The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has told HS2 Ltd to review its ancient woodlands clearance programme and halt any removals that aren’t absolutely necessary.
Grant Shapps has ordered stoppage of these removals in light of the independent review into the major infrastructure project, which is set to investigate whether the costs of the high speed rail line are worth the benefits.
Already, the costs have spiralled and the project, which was expected to cost around £56 billion, has increased by approximately £30 billion.
While the review is being undertaken – results from which are expected in autumn – the Transport Secretary has told HS2 Ltd that the removal of ancient woodlands must be halted except in circumstances where it is shown removals are necessary in order to avoid huge costs and schedule impacts in the case of the project continuing as planned after the review.
Mr Shapps confirmed his decision and explained why he has taken this action.
“There is no sense in hiding the challenges HS2 faces, or masking the difficult decisions that need to be taken.
“So, as Douglas Oakervee’s review continues, we must take a sensible approach and recognise that some works simply cannot be undone later.
“Having listened to the concerns of affected residents and Parliamentary colleagues, I have ordered HS2 Ltd to consider what works affecting ancient woodland clearances can be delayed for the duration of the review.
“This ensures we avoid irreversible decisions without major impacts on cost and schedule.
“HS2 may be a complex project overall, but I think this request is just common sense.”
In the meantime, HS2 will continue with other preparatory works that are seen as important to keeping with the delivery schedule – which is already expected to be pushed back several years.
Further delays of these preparatory works could have a damaging impact on cost and schedule if the HS2 project is to continue after the Oakervee review.