Autumn Conference 2023

Motion #05

Reaffirm Opposition to HS2

Motion not debated


At Spring Conference 2011, the Green Party passed policy TR11.3 to oppose HS2, which was to be reviewed if HS2 would reduce demand for transport, energy use, land take and CO2 emissions. On all of these tests, the case for HS2 has got worse and opposition should be renewed.


In Record of Policy Statements (RoPS) add:

“The Green Party recognises that following the building of HS1, ‘The Kent Principles’ were drawn up to govern the building of any future high-speed railway line. These principles would seek to balance the needs of the environment, habitats, communities, and the railway. HS2 completely ignored these principles, and as such the design principles to build what was intended to be the fastest in Europe and for its length the most expensive railway in world history, have been set by the construction industry, seeking to maximise revenue. HS2 is a project designed with no sympathy for anything, other than profit and growth economics and as such must be opposed by The Green Party.”

“The Green Party should not approach high-speed rail, or any other proposed project which the Party might support in principle, in a political vacuum, without looking at the real-world implementations and the effects of projects and policies.”

“While the Green Party continues to support the idea of high-speed rail in principle, any such project must first and foremost be considered against the climate and ecological emergency, and demonstrate that it can be constructed in time, without adversely impacting the climate, ecological sustainability or associated economics. Specifically, the GPEW requires that any such project should be designed with clear constraints from the outset based on the ‘Kent Principles’. These should be: to run at a maximum of 200mph/320kph to minimise the impact to habitats, the natural environment and communities; to follow existing transport corridors where possible; to integrate into the existing rail network and have intermediate stations; and that any such project must be justified by a transport need and a clear ability to reduce carbon emissions, which must include a full assessment of all embedded carbon created during construction. Such projects should only be supported if they can also demonstrate that ticket prices will be affordable from the outset.”

“The Green Party notes that In 2020, the Wildlife Trusts, in conjunction with the Woodland Trust, RSPB and National Trust produced a report which concluded HS2 would risk the loss of, or significantly impact: 5  Wildlife refuges of international importance; 33  Sites of Special Scientific Interest; 693  Classified Local Wildlife Sites; 21  Designated Local Nature Reserves; 26  Large landscape-scale initiatives; 18  Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves; 108 Ancient woodlands; Other irreplaceable habitats such as veteran trees, wood pasture, old meadows; Extensive further areas of wider natural habitat; and that several scarce, protected and endangered wildlife species are under threat such as barn owls, white-clawed crayfish, willow tits and the lizard orchid. Rarities like dingy skipper may become locally extinct. The response from HS2 Ltd was that ‘The Wildlife Trust report was inaccurate and misleading. The fight against climate change needs to be based on facts’.”

“Furthermore, in 2023 the Wildlife Trusts reported that: HS2 Ltd had used inconsistent mapping and modelling; wild spaces and habitats were being undervalued; the benefits of new habitat creation was valued higher than existing established habitats; wildlife which was being trapped between construction areas was been ignored; many ponds had been only partially counted; huge numbers of trees and hedgerows which had been cut down were not counted at all; and the nature loss would be 7.9 times more than HS2 Ltd had accounted for. The response from the ‘High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group’, (a vested interest lobbying group consisting mainly of the construction firms building HS2), was that the Wildlife Trust data was ‘Untested’ and ‘Unsurveyed’.”

“It is essential that the Green Party stands full square behind the Wildlife and Habitats policies of the party which have been passed at conference, and that the GPEW seeks to support the analysis of NGOs which exist for no other reason than to protect habitats, nature and wildlife in the face of corporate greenwashing from the construction industry. Failing to support such NGOs in such a situation would considerably damage the credibility and reputation of the Green Party, as well as ongoing working relationships with such organisations.”

“Through the ongoing work of Green Party members, we can demonstrate that HS2 Ltd have not assessed or mitigated all of the risks to groundwater in the Colne Valley (West London), or that raw drinking water quality is being protected. Works in the Mid Chilterns Chalk aquifer should be halted in line with current GP policy. Since the party originally passed policy on this matter, slurry pools and sinkholes have appeared above HS2 tunnelling works and the GPEW calls on the Government and regulators to uphold UK law and protect clean drinking water.”

