Evaluating the environmental impact of a major transport infrastructure project: the Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link
Environmental assessment is now an internationally accepted methodology for evaluating the effects of proposed major transport infrastructure projects on the environment. Within the UK, both the Channel Tunnel and the proposed high-speed rail link project have a statutory requirement to produce an environmental assessment of the immediate and long-term effects of construction and operation. This emphasis on impact assessment and mitigation is part of a growing concern for the effects of transport on the environment. This paper examines the continued controversy associated with the route of the proposed Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link and British Rail's attempt to evaluate various route options in order to minimize the long-term impact. The paper considers the origins of the rail link project in relation to British Rail's obligation to plan, construct and operate a high-speed rail link to meet the forecast demand for Channel Tunnel rail travel by 1998. The significance of environmental assessment and its role in shaping British Rail's environmental policy for the rail link project is examined in relation to the process of selecting environmentally acceptable route corridors through Kent. This is followed by a discussion of two route-long environmental impacts. The extent to which British Rail's environmental assessment fulfils the criteria for environmental impact assessment is also evaluated. © 1994.