Anti-HS2 tunnel protest at Euston ends as final activist leaves
The anti-HS2 tunnel protest close to Euston station in central London has finally ended after the ninth climate activist emerged from underground.
The subterranean environmental protest has lasted for 31 days, one of the longest in UK protest history, although not quite breaking the record of the 40-day tunnel protest in Essex in 2000.
The nine activists involved ranged in age from 16 to 48 and came from diverse backgrounds. All say that the HS2 project is causing environmental damage including to 108 ancient woodlands.
HS2 disputes this and says that according to its assessments, 43 of the country’s 52,000 ancient woodlands will be affected by HS2’s route between London and Crewe, with 80% of the total area of these remaining untouched, meaning just 0.005% of ancient woodland will be lost, a fraction of comparable road projects.
HS2 said that despite the tunnel protest, its work on the controversial high-speed rail link had continued.
Three of the activists who emerged from the tunnel on Thursday – Isla Sandford, 18, known as Blue; Dan Hooper, known as Swampy; and a third, 22-year-old protester – were to appear at Westminster magistrates court on Friday morning charged with aggravated trespass. Several of the protesters who previously emerged from the tunnel face similar charges.
During the protest there have been four high court hearings, which resulted in HS2 being granted a possession order for the Euston site and injunctions against protesters in the tunnel.
An HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 has now successfully taken full possession of Euston Square Gardens removing all nine illegal trespassers in the underground tunnels safely. From the outset HS2 staff, our agents and the emergency service personnel have acted with safety as their utmost priority, risking their own lives in order to ensure the wellbeing of those who placed themselves in such a dangerous situation underground.
“HS2 accepts the right to peaceful protest, but when the UK is dealing with the pandemic, the actions of these individuals have put additional pressure on public services, including the NHS, Metropolitan police and the London fire brigade. Additionally, HS2 staff and our agents were subject to numerous incidences of violence and criminal activity during this operation, including alleged theft and assault.”
The anti-HS2 protesters said the departure of the final protester from the tunnel marked a key moment in the struggle to stop HS2. A spokesperson for the HS2 Rebellion campaign said: “We hope the increased awareness raised at Euston will help to save hundreds of other green spaces, ancient woodlands, wildlife habitats, homes and businesses between London and Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds.
“Our question to Boris Johnson is: when will he act to end ecocide projects which are not in line with the government’s own commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050? HS2 will never be carbon neutral in its 120-year lifespan. If he doesn’t act now to stop HS2 and other mega-projects such as Heathrow’s third runway, open coalmines and mass road building, when will he?”