Written by Fin Deane (@findeane16)
HS2 is the planned extension of British high-speed railway networks which were developed in the early to mid-2000s. It is intended to connect London to the North of England by constructing new rail infrastructure across the country, albeit at a catastrophic cost to the taxpayer and to the environment.
HS2 is now three years behind schedule, almost £40 billion over budget, and taking a destructive toll on ecosystems across our nation. HS2 Ltd. (the company responsible for its construction) has on numerous occasions grossly violated the law, including on the 6th of December 2019 when they began tree clearance works at a Buckingham nature reserve without notifying the local Wildlife Trusts or the general public prior, resulting in about 20 hectares of illegal destruction to an open water habitat. HS2 Ltd. are ruthlessly destroying nature reserves and ecosystems across England, endlessly breaching the trust of the general public, and harming peaceful activists via means of torture and violence.
In 2019, the costs of HS2 construction stood at £80 billion- making it the most costly infrastructure project in British history.
By comparison, in 2011 government spending estimates for HS2 only stood at £40 billion. This means that HS2 construction costs have doubled in the last decade, and plan to skyrocket as the project expands. In 2020, costs rose by a staggering £80 million just to cover the costs of asbestos removal in Euston!
Furthermore, an independent estimate in 2019 by Lord Berkeley concluded that HS2 could end up costing over £100 billion. More specifically, it is on track to cost the taxpayer £170 billion. To put this into context, the annual budget for national education is around £91 billion (4.2% of national income)! Needless to say, HS2 is robbing the taxpayer by the billions! This sort of money could be better spent on healthcare, education, foreign aid and green public transport- but it is going to waste!
HS2 is carelessly destroying major ecosystems across the nation in order to clear a path for railway infrastructure. High-speed designs dictate that HS2’s tracks must be as straight as possible due to curvature resulting in lower speeds- this means that the tracks themselves are planned to go directly through residential areas, farmland, heritage sites, and even protected wildlife areas.
According to a report by the Wildlife Trusts, HS2 is currently endangering:
- 693 local wildlife sites
- 108 ancient woodlands
- 38 legally protected sites of scientific interest
- And countless habitats across England
HS2 will not only lead to the displacement of the wildlife living in these protected areas, but it will also result in irreversible damage to our beautiful landscapes.
“We are all just sat watching Australia burn thinking, ‘Ah well, that couldn’t happen in our backyard.’ Well, it could and something like it will unless we wake up and take some action. But besides, we don’t need a colossal wildfire to wreck our environment – we can hand over £100bn to a bunch of clowns on the pretext of improving rail infrastructure in the unforeseeable future, and let them trash a significant part of our beautiful natural national heritage.”Chris Packcham, BBC Nature Presenter
Despite what politicians and investors have said, HS2 will not lead to lower carbon emissions. HS2 will in fact increase carbon emissions by almost 100% (due to trains at 360 km/h-speeds which will need around 50% more energy than the existing Eurostar London-Paris trains). Furthermore, HS2 Ltd’s own analysis concluded that there would be low numbers of passengers shifting from higher-emission modes of transport (such as cars and planes) to HS2. Recently in 2020, HS2 Ltd. admitted that in its 120 year lifespan, it would probably never be carbon neutral.
Finally, at time of writing, neither HS2 Ltd. or the government have taken into proper consideration the extent of impact that HS2 will have on climate change and air pollution. We demand a proper report into the damage that HS2 will cause to our planet immediately!
HS2 Ltd. vs Nonviolent Activists:
Because the construction and development of HS2 is opposed by a growing number of activists, it became inevitable that HS2 Ltd. would employ security agencies to disperse peaceful protesters. One such company goes by the name of Black Onyx Concepts, a group which is now known to have bullied, harassed, and tortured anti-HS2 protesters. I had the privilege of speaking to one such activist from Extinction Rebellion Youth who told me about their experience with security contractors in HS2 protest camps:
“I lived in the trees on my second trip up to HS2… I lived in a compound, meaning that I was watched 24/7- when you’re using the toilet, when you’re sleeping, when you’re doing anything, they’re filming and evidence gathering everything you do.”
They went on to tell me:
“In November, I moved to Denham. I was meant to stay for a day but I was there for a month. In that month, I experienced more violence than I had seen at any other camp. I had my neck knelt on, and once I had my arm pinned down behind my back so hard that I thought it would break.”Anonymous environmental activist, 17
Private security companies have more liberty than your average cop, because they don’t directly conform to the same professional standards that police officers do. Therefore, HS2 security have been known to deprive activists of food and water, deny them access to toilets, harass activists, and even violently attack them without warning.
Not all instances of abuse have been solely caused by private security groups, however. In some cases, the workers and staff of HS2 Ltd. themselves have been responsible for acts of torture and endangerment as recently as February 2021.
The Euston Incident:
Between September 2020 and February 2021, HS2 Rebellion activists constructed a thirty metre long tunnel named “Kelvin” at a tree camp near Euston station in London. Sensing that the authorities were closing in, activists made a public appearance on BBC News in late January to raise awareness of their cause against HS2.
Inevitably with the news appearance came the evictions, piloted by the National Evictions Team and the Metropolitan police- however, in the midst of the above-ground evictions, a handful of brave activists decided to seal themselves in the tunnel and occupy it as an act of defiance.
What followed was one of the first widely documented instances of reckless endangerment which involved the workers of HS2 Ltd. themselves, who employed heavy machinery to deny protesters access to their previously occupied trees, and later by operating heavy machinery near the tunnels in order to force occupiers out, this led to 5 life-threatening collapses.
On the 29th of January, HS2 Ltd. made the tunnel completely unsafe by cutting off a water supply system which was set up to catch water from the tree camps and provide it to the activists underground. Another situation caused by HS2 workers occurred when airflow unexpectedly became scarce due an attempt to dig into the tunnel from above. Shockingly, when the activists tried to fix it they were stopped by HS2 Ltd. workers.
On the 30th of January, National Eviction Team Bailiffs attempted to kick in a tunnel roof during the night to create an entrance point in the tunnel, consequently endangering life and depriving activists of sleep.
Only after dozens of calls to HS2 Ltd. and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would water supplies resume and the use of machinery be taken more seriously. However, this did not mean that the occupation was over- nor did it mean HS2 Ltd. workers or NET Bailiffs cease their harmful actions entirely, and at time of writing an occupation is still ongoing.
Call to action:
It is clear that HS2 Ltd. have no plans of ceasing their destructive efforts, nor do the Government plan to scrap the project. Therefore it falls on us, the public, to non-violently obstruct HS2 construction sites, and to lobby our members of Parliament to demand an end to the HS2 project which is wrecking our landscape and robbing our tax money.
Public support for HS2 is now falling, but the construction of HS2 is still supported by every major party in Westminster- a shocking reminder that our politicians are still ignorant to the demands of the electorate. Lie after lie is being pedalled to us by politicians and investors in order to silence any opposition to its construction. It is time to make up our own minds and put a stop to HS2 once and for all.