HABITATS of an endangered bird could stop HS2 in its tracks north of Birmingham.
The high-speed rail line will threaten the survival of rare willow tits, conservationists warned last week.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust says the tiny species and other woodland birds are in danger because their habitat is close to the proposed route of the high-speed rail trains.
The £32billion line will pass ancient forests, wetlands and patches of mosses, including some areas that are protected by law because of their scientific value.
They include the Lightshaw Meadows nature reserve near Wigan, a haven for rare birds including willow tits. It is feared bats, water voles, newts and other birds including the rare black redstart, could also be at risk.
Charlotte Harris, director of conservation at Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s clear the government sees high-speed rail as the best deal for the north-west economy, but it’s our job to ensure we get the best deal for wildlife too.”
Up to 11 wildlife sites will be within a 100 metre corridor of the line in the north west, and another 35 are just a kilometre away.
The trust says four sites of special scientific interest are also close to the line, including Holcroft Moss, a wetland reserve near Glazebrook, Warrington.
It says the affected local wildlife sites include ancient woodlands containing trees more than 400 years old.
The trust points out that the route will pass close to Rostherne Mere, near Knutsford, which was designated a national nature reserve because it is one of the finest sites in England for wildlife.
A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “Wherever practicable, the proposed routes for HS2 have been designed to minimise potential impacts on protected habitats, wildlife, historic sites, waterways and rivers.”