Rare wildlife could be ‘wiped out’ by HS2

  |  Published: Feb 26th 2014

Unless major changes are made to the route of HS2 through Buckinghamshire, the high speed trains could lead to the local extinction of one of the UK’s rarest mammals, according to an expert review.

Researchers from the University of Leeds were asked by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to review the approach taken by HS2 Ltd, and investigate the impacts of mitigation proposals on colonies of the Bechstein’s bat, a protected species, in Bernwood Forest. They concluded that, without significant changes, the proposals would put the bats at risk of local extinction instead of protecting them.

The review[1] was carried out by Dr Anna Berthinussen and Professor John Altringham of the University of Leeds, both experts in how transport projects can affect bats. 

They were particularly critical of ‘mitigation measures’ outlined in HS2 Ltd’s Environmental Statement, which included short bridges and underpasses, and an 800m long barrier to prevent bats colliding with trains. The review states: “there is no evidence to suggest that any of the mitigation proposals … will be effective, and they may do more harm than good.”

Matt Jackson, head of conservation strategy and policy at BBOWT, said: “Bechstein’s bats are one of our rarest mammals and they are legally protected. The bats would be affected in various ways by the HS2 proposals, including direct collision with trains, but most significantly because the high speed rail line dissects their territory creating a barrier to their movement between woodlands on either side of the line.

“Natural England will only grant licences for the building of HS2 if there is evidence that protected species will not be wiped out, but the scientific review suggests this is precisely what will happen unless major changes are made,” said Matt Jackson.

 

 

[1] Appraisal of HS2 Ltd environmental Statement in relation to the bat community in the Bernwood Forest area, with particular reference to the Bechstein’s bat. 2014, Berthinussen, A. and Altringham, J. University of Leeds

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