“The construction industry has openly set up lobbying bodies, with the stated intention of dictating the political discourse around the HS2 project. This is one of the main reasons that HS2 had support from other Westminster parties from the outset of the project, as lobbyists seek to build up political momentum behind projects when they are little more than a politically appealing slogan. As the Green Party continues to become more of a political force, we must be wary of specifically targeted lobbying efforts concerning projects, especially those which are lacking in specific detail, which would benefit from the perception that they are environmentally sound.”

“All of the land which HS2 Ltd state they may require, whether it has been fenced-off or not, is currently covered by what is probably the largest single injunction ever seen in the UK. The Green Party believes that the criminalisation of being on such land represents an undemocratic attack on the right to peaceful protest, and it is high-handed actions like this, and the archaic way in which much of this land had been possessed by HS2 Ltd without even paying for it, which further demonstrates why the Green Party must oppose the HS2 project. “Many non-violent protesters have been arrested, and some jailed and the Green Party praises the commitment of non-violent climate campaigners, eco-warriors and habitat defenders who have spent months in camps, tree houses and tunnels, attempting to prevent the destruction to the natural environment which has been caused by HS2. These protests include the UKs longest ever tunnel protest in Swynnerton which lasted 47 days, and a Euston tunnel protest of 31 days.”

“Since 2010, the original HS2 budget of £33bn has spiralled out of control, whilst its functionality, notably the link to HS1 and the Channel Tunnel has been cut. The current situation is that 13 years after HS2 was first proposed, there is still no workable solution for how HS2 would get into Euston station, and whilst the Infrastructure and Projects Authority have rated the HS2 project as ‘amber-red’ for many years, in July 2023 they reported that Phase 1 and 2a had returned to a ‘red’ rating, meaning ‘Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable.

“We are in a climate emergency and HS2 does nothing but add carbon this decade, which is the all important decade to prevent runaway feed-back loops. In fact, due to the land take, loss of mature trees, and millions of tons of concrete and steel, when we factor in construction HS2 will never be carbon neutral. The way the carbon case concerning HS2 has been presented is of significant concern. Each of the three statutory carbon forecasts presented by HS2 Ltd to Parliament, which are prepared in line with BS EN 15978 and BS EN 15804 (Sustainability of construction works) and PAS 2080 (Carbon management in infrastructure), have shown that even on a 120-year forecast HS2 would not reach carbon neutrality due to the embedded carbon of the construction process, minimal modal shift, and the fact HS2 is intended to increase demand for travel. However, this has not stopped HS2 Ltd, away from these statutory frameworks, from expediently greenwashing HS2 as a ‘Zero Carbon Railway’ to the public. The case for HS2 is not supported by science. There are no independent assessments of carbon impact of embodied carbon, operational carbon, loss of trees and hedgerows, or scrutiny of the HS2 Ltd numbers of modal shift. It would be wrong to support any transport infrastructure project in the absence of these data.”

“GPEW policy TR244 states that the Green Party believes that long-distance service provision should not concentrate on high speeds where this will affect local service provision or take up an excessive amount of limited resources, and that the Green Party supports the principle of a new north-south high speed line which would reduce the number of short-haul flights within the UK. However, since the outset HS2 costs have spiralled, with no-one knowing what a ‘fully funded’ HS2 project would cost to build (let alone the cost of subsidising in operation), yet electrification projects have stalled, ticket offices are due to close across the country and rail workers are striking. It is abundantly clear that out of control spending on HS2 is already impacting on local service provision, long before HS2 is due to open.”

“The Green Party believes that HS2 represents business as usual economics, as it is an enclosed system which will not reduce car use or flying, and it has been specially designed to aid airport expansion. The Chief Executives of Birmingham and Manchester Airports have both gone on the record stating that they see HS2 as a mechanism to expand the number of international flights from their airports. Given the limited nature of HS2, it is far from certain that it would lead to a reduction in the number of internal flights.”

“Currently, £135m of taxpayers money is being spent on HS2 every week. The GPEW notes that at a time of cost of living crisis, when public sector pay is being cut in real terms, when the NHS is grossly underfunded, when education is grossly underfunded and many thousands of children rely on school meals for basic nourishment, squandering such vast sums on a project that has gone so awry is abhorrent.”

“We cannot build our way to a sustainable environment, and as such the GPEW reaffirms opposition to the HS2 project.”

Last updated on 2023-10-21 at 11:41