Tree protectors and environmental activists, who have dug and occupied a 100-foot tunnel under Central London protesting against HS2, say they won’t leave till the high speed rail link is stopped.
Dr Larch Maxey, (pictured above right), who is currently staying in the tunnel, spoke to ELN about the challenges the tunnellers are facing and the reports claiming that protesters are putting their own lives in great danger: “Don’t believe anything they say. They say HS2 is good for the environment, it is going to help us reduce carbon, it is all lies.
“The tunnels are absolutely safe, we have been building them for months, we have decades of experience of tunnels in the UK and there’s never been an accident. Things are much better today.”
Not leaving anytime soon
Asked about the number of people who are at the moment in the tunnels he replied: “We are not disclosing that information at the moment. We just say that there are at least five. We don’t plan to come out anytime soon. Without assurances about the environmental impact of HS2, I will stay here.
“I communicate with my family. There is no constant communication but it is not just us in the tunnels. There are a lot of people everywhere around the park who are supporting us. We have food and water supplies down here.”
Howard Rees, a member of the group HS2 Rebellion, spoke to ELN about the current conditions for the tunnellers: “Obviously, people have been in the tunnel day in day out for months digging it and have been absolutely fine.”
“Problems in the tunnel began when our drain system was removed. But that notwithstanding there are no problems in the tunnel. There haven’t been any major tunnel collapses. It’s obviously not comfortable in there for people, nobody likes to be muddy particularly but there is no danger, it is perfectly safe. I have been in the tunnel and it is incredibly well-built.”
He added: “The team has used serious construction materials, proper joists. You cannot say there is no danger. Anyone who is underground anytime, there is always a risk, but they have done everything you could realistically expect them to mitigate for that.”
The tunnellers had some of their kit seized when HS2 began proceedings to evict them. But by law the project has had to ensure the protestors are safe and as such, have installed new pumps to ensure adequate airflow.
“We had a system of pipes and fans to make sure that the tunnels remained aerated. I believe those are now being removed by the bailiffs and replaced with their own. And their own should obviously be of a higher standard than ours, because ours are fashioned from household items, it’s not specialist kit.
“It is their responsibility. Once they have begun eviction proceedings, they have a duty of care for the people in the tunnel. It is their responsibility in law to provide us with air. And obviously, they are doing that. Because not to, having removed our own devices, people would have been murdered”, he said.
In a statement, HS2 Ltd said: “When taking possession of land and removing illegal trespassers, the safety of all concerned is always HS2’s first priority. The clearance of Euston Square Gardens has required careful planning and dangerous work by highly-skilled experts to try and remove protestors from perilous situations in trees and underground.
“The activists at Euston have dug a crude and poorly-constructed tunnel. In the past 24 hours, the weather conditions have worsened and further heavy rain and sleet is forecast, which could lead to the tunnel becoming even more unstable.”
“We are concerned that the occupants of the tunnel are now impeding efforts to help them, shutting themselves off underground, and preventing us from checking air quality as we supply them with air. As carbon-dioxide can build up in the tunnel, they are putting themselves in even greater danger.”
“Highly-experienced and specialist skilled professionals are leading this operation. HS2, paramedics and the Metropolitan Police have all spoken to those in the tunnel to warn them of the dangers they have put themselves in, but still, they refuse to come out. The London Fire Brigade have attended site to prepare any rescue plans.
“These activists have had multiple opportunities to remove themselves from the danger they have put themselves in. For their own safety and the safety of our staff and the emergency service personnel at Euston, we urge them to get out of the tunnel.”