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Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS)

A brief Critique, based on the Non-Technical Summary

The AoS comprises a number of Sections, which make turgid and repetitive reading. This page summarises the Sections, and includes comments in blue. Extracts from the AoS are in italics.

1. Purpose

2 key issues are covered here.

1.1.1 This document summarises the HS2 Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) report, which describes how the proposed new high speed railway between London and the West Midlands would support objectives for sustainable development. Sustainable development embraces considerations of economic development and job opportunities, and effects on communities, as well as environmental considerations such as landscape, natural environment and climate change.

1.1.2 The Government’s preference for the proposed route described here is based on how well it would fulfil a number of considerations when compared with other alternatives: its achievement of wider transport and economic objectives, its construction costs, its operational requirements, the practicalities of building it and its sustainability performance, including its environmental effects.

The main consideration seems to economic, as is demonstrated by the use of ‘avoid or minimize’ whenever it talks about the environment. In this summary, I have not seen any reference to other routes, although 1.1.2 above eems to indicate that it does.

2. Refinements

Basically this says that the route is the same as originally proposed. The line has hardly altered, but they have deepened the cuttings, and put in a couple of green bridges.

3. Potential Impacts

This deals with

economic benefits (supposed) to business, the leisure travel and wider economic benefits.

3.1.5 The new railway stations would be the catalyst for new commercial enterprise and, over time, would stimulate opportunities for businesses to relocate and prosper.

The use of ‘relocate and prosper’ is appropriate, and seems to recognise that HSR is unlikely to generate jobs

3.1.6 Overall, it has been forecast that HS2 could attract some 30,000 jobs from the planned growth in employment for London and the West Midlands to the areas around the proposed HS2 stations. The scheme is also expected to provide 1,500 permanent operational employment opportunities, many of which would be new jobs. An estimated 9,000 jobs would also be created during construction. HS2 would displace a number of businesses and associated jobs, for example at Washwood Heath and Old Oak Common. However, it is likely that many of these displaced jobs would be re-established elsewhere.

The use of ‘attract some 30,000 jobs from the planned growth’ indicates again that it is regeneration but relocation. Most of these would be in London (73% per HS2 Ltd).

The opportunity for new commuter and freight services on the West Coast Main line

3.1.8 confirms that carbon reduction depends on how carbon-efficient electricity generation becomes in the future.

What is not looked at is how much less energy the current trains on the WCML use

3.1.9 to 3.1.11 deal with the demolition of properties

3.1.12 / 13 deal with noise and vibration.

3.1.15 talks about the Chilterns, with much of being crossed with tunnels or cuttings, and talks about screening.

1.1.16 to 3.1.18 deal with listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments etc

3.1.20 No internationally protected sites of ecological interest would be adversely affected and impacts to nationally protected sites would be restricted to a small number of locations. Partial landtake would be required from two sites of special scientific interest (SSSI). A number of locally designated sites and important habitats, such as ancient woodlands, would be physically impacted. Where sites of ecological interest and local importance are considered likely to be affected, further work would be undertaken during more detailed design, and management plans would be drawn up and implemented to help minimise the adverse effects on biodiversity.

Here we see the use of ‘mimimise’ rather than ‘avoid’, and when we get to more detailed design.

3.1.21 to 3.1.23 covers water, land take and spoil.

4. Description of the Proposed Scheme

This gives a brief description of the route.

5. The Appraisal of Sustainability Process

5.1.1 To determine the extent to which the proposed scheme may be considered a sustainable development it was necessary first to define ‘sustainability’ as it is relevant to high speed rail. The AoS process has adapted for its own use the four sustainable development priorities from the UK Sustainable Development Strategy: Securing the Future 1. These have formed the overarching structure for considering sustainability impacts.

5.1.2 The AoS then used a series of increasingly more detailed issues, objectives and criteria that further defined the concept of sustainability and helped to appraise the impacts and benefits of the scheme. The four main sustainability headings and their underlying issues and objectives are shown below. These were discussed and agreed with government departments and key environmental bodies at the commencement of the AoS.

