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HS2 could increase flood risk, MPs fear



Two senior conservative MPs have raised fears that the controversial HS2 rail line will increase the risk of flooding for homes along its route.

Coming after months of severe flooding in many areas of the UK, these latest concerns are unlikely to be well received by critics of the high-speed rail project.

After seeing his constituency affected by recent flooding, David Lidington, the MP for Aylesbury, has written to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin asking for reassurance that HS2 would provide protection against flooding. 

He expressed concern that the project would involve building on farmland that currently acts as natural flood defences.

“You will not be surprised to hear the residents are very fearful that the construction and operation of HS2 across the floodplain close to their homes will add significantly to the flood risk,” he wrote. 

“It is indisputable that both construction and operation will require farmland to be taken which for now soaks up surface water and which ought to act as natural flood protection for my constituents.

“People in this part of Aylesbury are sceptical about the assurances from HS2 that they will design in effective flood protection measures,” he added.

Cheryl Gillan, the conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, has also written to the British Geological Survey to ask for more information about the potential impact of HS2 in her area. 

Speaking after floods minister Dan Rogerson admitted that the flood risk caused by HS2 has not been fully assessed, she said, “You begin to worry what the risks associated with this development are.

“You would have thought that [a flood risk assessment] was a basic part of any environmental investigation.”

The proposed route for the first phase of HS2, which will run from London to Birmingham, runs through a number of flood plains and will require seven rivers to be diverted.

The company behind HS2 has said that it plans to mitigate an increase in flood risk through the use of water management techniques and viaducts.

A project spokesperson said, “During the recent wet weather we have been carrying out visual inspections where the planned line between London and Birmingham crosses watercourses. We will continue with these types of surveys where access has been made available as part of the route development.

“HS2 will be designed to remain operational during a one in 1,000-year flood event. Put simply, that means the railway is being built so that it can withstand just the sort of extreme weather that we have seen up and down and the country recently.”

Opponents of the HS2 project also hold a number of other concerns about its potential environmental impact.

Campaigners have said that the official environmental impact assessment of the project demonstrates a shocking disregard for England’s woodland and wildlife. 

These comments came after it was revealed 43 areas of ancient woodland would be threatened by the development, although this figure has now been revised by the Woodland Trust to be 49.

Critics have also refuted claims that the rail line will help the UK lower its carbon emissions, pointing to a paper by HS2 Ltd that says carbon emissions caused by the line will outweigh carbon savings over the first 60 years of operation. 

However, supporters have claimed that the north of England will be badly affected if the project does not go ahead. Some MPs have argued that only HS2 can provide the increased capacity that UK’s rail lines need.

Last month, a legal bid to put the project under further scrutiny was rejected by the Supreme Court.

More reading:

MPs call for HS2 money to repair railways in flood-battered south-west

The north will ‘underperform economically’ without HS2, says chair

HS2: opponents to high-speed rail link defeated in Supreme Court

UK must press on with HS2 rail network, MPs urge

HS2 hybrid bill sheds light on the rail network’s environmental impact