Updates: What’s currently happening with the HS2 protests around Euston

After a days-long stalemate, two of the activists protesting the construction of the High Speed 2 railway line have left the tunnel under Euston Square Gardens and are now under arrest.

Environmental activists opposing the building of the High Speed 2 railway line have continued their protests on Euston Road after clashes with police and bailiffs in recent days.

Protestors of the HS2 Rebellion group dug a tunnel under Euston Square Gardens and have camped out in it for over a week. Despite a judge refusing to stop the eviction of these protestors, several have remained inside the tunnel, including 18-year-old Blue Sandford and ex-Swansea Uni lecturer Larch Maxey, pledging to remain there ‘as long as it takes’.

However, on the morning of February 5 2021, bailiffs have drilled down to connect to the protestors’ tunnel, thought to be over 30m long, to forcibly evict them. One of the campaigners, Lazer Sandford, is thought to have secured himself to the tunnel by putting his arm through a ‘metal arm tube’ and burying it in concrete. Meanwhile, Dr Maxey is making repeated requests to monitor the air quality in the tunnel as protestors fear suffocation, but it is unclear as to whether authorities will provide this. Conditions in the tunnel have been highly unsafe, with reports of liquid mud, oxygen shortages, and internal collapses.

However, Sandford, 20, has now voluntarily left the tunnel in exchange for supplies such as sanitary products and lights for the remaining protestors. His lock-on reportedly took over 18 hours to remove. 17-year-old Rollie also left the tunnels due to ill health, according to activist group HS2 Rebellion. Both campaigners have now been arrested.

Others have moved further up Euston Road to continue voicing their opposition to a project which would endanger thousands of acres of ancient woodland. A report by The Wildlife Trusts claims that at least 108 ancient woodlands will be destroyed, as well as 693 wildlife sites. HS2 Ltd has committed to planting trees to counteract this destruction, pledging seven million new trees between London and Birmingham. However, environmental activists argue that older trees are ecologically and economically far more beneficial; one mature oak tree can produce hundreds of thousands of litres of oxygen annually.

Trees in a previously green Euston Square Gardens have already been felled. As part of the HS2 project, the area will be converted into a taxi rank, despite Euston Road being one of the most polluted places in Britain. Prior to the pandemic, thousands of students and workers in the Euston area risked a reduced quality of life due to exceptionally high levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Those above ground have transformed Euston Road with signs such as ‘#HS2ForTheFew’ displayed on St Pancras Church and ‘Homes, Habitats, Healthcare, Human Rights, Not HS2’ on Friends House, opposite Euston Station.

Other peaceful objections to the HS2 have seemingly been ignored by the government. In response to a petition for Parliament to: ‘Stop work on HS2 immediately and hold a new vote to repeal the legislation’, the government responded: ‘HS2 will provide essential North-South connectivity, greater capacity and shorter journey times. This railway will play a vital role in delivering the Government’s carbon net zero objectives.’ The petition still has not been debated in Parliament, despite the fact that petitions reaching 100,000 signatures are almost always debated. As of 5 February 2021, the petition stands at 148,450 signatures.

However, police at the scene haven’t just targeted those protesting. Journalist Denise Laura Baker was arrested on Saturday 30 January despite showing her NUJ press card, whilst barrister Paul Powlesland claims that he was fined £200 under Covid-19 regulations during his assistance of activists. On Twitter, Powlesland describes being pushed and threatened with arrest as he took pictures and spoke to witnesses. This follows a growing trend in authority attacks on press freedom and adds to fears of those worried about unprecedented police power in the wake of the pandemic.


With severe consequences not just for neighbouring UCL students but also for England’s thousands of precious woodlands, the activist-coined ‘Battle for Euston’ has truly established itself as part of a larger national fight against destructive environmental policy.