You are currently viewing BREAKING: The Great Escape: Anti-HS2 activists leave occupation after 47 Days through 40m-long secret tunnel

BREAKING: The Great Escape: Anti-HS2 activists leave occupation after 47 Days through 40m-long secret tunnel


“After 47 days underground and exhausting all of our supplies, we decided to leave the occupation by escaping through a secret tunnel. The escape tunnel was over 40m long and went undetected by HS2 for the entire 6 weeks. HS2 threw out the health and safety rule book when they planned to starve us out of this eviction and have shown their complete negligence and incompetence.” Satchel, an activist who occupied the tunnel.

“The vindictive tactics being used by HS2 and the government to both silence and punish peaceful protestors are becoming only more apparent. From denying us a proper air supply for over 6 weeks, to the Public Order Bill which intends to further criminalise those who stand up against the climate crisis – this government is waging a war on nature and those who stand up to protect it.” Satchel, an activist who occupied the tunnel.

“HS2 do not even plan to use this woodland until 2024, yet they are taking control of it now and destroying habitats unnecessarily. Woodlands have been unnecessarily destroyed along Phase 1 as HS2 has been re-routed. Our protest intended to prevent this same tragedy happening on Phase 2a in Staffordshire.” Mark Keir, activist resisting HS2.

“This type of tunnel protest needs a swift and professional response to ensure the safety of all involved. The protest group must be supplied with hard wired communications, compressed air being pumped at low pressure into the furthest part of the tunnel and air monitoring must be supplied in the furthest chamber. The longer people are left underground the more likely there is to be a fatality.” Peter Faulding who runs Specialist Group International and has been involved in clearing man-made tunnels for decades, including the Newbury bypass protest in 1996.

Activists resisting HS2’s ecocidal and financially ruinous project have escaped through a network of underground tunnels.

Despite not being provided with the basic health and safety equipment or continuous supply of air, activists spent a record 47 days underground – setting the record for longest tunnel protest in British history.

Protestors have stumped security by exiting from right under their noses. Whilst HS2 planned to starve protestors out the tunnel, activists took matters into their own hands and exited through a secret route.

This tunnel protest has been different from the beginning. In a move that has been questioned by campaigners and security personnel alike, HS2 ordered for protestors not to be dug out and instead left inside the tunnel with no proper air supply, no gas monitoring equipment or emergency breathing apparatus.

The tunnels were dug under what was known as Bluebell Woods Protection Camp, near Swynnerton, ST15 0QS. This is the fourth tunnel eviction which has taken place on the campaign against HS2. Previous subterranean protests along the proposed route have lasted for 35 days in Wendover, Buckinghamshire and 31 days in Euston, London.

Campaigners say the decision by HS2 to not dig protestors out put people in unnecessary danger.

Campaigners continue to assert HS2 is a social and environmental catastrophe. They moved underground after bailiffs arrived to evict the camp on 10th May. HS2 will never be carbon neutral and its ecocidal construction actively hinders our ability to sequester carbon.

While the protest has been taking place, Priti Patel’s war on peaceful protest has continued. The Conservatives attempted to add a new amendment to the Public Order Bill, which could see protestors who use tunnelling as a tactic jailed for up to three years.

The Public Order Bill is the government’s latest attempt to re-introduce the draconian amendments that were rejected from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill by the House of Lords, which will effectively ban protest, and gives the government increasingly authoritarian powers to silence those who speak out against them.

We also await a judge’s ruling on a first of its kind route-wide injunction, which has been described as “an affront to democracy.”

For more information:

Photos: @martin_pope_photographer

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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Martin Sloman

    So the reason these protesters spent 47 days down that tunnel was because HS2 was holding them prisoner but now they have managed to escape. Clearly the people who were celebrating the amount of time they spent down the tunnel must have been supporters of HS2.

    1. Martin Sloman

      I guess the truth is that after 47 days down the tunnel, they decided to leave. I don’t blame them but use of the term ‘escape’ implies that they were being held captive.
      What the article is trying to do is to imply some kind of victory for the protesters – as if they outwitted HS2 when they did what HS2 wanted them to do from day one.
      I think that what has enraged the protesters is that HS2 has just let them get on with it. This is the site of Phase 2a, which is not due to start for another two years.
      I wouldn’t moralise too much about the activities of HS2. It is the tunnellers themselves and the people who support them who have put them in danger . Given the number of these protests over the years, it is a miracle that nobody has been killed. The fact that the tunnellers have survived spending weeks underground is a lot to do with the professionalism of the site staff and the trained crews who are tasked with removing these people – often at considerable risk to themselves.
      I know the argument that these people are going to this length to alert us all to the environmental catastrophe of HS2 but when you see photographs of supporters with a banner draped across a motorway bridge aiming to get the support of motorists, you see how poorly the arguments are understood.

