The Government must consider the environmental impact of any high-speed link, the Ramblers said. Photo: Southeastern Railway CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Government must consider the environmental impact of any high-speed link, the Ramblers said. Photo: Southeastern Railway CC-BY-SA-2.0

Britain’s biggest walkers’ charity called for a rethink on the proposed high-speed railway line between London and Birmingham, saying it would affect at least 150 footpaths.

The planned route of the line, dubbed HS2 by the Government, runs through the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty.

The Ramblers said the Government must demonstrate the project is the best option for future transport strategy saying, while they agreed on the need for green initiatives, the impact on the environment and rights of way was paramount.

The call followed the release of a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs that said the project was ‘economically flawed’.

Ramblers chief executive Tom Franklin said: “The report has highlighted a variety of problems with the HS2 initiative, from economic flaws to questions of environmental impact.

“We called on the Government to demonstrate, clearly and overwhelmingly, that HS2 is the best answer to Britain’s transport woes, and yet the definitive case for HS2 has still not been made.

“Whilst we support improvements to public transport, successful green transport must work with our countryside, not against it. With the benefits of HS2 becoming increasingly unclear and the damage to this beautiful walking country all too obvious, it may be time for the government to rethink its strategy on HS2.”

The Ramblers said Britain’s plans for high-speed rail must be fully integrated as part of a national strategy; taking into account the adverse impact on access and the natural environment and agreeing steps to minimise their effect at an early stage.

They said the plans for HS2 have not yet considered the number of footpaths affected by the route nor what solutions could be found to lessen the impact.

A spokesperson said: “It is suggested that such detail will not be looked into until the final Government go ahead is issued, by which point it may be too late.

“The Ramblers again calls on the Government to clarify the advantages of HS2 and urges that the full impact of the route, to walkers, residents and the countryside, be taken into account before the decision is finalised.”

The Ramblers are supporting the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Right Lines Charter which sets out four principles ‘for doing High Speed Rail well’.

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