High Speed Rail 2

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

BBOWT's Matt Jackson explains to the HS2 Select Committee what the impacts of HS2 will be on wildlife at Calvert Jubilee. Pic: G Strother

The first phase of the High Speed Two (HS2) railway between London and Birmingham was given Royal Assent on 23 February 2017. BBOWT has campaigned strenuously for the impacts of HS2 on wildlife to be reduced, and some significant changes to the route have been made, but the HS2 railway line will still have considerable impacts on wildlife along the entire route as well as our nature reserves Calvert Jubilee and Finemere Wood.

Although the railway is not expected to become operational until 2026, contractors will start work on Calvert Jubilee and Finemere Wood, in February 2017.

Since the proposed route was first published in 2010, BBOWT has worked hard to reduce the impacts of HS2 on wildlife. As soon as the public consultation period opened in February 2011 BBOWT led the local campaign to speak up for wildlife, called for a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the project and encouraged people to take part in public events. More than 2,000 BBOWT members took part in the public consultation.

BBOWT features in an interactive article covering the impacts of HS2 Phase 1 on countryside and communities along the route. Article written filmed by Peter Yeung for The Times and Sunday Times.

BBOWT's campaign

During the last six years BBOWT has campaigned alongside and in partnership with other organisations, notably HS2 Action Alliance and The Woodland Trust, as well as local groups the Chilterns Conservation Board and the North Bucks Bat Group.

BBOWT produced reports and petitions to the Parliamentary Select Committees, appearing three times before Committees to make the case for better wildlife protection.

What BBOWT has done to reduce the impact of HS2 on wildlife

As a direct result of our campaigning with The Wildlife Trusts nationally, and with the help of experts Prof. John Altringham and Dr. Anna Berthinussen from the University of Leeds, we secured:

  • A requirement for a Barn Owl Action Plan to be carried out. Without this Action Plan, phase one of HS2 is expected to kill 1% of the breeding barn owl population in the UK each year.
  • A promise to address shortfalls in the amount of wildlife compensation. We also secured an independent review of the calculations HS2 carried out to monitor their own impact on the natural environment.
  • A commitment for Green Bridges to be built where the line passes through the Bernwood Forest area. These will have 30m wide ‘green’ planting of grass and trees. The HS2 route through Bernwood Forest bisects a colony of Bechstein’s bats, one of the UK’s rarest mammals. BBOWT also secured extensive mitigation proposals for woodland creation in Bernwood Forest.
  • Changes to the Bill to ensure that bats can use the planned underpasses.
  • Alterations to works to ensure parts of our nature reserves are protected, and to ensure visitor access is maintained.

BBOWT worked with organisations, including HS2 Action Alliance and The Woodland Trust, to campaign for specific changes to HS2 route, and changes to the way that large infrastructure proposals are brought forward by Government. As a result of our combined campaigning:

  • Tunnelling was extended under parts of the Chilterns AONB to avoid ancient woodlands that would have been destroyed or bisected by the route.
  • The Government changed the way that information on environmental impacts is presented to MPs before they vote on large projects.
  • The European Commission confirmed that they “remain of the view that large transport infrastructure developments such as this should be addressed….through the process foreseen in the SEA Directive”. We supported a legal challenge, asking the UK Supreme Court to rule that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) should have been carried out.
  • The Government eventually carried out a review of the possible impacts of HS2 on the South West London Waterbodies, a Special Protection Area for wildlife, just before the failure to carry out the review was addressed in the High Court.
  • HS2 Ltd removed ancient woodland impacts from their calculation of “no net loss” to biodiversity. Having Ancient Woodland in the calculations for a scheme approved by Parliament would have given the green light to other developers that they could damage irreplaceable habitats and still claim they were producing “no net loss” of impact.
  • An additional £5m pounds has been provided by HS2 Ltd for tree planting along the route.

BBOWT worked with a range of partner organisations. These include: Warwickshire County Council, Buckinghamshire County Council, Aylesbury Vale District Council, the National Trust, the RSPB, and Wildlife Trusts affected by the proposals.

BBOWT continues to speak up for wildlife along the HS2 route

BBOWT has worked hard to reduce the impacts of HS2 on wildlife, and will carry on pushing for improvements where we can. The Wildlife Trusts are represented on the Ecology Review Group for HS2, which will examine the impacts of the construction and operation of the line. The Ecology Review Group will also ensure that targets for replacing habitats and dealing with protected species impacts are actually met.

Despite all that has been secured, BBOWT continues to be very worried about the approach that the Government took to bringing forward Phase One of HS2. We consistently called for the Government to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the environmental impacts of the whole HS2 route, which would have included assessing alternatives to high speed rail and the current proposed route. In particular we believe that a proper review of alternatives should have been carried out, and that the target for considering wildlife impacts should have been to produce a net gain in biodiversity – in line with other government commitments.

HS2 and BBOWT nature reserves

Phase One of HS2 will have direct impacts on two of our nature reserves: Calvert Jubilee and Finemere Wood. The route of the railway cuts along the eastern side of Calvert Jubilee and the western side of Finemere Wood. The extent of the impact to the meadows at Finemere Wood is not certain yet, as HS2 Ltd has also brought forward proposals to move a railway sidings onto land next to the nature reserve, which will increase the impact even further.

Contractors will be working on both nature reserves starting from February 2017, and are likely to take place throughout the construction of the line. We will keep our web pages for Calvert Jubilee and Finemere Wood up to date with information as we receive it, and strongly advise visitors to check these pages before going to the reserves.

The impacts on both sites are also likely to be increased as a result of East West Rail (EWR2). The main railway route passes over HS2 at Calvert Jubilee, and the EWR2 spur to Aylesbury runs alongside HS2 at Finemere Wood.

The full impacts of EWR2 on our nature reserves will be evident when proposals are published in 2017, but we already know that Royal Assent for HS2 covers the East West Rail spur to Aylesbury.

Read about A Greener Vision for HS2 produced by The Wildlife Trusts, and other Wildlife Trusts affected by HS2. 

The route




Phase 1 of the High Speed Rail 2 route High Speed 2 - route

Phase 1

Click on the image to the right to enlarge.

Phase One of HS2, the London to Birmingham High Speed Rail  route will affect:

  • 2 Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust nature reserves
  • 4 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • 28 Local Wildlife Sites
  • 29 ancient woodlands

Phase 2

The impacts of the second phase of HS2 north from the West Midlands to Leeds and to Manchester are now being assessed in detail by the nine Wildlife Trusts affected by the routes.

HS2: The hidden cost


  • Some protection reinstated for at-risk Local Wildlife Sites

    Friday 27th July, 2018

    Read full story

  • Thousands of people get closer to West Berkshire wildlife

    Monday 2nd July, 2018

    Greenham Common Control Tower

    Read full story

What's on

Canceled - Wild Trax: Birds & Dragonflies

Friday 17th August 2018,
11.00am - 1.00pm

Venue: Wilstone Reservoir

Are you aged 14 - 18? Do you live in Buckinghamshire or Hertfordshire? Then come and join our Wild Trax event! Join our Reserves Team and get a taste for how to identify & survey dragonflies and birds living at the stunning Wilstone Reservoir. You’ll learn where to look and what to look for, as well as some basics of identification for these two charismatic groups. Please wear walking boots or trainers and clothes you don't mind getting a bit wet or dirty.

See all events

A-Z of Wildlife

Photo of Bechstein's Bat

Name: Bechstein's Bat

Scientific name: Myotis bechsteinii

Category: Mammals

View full A-Z