  2. Jake Smaje

    I don’t see where the term prisoner is used?

    I do see HS2 using dangerous tactics that have delayed them. I am celebrating the safe exit of the brave activists who broke a record while disrupting a doomed project. While they did this, they exposed that HS2 as an organisation that shows little regard for the life of people.

  3. Martin Sloman

    One other point I would make Jake is that I think a lot of the steam has gone out of the HS2 Rebellion argument because it is trying to present a complicated discussion in very black and white terms. There is an argument to be made that high speed rail is, all things considered, beneficial to the environment. That argument can’t be made with people stuck down tunnels or in tree houses or who want to shout slogans about ‘ecocide’ or ‘greedy capitalists’. The ecological argument used to be calm, informed and prepared to engage in dialogue with its critics – which is how the truth of man made climate change became orthodox science.
    Now the whole subject has become a battleground, which makes intelligent discussion much more difficult.

  4. Jake Smaje

    That is simply not true and shows a lack of understanding of the history of the environmentalist movement. I think replying much further to such ill informed and bad faith discussion isn’t very useful but I would make two points.

    The tactic of tunneling has been used by environmentalist protesters to my knowledge since the road protest movement, as mentioned in the article above. If you look further back and in a broader sense environmentalism has often been a hard struggle against interests who actively don’t want to listen, this can be seen in the French state killing Greenpeace activists (1985). Getting environmental issues taken seriously has always involved protest, and that protest has regularly involved some degree of danger.

    Considering this major historical flaw in your rather patronising argument it becomes slightly difficult to take your claims of knowledge about HS2 seriously. I agree that the complex discussions are often simplified into black and white issues. This seems to be exactly what your slew of posts on the HS2 rebellion blog are trying to do. I’ll give you an example. You write above that by protesting on motorways you can demonstrate how poorly arguments are understood. It is hard to know what arguments you mean, but i assume you mean the argument that HS2 will remove cars and lorries from the road. However, raising the problems of HS2 with road users and suggesting that this is tacit support for continuing current uses of roads are very different things.

    I don’t know who you are trying to convince really, but it seems that making factually inaccurate claims and using poorly developed logic is not the best way of doing it.

  5. Martin Sloman

    HI Jake,

    Why are my posts in ‘bad faith’ simply because I take an alternative viewpoint? I welcome discussion and it has been a source of disappointment to me that so many of these topics that you and (presumably) your colleagues have posted have not resulted in any debate either for or against. I expect the same is true for yourself.

    First, please believe that I have no personal financial or employment interest in HS2. My involvement has been as part of a campaign group to extend the route, which has resulted in some awkward discussions with HS2 supporters. My views are my own and they are not intended to curry favour with any group.

    You accuse me of being ill-informed. Maybe, in the case of the environmental movement, that is true but the sort of activities that gain media attention (HS2 tunnellers, people sticking themselves to motorways or living in treehouses) are pointless unless they are backed up by reasoned and honest argument.

    For example, the most famous of the HS2 tunnellers is Daniel Hooper (aka Swampy). Stop HS2 posted a radio discussion between him and the veteran politician Anne Widdecombe. Widdecombe starts by criticising Swampy for obstructing an activity that has been debated by and sanctioned in Parliament. Swampy replies by stating that HS2 represents ‘ the greatest deforestation programme since World War I’. We aren’t allowed to hear Widdecombe’s response.

    However, anybody with basic common sense knows that Swampy was not telling the truth. HS2 at its full extent (including the Eastern Arm) is no more than 350 miles whereas the national motorway network amounts to 2,200 miles – almost all of which is significantly wider than HS2. So, unless HS2 is deliberately aligned to destroy as many woodlands as possible, (which I doubt it is), that claim has no basis in fact. Even windfarms are responsible for more deforestation than HS2.

