HS2 protesters reportedly still inside secret tunnel network despite evictions

PA

Protesters campaigning against the HS2 rail development are continuing to dig tunnels in a central London park despite evictions taking place, fellow demonstrators have claimed.

At least four people are said to still be in the 100 foot network of tunnels that activists have dug under Euston Square Gardens as bailiffs attempt to clear the area.

HS2 Rebellion, an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned high-speed railway, claims the small green space outside Euston Station will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold to developers.

A spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd said the company could not comment on the specifics of protesters' activities as it is yet to take possession of the land, but that "illegal" actions could be a danger to people's safety.

Bailiffs from the National Eviction Team began evicting protesters in the early hours of Wednesday morning and continued to take down the camp throughout the day.

But several activists remained in park, with some hiding in tents placed high-up in trees, while others sat on the roof of a make-shift wooden camp in the south-side of the site.

A spokesman for the so-called Euston Square Garden protection camp told the PA news agency that four people were still in the tunnel network and that the "plan was to keep digging".

He said that there was "more than one tunnel" and that they were about 15 feet deep underground.

An 18-year-old protester from Hendon in north-west London, who only gave his name as Al, claimed at least seven people were still underground.

Speaking from the roof of the makeshift camp, he told the PA news agency: "Activists right now, as we speak, are digging further passages, so it will take the National Enforcement (Eviction) Team longer to evict us."

Enforcement officers used aerial platforms to dismantle the tents erected in the park's trees, and had managed to coax three protesters down by 2pm.

Activist Martin Andryjankczyk, 20, from Erdington in Birmingham, said he had been carried out of the park by enforcement agents earlier in the day.

He said: "This is a HS2 rebellion protest camp, we are trying to protect those trees from HS2 and stop them from being cut down.

"They (the remaining demonstrators) aren't going to give up that easily. This camp will take at least a week or two to evict."

A community notification issued in December detailed the need to build an "interim" taxi rank on the east side of Euston Square Gardens to support the construction of a proposed HS2 station.

Construction work is due to begin this month and continue until December.

Tunnellers had worked "around the clock" using pickaxes, shovels and buckets to create the network, code-named Calvin, HS2 Rebellion said.

With the help of local residents, soil from digging has been used to "fortify the barricades" at the network's entrance and insulate the "pallet fortress" to keep tunnellers warm as they sleep between shifts.

Tunnels are supported by wooden joists and thick boards to prevent collapse and inside there are stashes of food and water, protesters said.

HS2 Rebellion said an "illegal eviction" of the camp began shortly before 5am on Wednesday.

It said bailiffs from HS2's private contractor, the National Eviction Team, "entered the camp under cover of darkness" and that "tree protectors" had entered the tunnels and were "prepared for a lengthy siege".

The group previously said they believed they "can hold out in the tunnel for several weeks and hope in this time that a court will rule against HS2 for breaking the law by attempting an eviction without a court order and during the national coronavirus lockdown".

The Metropolitan Police said officers were also at the site to prevent any breach of the peace but added any potential eviction would lie with the landowner.

One protester, Blue Sandford, 18, from London, said: "I'm angry that the Government is still effectively ignoring this crisis despite declaring a climate and ecological emergency two years ago.

"I'm in this tunnel because they are irresponsibly putting my life at risk from the climate and ecological emergency.

"They are behaving in a way that is so reckless and unsafe that I don't feel they are giving us any option but to protest in this way to help save our own lives and the lives of all the people round the world."

Construction work started in September on phase one of HS2 from London to Birmingham.

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