HS2 Observations by Ian Stemp CML

    HS2 High Speed Rail Link.

    I read the Spring 2015 Landscape Journal with interest and the articles covering the proposed HS2. The conclusion that I came to is that none of the ideas, sadly including those illustrated by students, will begin to compensate for the adverse impact that the proposed route will have on the British countryside, the permanent damage to woodlands, farming and the residents along its route.

    All the graphic illustrations I have seen show very Engineered solutions to bridges, tunnels, and viaducts with token green coloured areas with the odd blue stream, cow, and sheep thrown in to illustrate that all is well. Having looked at the HS2 plan provided by the Department of Transport, I am concerned that it is all an irreversible and extraordinary expensive politically motivated ploy. London to Birmingham and 30-35 minutes saved on travel time. Sorry I meant Birmingham Link, and then you travel onto Birmingham, unlike into New Street in the city centre on the existing network.

    The damage that will be caused over a vast area associated with the line will be very significant throughout the construction process. Costs will escalate due to a host of unforeseen circumstances and when savings have to be made, where will that be, could it possibly be the last in the food chain and cut down all the landscape extravagances?

    The existing rail network is there and, as is so often highlighted within the media, in need of massive refurbishment and investment. The actual investment in the existing rail network will, it has been predicted by some, be cut back in favour of HS2. The transport patient gets a new limb, but unfortunately the rest of the body is worn out, resulting in the vast majority of train travellers having to suffer the consequences. This project, unlike the Olympic Park, which did a great deal of good for our profession, will, I regret to predict, not reflect well on the Landscape Profession. Landscape Architects will end up being the first-aid kit suppliers, responsible for green infrastructure.

    I would love to see the Landscape Institute take a lead in backing a boycott of HS2 and excluding all its members from the provision of any future professional services. The Landscape Institute should take a positive approach to supporting major investment in upgrading the existing rail network and its landscape setting.  It would be a major contribution to saving the countryside and farming, which seem to be under ever-increasing financial pressure. Will there be a dairy industry in 10 years’ time? Will agriculture have a future in this green and pleasant land? No matter, we can import all our food from who knows where, with old jumbo jet aircraft.

    Are design professions only interested in grand, sexy projects? I truly hope this is not the case.

    To anyone who thinks this is all nonsense, I sincerely hope that it is and I am wrong, but I am not convinced. Perhaps I could change my name to Victor Meldrew, but I will stick with my own. The Landscape Institute taking a stand against HS2, there is an optimistic thought. Good to see that The Woodland Trust have got its act together, and identified 27 ancient woods directly affected and 22 at risk of secondary effects.

    Come on Landscape Institute, stand up and be counted. I am sure the membership would be very interested to read what our President Noel Farrer  has to say about this proposed project.

    Just imagine a future British government spending the HS2 monies on upgrading the existing rail network, social housing, care for the elderly, mental health and the NHS. Too much to ask? I don’t believe so, after all, it would benefit real people with a genuine need for a decent quality of life.

    This blog was written by Ian Stemp CMLI, after reading ‘On the right track’ in the Spring 2015 Landscape Journal. On the right track can be read on the Landscape Journal’s page.

    The image HS2 in Numbers is published by the Department for Transport on Flickr. It is published here under the Creative Commons licence.


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