of damage caused by the 330-mile, high-speed link has been set out for the first time in assessments that outline the environmental and economic impact. HS2 Ltd, the government-owned company, admitted that 1,740 buildings would be demolished, including 888 homes, with 536 houses during the second northern phase.

It admitted that the relocation of people would result in “adverse” health impacts, including increased stress levels and “feelings of anxiety”. A further 985 businesses and 27 community facilities will be demolished.

In all, 19,590 jobs will be relocated. The company admitted that 2,380 positions would probably be lost permanently, while 2,340 roles would be created between London and Crewe.

The company pointed out that the figures represented the worst-case scenario — before mitigation measures had been taken into account. The true impact would probably be less severe. Details outlined in impact assessments also show that the line, to be completed by 2033, would cause significant damage.

About 61 “irreplaceable” ancient woodlands would be partly destroyed, including 19 on the second phase in northern England.

The assessments revealed that the line would cause disruption with 158 miles of visually intrusive embankments or viaducts. Nine rivers would be diverted as the route passed through more than 21 miles of flood zones.

The second northern phase of the line would create 58 million tonnes of landfill. Dozens of roads or public rights of way would face temporary and permanent closure, which could lead to “traveller stress”. About 25,730 temporary construction jobs would be created during the building of the line. The scale of the impact brought fresh calls for the project to be abandoned, with fears that the damage is much worse than previously estimated.

Luci Ryan, an ecologist for the Woodland Trust, said: “We were braced for bad news but this is far worse than we were expecting.” Joe Rukin, campaign manager for the Stop HS2 pressure group, said: “HS2 Ltd have gone for the most destructive, least cost option.”

A spokesman for the company said: “We’re designing a railway that will reshape the economic geography of the whole country. We encourage people to have their say on the plans.