Understanding the mental health and wellbeing effects of the HS2 rail line development

Engineer with blueprints inspects construction process on railway, photo by APchanel/Adobe Stock

APchanel/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

Little is known about the impact of large transport projects on people’s mental health and wellbeing, and what we do know is mainly about transport projects once they are finished, focusing on people who use the new transport system. We know less about how the planning and construction of these projects may affect mental health and wellbeing, particularly for people who experience the inconvenience of planning and construction stages but do not benefit by using the transport system. Without understanding how large transport projects might affect mental health and wellbeing it is difficult to know how to support people who live near them.

Our goal is to understand how the High-Speed Rail 2 development (HS2), a large national transport project, might affect the mental health and wellbeing of people who live near the railway line. We will investigate whether any impacts on mental health and wellbeing vary by groups within these communities, including people who already have mental health conditions.

HS2 is a good opportunity for learning about how these projects may affect mental health and wellbeing, because different stages can be studied, and there will be people who are potentially affected by the route but are unlikely to use HS2 because there will be no station close to them.

How are we helping?

We are exploring how HS2 may affect mental health and wellbeing over time, from initial planning to the point where it is being used by passengers. We are doing so in three ways:

  1. Surveying people asking questions about their physical and mental health and wellbeing, including things that may affect this like having a job or good relationships with friends and family;
  2. Interviewing and holding group meetings with people who complete the survey, as well as local GPs and nursing staff, to discuss issues raised in the survey in more detail; and
  3. Analysing anonymous information that GP practices provide to the government about the health and wellbeing of their patients. We will do this multiple times during the development of HS2.

This information will tell us whether the mental health and wellbeing of people living near HS2 changes over time (during planning, construction, and use), and we will compare this to changes in other communities that are very similar apart from not being near HS2. If changes over time are the same no matter how close people live to HS2, then this suggests it is not the cause of any changes.

We will involve members of the public throughout this project. We will involve two members of the public in our research team who will organise an Advisory Group including people from communities near HS2. The group will work with the research team to decide how to collect and analyse data, understand study results, and share results with people potentially affected by HS2 or who are interested in health impacts of transport projects in general.

What's next?

What we learn from this study will contribute to the design and assessment of later phases of the HS2 scheme. Overall, this research will develop a new way of understanding how transport projects can affect people’s mental health and wellbeing and help to develop ways of supporting communities where these projects are built.