Assessing the environmental impact of the proposed HS2 project (the high speed railway connecting London with Birmingham) was, because of its size and scope, a process that involved complex collaboration across multiple environmental disciplines and a number of different stakeholder organisations.
The Ecology Consultancy’s involvement goes right back to the very beginning of the project when the Department for Transport started to consider the concept of a new north-south railway in 2007. This initiative evolved, in 2009, into the formation of HS2 Ltd, which appointed The Ecology Consultancy (working through Temple Group) to provide ecological input to the HS2 Phase 1 Appraisal of Sustainability. We were asked to provide initial scoping and to review the design options to assess the ecological impact on designated sites and habitats along a wide range of route concepts. The Ecology Consultancy was involved in reviewing large national datasets containing information on designated sites and important habitats, which was supported by state-of-the-art mapping procedures and survey work. Our dedicated GIS (Geographic Information Systems) team carried out a proximity analysis of sites designated for their importance to nature conservation, which assisted in providing a better understanding of environmental impacts across a wide area.
HS2 Phase 1 – Contract extended
The initial review led to The Ecology Consultancy being contracted in 2012 to support development of the Hybrid Bill for HS2 Phase 1 in conjunction with ERM, Temple (now our parent company) and Mott McDonald (which together form the ETM Consortium). Our team of ecologists played a key part in collecting baseline ecology data as well as assessing and reporting for the route-wide Environmental Statement which was submitted in October 2013. At a total of over 8000 survey sites, HS2 Phase 1 is the largest project that The Ecology Consultancy has had a key involvement in to date.
Following the success of The Ecology Consultancy’s input into the Environmental Statement and ongoing ecological survey work, our contract has since been further extended to 2016 to support HS2 Phase 1. We are continuing to collect baseline ecological data, notably further survey work for bats in the Bernwood Forest near the Calvert and Radstone areas. In addition, we are engaged in technical work streams including ongoing design refinement and supporting the Select Committee consultation process. We are also providing ecological advice in preparation for construction delivery.
The project is managed by Tom McArthur, one of our Principal Ecologists, and Jon Riley our Technical Director, working with a team of 20 ecologists from our own permanent staff, as well as 10 seasonal field assistants and 20 sub-contractors. Tom also collaborates with more than 30 specialists from ETM. Because of the scale of the project the Phase 1 route has been divided into four geographic sections, with different ecology consultancies taking the lead for each of those sections. The Ecology Consultancy, as part of the ETM consortium, acts as the lead ecological consultant in relation to a section of the HS2 Phase 1 route between the Colne Valley and Lower Boddington, approximately 90km of railway. Other consultancies manage other route sections and support HS2 Ltd with environmental coordination. With such a large, multi-faceted team contributing to a single product, it was important that methodologies and protocols were designed for both surveying and subsequent ecological reporting, that would result in high-quality, closely comparable outputs which could be understood across all sections of the route.
Working with multi-disciplinary teams
Although the management structure of HS2 is comparable to other large infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail, it is the first national project to have such a vast range of multi-disciplinary involvement, with input from archaeologists, agricultural experts, social scientists, heritage experts, and ecologists. The Ecology Consultancy are proud to have been instrumental in the delivery of such a large project to date and continue to provide timely and high quality consultancy services to the HS2 project, more recently working with Temple Group on the Appraisal of Sustainability for HS2 Phase 2.