The Green Party has claimed HS2 is an “act of ecocide” which must be stopped.
At a rally outside the Department for Transport (DfT) today, Green Party Co-leader Jonathan Bartley called for the high-speed rail link to be scrapped, with money spent on local and regional links instead.
He said: “HS2 is an act of ecocide and must be stopped. It will bulldoze huge areas of natural woodland and cut wildlife habitats in half. HS2 would come at eye watering cost to both the taxpayer and our environment.”
The controversial plans, which would see a rail network built linking London, the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester, has come under criticism for the cost and time taken for construction.
Mr Bartley said: “Instead of allowing this huge environmental disaster, the Green Party would invest in local and regional transport infrastructure, particularly in the North, Midlands and South West of England. This will include upgrading and electrifying rail networks, new lines, re-opening closed stations, providing new, cheaper bus transport and spending £2.5bn a year on new cycleways and footpaths.”
But groups such as the Northern Powerhouse Partnership say the link is vital for unleashing the North’s economy.
Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The case for building Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 together all the way has never been stronger. The Green Party, who should take note of the environmental benefits, have ignored the relevant evidence and take a completely anti-HS2 position. Their proposal on how they would still improve East-West links across the Pennines only appears to be offering electrification rather than the new lines we need to increase capacity.
“One of the many benefits of HS2 is that it will deliver long-distance journeys that are supported by low-carbon energy, avoiding tickets on the West Coast Mainline going up in price to ration them and encouraging massive expansion in flights from cities like Manchester to London. By increasing choice and changing travel behaviours, HS2 will contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy and make achieving net zero possible.”
The project was the subject of a review by Douglas Oakervee, with a report due to be released by now, however this has now been delayed until after the election. It could recommend the whole project is scrapped, or simply parts of it.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both committed to continuing the build in their manifestos.
Boris Johnson said his “instincts” told him to support the scheme, despite there being no mention of it in the Tory manifesto.
But speaking last week Mr Johnson said: "I'm going to hesitate before simply scrapping something that has been long-planned and is of great national importance. But we will want to be checking the money is being properly spent and there aren't ways in which it could be reprioritised or reprofiled."
The PM said he would make a decision after the election, when the Oakervee Report is expected to be released. Leaks have suggested opposing recommendations, with some reports saying the project would be halted, and the most recent leak saying it would be pushed to go ahead in full.
Meanwhile environmental campaigners opposed to the HS2 rail line running through a woodland area in west London have lost their latest court fight.
HS2 bosses complained that protesters were unlawfully occupying a path at a construction site in Hillingdon and asked Judge David Holland to grant them "possession".
Protesters had raised a number of environmental concerns, including water pollution fears, disagreed and opposed HS2's possession application.
The judge, who analysed arguments at a High Court hearing in October, ruled in favour of HS2 on Thursday and made a possession order.
He said protests could lawfully be staged in the vicinity of the construction site, but not on the footpath.
In early 2018, then transport secretary Chris Grayling won a High Court fight with the same group of protesters.
A judge imposed an injunction banning "unlawful protest activities" in and around the construction site.