2.1 It should be noted within the biodiversity section of the Monitoring Strategy on page 177 of the Environmental Statement that a large body of valuable information is constantly being added to through project level Environmental Impact Assessments. This information should be made available to the National Biodiversity Network so as this information can be put into the public domain.
2.2 On page 8 of the Environmental Statement the following text should be inserted:
"Scotland also has a diverse geology, and many features are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). These designations are recognition of the importance of Scotlandâ€™s geodiversity plays in Scotlandâ€™s broader environment. Soil and geological landform and the natural processes associated with them, such as geomorphological sediment transfer, should be protected when considering the provision of future transport services and infrastructure."
2.3 On page 9 of the Environmental Statement the second paragraph should be replaced by the following text:
"The effect of climate change includes rising temperatures, increased rainfall, rising sea levels, less snow, increased storms and high winds. The environmental consequences of climate change that are likely in the future include increased flood risk, coastal erosion and landslides and loss the of species and habitats."
2.4 On page 16 under the Under â€˜Treatment of Adverse Environmental Effectsâ€™, the following bullet point should be inserted:
"Ensure transport infrastructure placed within dynamic environmental systems such as river floodplains and areas of coastal erosion is done so with recognition of how climate change may affect them."
2.5 On page 100 of the Environmental Statement, the following text should be inserted Soils & Geology, Future Trends section:
"It is anticipated that future trends may see potential changes in geo-morphological processes as a result of climate change. It is thought that climate change will alter geo-morphological processes due to the increased severity and frequency of severe rainfall events, flooding events and an overall rise in sea levels."
2.6 In relation to intervention D3d, it is not anticipated that any of the potential landscape and visual impacts would have an impact upon the Bin Quarry SSSI. It is not considered that the inclusion of this designation has any impact on the overall assessment of the intervention as detailed on page 115 of the Environmental Statement.
2.7 In relation to intervention D15, the Aldclune and Invervack Meadows SSSI should be considered alongside the other SSSIs that have been identified. It is not considered that the inclusion of this designation has any impact on the overall assessment of the intervention as detailed on page 116 of the Environmental Statement.
On page 144 of Appendix 5 â€” Environmental Assessment, the Aldclune and Invervack Meadows SSSI should be listed alongside the SSSIs. The assessment of this intervention states that, the actual form and location of the rail enhancements is not yet known, but that it is considered that sensitive sitting and design, in-line with environmental legislation is essential in protecting designated areas. Aldclune and Invervack Meadows SSSI should assessed alongside the Alvie, Craigellachie, Creagdheh, Mill Dam, Craig Tronach and Struan Woods SSSIs when considering this intervention, as avoidance of these nationally important areas would significantly reduce the potential impacts of the intervention.
2.8 In relation to intervention D16, all reference to Calvine and Blair Atholl should be removed. This has no impact upon the overall assessment on page 123 of the Environmental Statement of the intervention as the detailed environmental assessment, detailed in Appendix 5, is correct. However, the first paragraph on page 124 of the Environmental Statement should be replaced with the following text:
"The intervention was not expected to have any substantial effects on air quality or CO2e emissions as whilst stop-start traffic would be reduced around the Raigmore Junction, it is likely that such a reduction would be cancelled out by an overall increase in traffic speeds as modelling indicates that levels of NO2 and PM10 would remain broadly unchanged."
2.9 In relation to intervention D18, on page 148 of Appendix 5 of the Environmental Statement, the text of the Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna sectionâ€™s assessment should be replaced with the following. It is not considered that the inclusion of this designation has any impact on the overall assessment of the intervention as detailed on page 117 of the Environmental Statement.
"Short and Long Term, Regional, Uncertain Minor to Major Adverse: The area in which the proposed intervention lies is subject to international and national biodiversity designations. The Appropriate Assessment screening process has determined that only effects to the Montrose Basin SPA, Ramsar and SSSI and the River South Esk SAC need to be considered at the international level. While the rail network crosses other sites such as the Barry Link SAC and River Tay and, which falls under multiple designations, the only works in these areas would be limited to signalling upgrades. A new bridge over Montrose Bay could have potential substantial effects on the designated site.
At the strategic level the Information to Inform the Appropriate Assessment concludes that the intervention could be progressed in such a way that would not affect the integrity of any designated Natura 2000 or Ramsar sites. However it was important to note that if the intervention was carried forward in the future, it would be subject to Regulation 48 of the Habitats Regulations. With this in mind the intervention, at a strategic level, was assessed as being potentially major adverse.
In addition, Barry Links SSSI (south of Arbroath); Rickle Craig to Scurdie Ness SSSI (north of Arbroath), Elliot Links SSSI (by Arbroath) and Cove SSSI (south of Aberdeen) all lie adjacent to or within very close proximity of the railway line. There was potential for adverse effects on these nationally designated sites during both construction and operation; however the scale and nature of these effects would depend on the precise location of the works, particularly the works to passing loops, which would require the greatest offline works. The location of these would be constrained by issues such as timetabling and topography. Effects include potential disturbance to habitats and species during construction, as well as permanent land-take, and it was recommended that works within or adjacent to these sites are avoided if at all possible. The Appropriate Assessment Screening Report notes that severance effects of increased rail traffic volume and higher speeds where not considered to be a concern."
2.10 In relation to intervention D19, it was not possible to assess the specific impacts on the Red Squirrel populations within the Den of Fowlis SSSI, due to a lack of detail concerning the routes and location of the relief road. The issue is however noted, and impacts on notable species, such as Red Squirrel, will be recognised in the design of interventions at a project level. It is not considered that the inclusion of this designation has any impact on the overall assessment of the intervention as detailed on page 118 of the Environmental Statement.