    Let me explain my point about the motorway protest. HS2, during the course of its construction, and during the 120 years of its design life will produce as much C02 as the UK road network produces in one month. (That is a claim made by HS2 but which is supportable if you look at relative CO2 emissions by transport mode). Even if all the claims about modal shift from roads and airlines that are made by HS2 come to nothing we are still dealing with a relatively insignificant carbon emitter. So, protesting about HS2 to motorists on a motorway is rather like complaining to Bernie Madoff about the kid that stole sweets from the corner shop.

    I am sorry if I appear patronising – that is not my intention. It is one thing to say that my posts are ‘factually inaccurate’ or have ‘poorly developed logic’ when you aren’t specific about which posts you are referring to or what is wrong with them My posts are the tunnel that I am digging under HS2 Rebellion’s propaganda – and I have already lasted longer than 47 days.

  6. Jake Smaje

    I think this post is a good example of the sort of factual inaccuracies that I mentioned before. I agree I welcome discussion, but you use the term propaganda and I think this goes in two directions. In the above post I have identified the following logical fallacies and factual inaccuracies. Before I go into them I would argue that discussion does not necessarily just happen in comment sections but happens in public, through the media for example in relation to protest. By this measure I think there is an active and spirited discussion of the merits and demerits of HS2.

    Now into the meaty stuff:
    1. You suggest you have no financial or employment interests in HS2, but you run a campaign group. This is not necessarily contradictory. But you then say that your campaign, 20 miles more i believe, has led to some awkward discussions with HS2 supporters. Do you not see yourself as an HS2 supporter? This is a slightly pedantic point to begin, but I think it is indicative of the wider rhetoric you use. Would you have started a campaign group if you were not looking to curry favour with certain groups?
    2. Onto the meatier points, you suggest that the kind of action done by HS2 rebellion are pointless unless they are backed up by reasoned arguments. You then pivot to talking about one discussion between Anne Widdicombe and Daniel Hooper. I agree that it sounds like Dan employs some hyperbole, but you give very little explanation for why we were unable to hear Widdicombe’s response. I presume you use this anecdotal recounting of this radio debate to support your argument that the activism isn’t backed up by ‘reasoned and honest argument’. It seems to me that using an anecdotal description of one activists radio discussion with one ex-politician cum contrarian media personality to argue against activists critiques of HS2 is neither reasoned nor honest.
    3. Non-violent direct actions, of the type done by HS2 Rebellion aims to do two things, first, cause economic and physical disruption to the target, secondly, to get media attention on the critiques of the object of the action. On both accounts I think HS2 Rebellion has been quite successful. Regardless of if Dan did a good job in the particular interview you mention there are big concerns that need to be heard about HS2 and Dan getting on the radio wouldn’t be possible without protest, just as lots of other activists getting in the media wouldn’t be. (
    4. You then go on to do some cigarette packet maths about HS2’s length compared to motorways. I think there are two issues with this. The first is, i presume as I haven’t heard the interview in question, that Dan is talking about a single project rather than a category of project. In that case i am sure there would be lots of things that deforest more. Second, I am sure that HS2 didn’t set out to be as destructive to forests as possible but I do think that it is likely that the route goes through less inhabited rural areas by choice to reduce the price, in monetary terms, this leads to a massive ecological cost for the project. You then say this argument has no basis in fact before making the very difficult claim to test that windfarms have a bigger impact. As you, like I, are a fan of reasoned discourse would you please provide me the data that you are using to compare wind farms ecological cost to that of HS2? also, are you seeing wind farms as one ‘programme’ or lots of individual separate projects?
    5. We move to the motorway protest. Here it seems you conflate HS2 Rebellion with Insulate Britain. These are two very different groups, no doubt with some crossover in personnel, but to my knowledge no HS2 rebellion protesters have glued their hands to motorways under the banner of HS2 Rebellion. Please enlighten me if i’m wrong.
    6. Now my favourite one, you mention that in the 120 years that HS2 will be in operation it will emit the same as one month of the motorways under current use. This needs a date to it as the amount of emissions from motorways change over time. Equally, it seems unlikely if we look to the IPCC report that we will have a world which supports high speed rail infastructure by 2050 let alone the full 120 years. I also believe that the emissions for HS2s constructions have been revised up quite considerably since the first estimates due to the effects of deforestation and more importantly the use of concrete not being factored in the first time. This is all playing around with the problems with that piece of data really, but I thought I would offer some reasoned discussion of the facts. I wanted to see where this point was going but then it returns to the idea that HS2 Rebellion is protesting on motorways about the project.
    7. here I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you don’t actually mean Insulate Britain but HS2 banner drops. The problem is each individual car user is not the sum of all their emissions. Pointing out to car users on motorways that HS2 ecological, environmental and financial costs are inconsistent with it’s stated aims is not some massive hypocrisy it is good sense. I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to say that a larger reduction in emissions could be delivered than HS2 by investing in a wide range of more cost-effective and less ecologically destructive transport projects, and of course insulating people’s homes.

