Extinction Rebellion Wigan activists hold HS2 protest at train station
Climate change activists stood outside Wigan North Western train station to demonstrate against the high-speed rail link.
The Wigan protest was part of a national campaign showing dissatisfaction with the controversial infrastructure project.
The XR Wigan activists had placards calling for “NHS not HS2”, highlighting the cost of the new transport links and suggesting where they think the money would be better spent.
Green campaigners have also criticised HS2’s impact on wildlife habitats such as woodlands and cast doubt on how much benefit residents in places like Wigan will actually get from the completed line.
XR Wigan said the events of 2020 have further undermined the case for HS2, suggesting that with more people working from home and levels of travelling reduced on public health grounds improvements to broadband and internet systems would be of greater benefit.
Alan Woods from XR Wigan said: “At a time when local business are desperately in need of funding to survive the effects of the pandemic and with the new measures introduced in Wigan and the North West, spending £108bn plus on HS2 is crazy, especially with Covid and so many people working from home full time.
“The public needs to know what is happening with this, with all that money being spent and the destruction of woodland and wildlife. Just who will it benefit?”
Campaigners say the HS2 construction work is set to destroy more than 100 areas of old woodland.
The London to Birmingham section currently under construction would shave around 20 minutes off journey times, although the HS2 project will also create extra capacity to take trains away from the West Coast Main Line.
Julie Hotchkiss from XR Wigan said: “When ancient woods are removed, it’s not just the trees, you also destroy the habitat, which is home for other plants, fungus, insects and birds.
“Planting new saplings elsewhere is simply not enough, it’s like replacing a furnished house with a pile of bricks.
“The government should be investing in accessible renewable transport for all residents, not a single superfast train for a small elite.
“If UK government is going to meet its climate change targets, diesel trains will have to be phased out within the next 30 years, which means all existing rail lines will have to be electrified.
“A major infrastructure project like that would create jobs in this area and be beneficial for the environment.”