HS2 protesters warned they could drown or suffocate in underground tunnels

Ted Hennessey, PA
·2-min read

Police have arrested five anti-HS2 railway protesters involved with occupying a central London park, as officials warn those still in underground tunnels are at risk of suffocation or drowning.

At least three activists were handcuffed for breaching coronavirus regulations at the scene in Euston Square Gardens on Thursday morning, according to the Metropolitan Police.

A further two were arrested under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation Act).

The HS2 Rebellion campaigners involved in the protest, said to include veteran environmental activist Swampy, claim the small green space near Euston Station will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold to developers as part of plans for the high-speed railway.

At least four protesters remain in a 100-foot network of tunnels dug underground which took months to build.

The campaign group released a video from one of the tunnel occupiers, who claimed to have had a sleepless night because of the noise above.

However, the National Eviction Team has said the “very dangerous” tunnels could collapse.

A statement read: “The unlawful activists appear to have put themselves in danger of a further tunnel collapse, and potentially of intercepting nearby gas and water pipes, leading to risks of suffocation, flooding and drowning.”

A HS2 protester catches a food parcel that has been given to him in trees at the encampment in Euston Square Gardens
A HS2 protester catches a food parcel that has been given to him in trees at the encampment in Euston Square Gardens (Aaron Chown/PA)

It also said the activists’ “inexperience” puts them at risk.

Bailiffs from the High Court Enforcement (HCE) group, began evicting protesters on Wednesday and continued to take down the makeshift camp on Thursday.

The HCE group said on Wednesday evening its team was adopting a “safety-led” approach to removing activists and it would “take time, careful planning and the work of skilled personnel to resolve the situation in a safe and controlled manner”.

Bailiffs used a cherry-picker to take at least two people down from a wooden platform attached to a large tree.

Supporters on the ground were shouting at the bailiffs, while others chanted “HS2, shame on you”.

Protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network
Protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network (Aaron Chown/PA)

Another two activists managed to evade bailiffs after climbing more than 60ft to hang from a branch with just a rope.

Protester Larch Maxey, 48, speaking from inside one of the tunnels, said: “So, we’re into day two of this tunnelling escapade.

“The hardest thing now is the noise. They’re constantly working 24 hours a day and making loads of noise with loud machinery.”

Mr Maxey, who has been living in the park since August last year, told the PA news agency there are no plans to leave “any time soon”.

He said digging work on the two tunnels began in September last year and at least two other demonstrators were elsewhere in there.