Key sustainability issue Sustainability objectiveSecurity and safety
Contribute to the reduction of road traffic accidents
Protect against crime and fear of crime

Economic prosperity
Support economic competitiveness and make efficient use of public funds
Support wider economic growth and maintain and enhance employment opportunities
Support wider economic welfare growth
Support planned developments
Maintain and enhance regeneration

Sustainable Consumption and Production
Soil and land resources
Maintain and enhance land resources
Encourage the use of brownfield sites

Waste generation
Prevent and minimise waste production
Resource use
Conserve and protect primary material resources

As you can see from the above there is no mention of preserving history, landscape or the environment. As they say in 5.1.1 ‘ The AoS process has adapted for its own use the four sustainable development priorities from the UK Sustainable Development Strategy: Securing the Future 1. These have formed the overarching structure for considering sustainability impacts.’

6. The AoS and Alternatives

6.1.1 The Government considers that increasing demand will create a need over the next twenty to thirty years for additional capacity to cater for inter-city journeys between London and the major conurbations in the Midlands and the North. It does not, however, believe transferring rail demand to road travel or domestic aviation to be an appropriate solution. It also considers that the benefits of a new high speed rail network would be significantly greater than those offered by any other option. These matters are described in more detail within High Speed Rail Strategic Alternatives Study: Strategic Alternatives to the proposed Y Network.

6.1.2 The Government’s proposed scheme is the product of some two years of work by HS2 Ltd to examine a large number of possible alternative routes and stations. This preference reflects its strategic transport and economic merits, its operational capabilities, the practicalities and costs of building it, its sustainability performance and its overall environmental impacts. The main alternatives that have been considered are reported in the consultation document, High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future.

As you can see from the above the AoS does not look at any alternatives, because the Government told them not to.

7. Mitigating Impacts

Talks about the changes made between March 2010 and February 2011

8. HS2 and Climate Change

This covers Resilience to Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases. There are a number of statements that HS2 will be designed and built to help deal with these

9. HS2 and the Natural and Cultural Landscape

9.1 gives a description of items encountered along the route, but no suggestions about any of it should mitigated or dealt with..

9.2 deals with Wildlife and Biodiversity. It gives a factual account of what will be impacted from looking at a map, but offers no opinions.

9.3 deals with Water & Flooding.

9.3.1 Direct impacts on water resources, such as rivers, streams, lakes and underground water supplies (aquifers) have been avoided where possible. But these features are numberous between London and Birmingham and are difficult to avoid completely. It is possible that adverseimpacts may arise at locations where rivers would be crossed. Where the proposed route could interrupt flows into rivers, river diversions would be undertaken. The necessary protective actionwould be taken in order to avoid or minimize any adverse impact on water quality.

9.3.2 Passage of the proposed scheme over or through aquifers or areas of vulnerable groundwater would require careful management and mitigation in accordance with current best practice.

9.3.3 HS2 would also cross areas that are at a fairly high risk of flooding. The railway would be raised on low piers to ensure flood water is not impeded or diverted and the scheme does not increase flood risk to other areas or communities. In total the scheme passes through 16km of the highest flood risk areas.

There is no analysis of where the aquifers are or their condition. Again we see the use of ‘avoid or minimise’.and ‘careful management.

10. HS2 and Sustainable Communities

10.1 Impact on Properties. This deals with compensation , demolition, landtake etc

10.2 Environmental Impacts on People

10.3 Access to Public Transport

10.4 Health and Wellbeing

10.5 Economic Impacts

These sections are very high level, and reiterate remarks in earlier sections. Generally they fail to identify negatives and concentrate on the benefits.

11 HS2 and Sustainable Consumption and Production

This talks about land usage and take.

12 Further Mitigation and Monitoring

12.1.2 HS2's impacts would be assessed in detail as part of the environmental impact assessment that would be undertaken if, following consultation, a decision is taken to proceed with high speed rail and once a preferred route is confirmed by Government. The impacts would be monitored as part of the routine project planning process

As you can see this says that we will look at it in detail, if the go-ahead for the scheme is given.

Links

The following link takes you to the DfT's PDF of the non-technical summary of the AoS. (Left click the link to view the PDF in a new window. Right click to download it to your computer).

The following link takes you to the Summary page for the AoS on the DfT site, from where you can navigate to the various parts o f the report and its appendices.