Hundreds of acres of countryside could be ripped up and replaced by roads needed to build the 250mph Birmingham to London high speed rail line, protesters have claimed.
Campaigners fear there will be more miles of roads than actual railway track if building work for the line goes ahead as planned in 2017.
The high speed link will pass through countryside in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, cutting many villages in two.
Protesters from Warwickshire voiced their concerns about the line after meeting top civil servants involved in the project.
They accused the Government of ploughing ahead with the £17 billion scheme in spite of the commercial problems facing the country’s first high speed line serving the Channel Tunnel.
Joe Rukin, who leads the Kenilworth Action Group, said he was concerned senior engineers appeared to be taking an unsympathetic view of the countryside. Mr Rukin said the true impact on rural life communities has so far been hidden because scores of access roads needed to construct the railway have not been highlighted in the proposals.
The High Speed 2 Action Alliance said it feared no lessons had been learned from the construction of the country’s first high speed line, which runs from London to Ashford in Kent, which led to more miles of road being built than railway.
“A lot of people don’t realise that a huge amount of land will be sacrificed for the construction on top a 75 metre footprint occupied by the track itself,” said Mr Rukin.
“The worry is that it will be used as a lever to get new permanent roads through some of the most precious green belt in the Midlands.”
Engineers confirmed in the meeting that nothing will be known about the amount of land needed for construction access until the first hybrid bill is submitted to parliament in 2013, two years after the public consultation has ended.
At the meeting with HS2 Ltd, the private company established by the Government to promote the project, campaigners said they were also shocked to hear HS2’s senior sponsors say the rail line could reinforce London’s economy rather than redistributing wealth.
Officials at the meeting said more work needed to be done to look at the economic benefits of the line but that work would not be completed until after a public consultation. A six-month consultation is due to begin next spring, detailing the route of the line, after the coalition Government confirmed it was committed to plans earlier this year.
Work could begin as early as 2017 and the route could be completed by 2025.
A spokesman for HS2 said: “The guiding principle would be to seek to minimise the impact of construction traffic on local roads, making use of the line of the route itself where possible.
"The detailed engineering, environmental, and business case evidence that underpins the Secretary of State’s considerations will be available for the public to read before the public consultation, during which people will be able to voice their opinions.”