Commenting ahead of tomorrow’s expected announcement (Thursday 11 March 2010) on the building of a new high speed rail link, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“A fast and efficient rail system has a vital role to play in creating a modern and low-carbon UK transport system.


“But questions remain about how successful a new high speed rail line will be in cutting emissions, and its wider impacts on communities and the environment.


“A high speed link will cost billions of pounds, but is unlikely to deliver major carbon cuts unless it is part of a wider strategic approach to transport that has the development of a low-carbon future at its heart.”


For Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Campaigns Support Worker Joe Peacock commented:

“The transport system in Birmingham needs radically overhauling to reach our carbon emissions reduction targets, so HS2 must not be a distraction or an excuse to delay work on this. Investment and political will must be focussed on changing people’s transport choices by giving them real low carbon alternatives across the city over the next 5 years in line with our ambitious commitments to be leaders in combatting climate change.”



Notes to Editors

1.    There are a number of issues relating to the building of a high speed rail line that need to be addressed:

  • A high speed rail line must  play its part in making significant cuts in overall transport emissions. This will partly depend on how fast we decarbonise electricity generation and the amount of carbon spent in building the new line.

  • It must attract passengers who would otherwise travel by plane or car. This will require the Ministers to look at other policies including  the relative cost of car and air travel . Last month the Government revealed that between

1997 and 2009 rail fares increased by 13 per cent while the real cost of motoring, including the purchase of a vehicle, declined by 14 per cent. The cost of the average UK one-way air fare, including taxes and charges, covering domestic flights fell by 35 per cent between 1997 and 2008.

  • Extra capacity that is created on the existing rail network after the new line opens must be used to provide more freight and stopping passenger trains in order to shift goods and people onto rail.
  • It should be linked to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and help replace flights by enabling through journeys to destinations in mainland Europe.
  • It mustn’t lead to funding cuts for other essential transport improvements like buses and conventional rail.
  • New stations should be built in city centres – not out-of-town where they could encourage more road traffic and become hubs for development.
  • Important wildlife habitats and the Chilterns AONB must be protected – impacts could be minimised by tunnelling.

2.    Friends of the Earth believes the environment is for everyone. We want a healthy planet and a good quality of life for all those who live on it. We inspire people to act together for a thriving environment. Over 90 per cent of our income comes from individuals so we rely on donations to continue our vital work. For further information visit