    You argue that your posts are the tunnel that you are digging under HS2 Rebellions propaganda, I worry that the tunnel isn’t particularly logically sound and for that reason, following adequate safety precautions as required by HSE, I am pleased to report you have been safely removed from the tunnel.

    1. Martin Sloman

      I have been safely removed from the tunnel? Does that mean I have been banned? Just testing. Didn’t want to write a long post in response to the above and find it was a waste of time.

  7. Jake Smaje

    Could you at least just post the source for the wind turbine claim?

    Of course your not banned, I’m not the editor and if I was I wouldn’t ban you.

  8. Martin Sloman

    Hi Jake, Thanks. Just that I have been banned for posting off-message views on Stop HS2 sites – including one that appeared on my Facebook page.

    Hope this link works: felled for wind farms

    If you just google wind farms and forests you find out that this loss of forest due to wind farms is an international problem. The article I have linked to points out that some 2,510 hectares of Scottish forest have been lost to wind farms – not necessarily the turbines themselves but for access roads and cable routes. Now that compares to only 58 hectares of ancient woodland for the entire HS2 project.

    OK you have broken my cover. I am a member of 20 Miles More – although I didn’t found it. Our sole aim is to improve HS2’s connections to Liverpool and, as such, we have our differences with HS2. That sounds pedantic I know because it is difficult to support an extension to a railway when you don’t support the initial railway but, clearly we don’t see eye to eye with HS2 on everything. That is an important distinction. I don’t want to get dragged into discussions about whether HS2 chopped down some woodland before the bat nesting season. I support high speed rail in principle and as regards HS2, our position has been that we are ‘broadly supportive’.

    I gave the Swampy / Anne Widdecombe debate as an example of when HS2 Rebellion has not employed honest tactics. I have a feeling that Dan might be a personal friend of yours and he does come over as a likeable individual but whatever you think of Ms Widdecombe, she clearly has a sharp mind and so to quote something so blatantly untrue to her shows a certain naivety. Now I don’t like accusing people of lying and it might be that Dan was not aware of the facts but, if it were me, I would want to know the reasons I was doing it before spending weeks down a tunnel.

    As for why the debate got cut off at that point – you have to ask Stop HS2. Perhaps Swampy wiped the floor with Widdecombe and this was left out to spare her blushes. On the other hand, maybe Widdecombe wiped the floor with Swampy. I bet you can guess which alternative I would go for.

    Maybe it is wrong to treat the entire national motorway network as one project but even comparing a relatively small stretch of motorway – the proposed Lower Thames Crossing – with HS2 is informative. The LTC is planning to destroy 57 hectares of ancient woodland – one less than the whole HS2 network. I wonder how much the M1 cut down?

    In fact, use of the term ‘deforestation’ needs thinking about. How often do we hear HS2’s ‘deforestation’ compared to the loss of the Amazon rain forest? According to the Guardian, 4,000 hectares are cut down in the Amazon every single day. That is seventy times greater than the entirety of HS2. Mr Bolsonaro would not be impressed.

    HS2 is planned to avoid human habitation – that is true. Saves money of course but also removes the need for demolition of people’s homes and businesses and reduces the noise impact on residential areas. However, running through the countryside does not result in a massive ecological impact.

    One of the claims made by HS2 Rebellion – on your title page – is that the project is the ‘most expensive, wasteful, destructive, project in British history’. In fact, probably no project in British history has gone to such lengths to minimise its environmental impact.

    This reminds me that there was a major protest regarding a rail project back in the 1980s. This railway traversed a national park with tunnels, cuttings, huge viaducts and embankments yet no mitigation works at all. However, the protest was not against building it but against its closure – the Settle and Carlisle Railway was seen as an essential part of the landscape and economy of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Even better when steam locomotives haul tourist trains – although I don’t want to think about their carbon footprint.

    That leads on to the issue of cost. A significant part of the cost of HS2 consists of works to protect the environment and we are talking about massive works. The line will traverse the Chilterns with a 10 mile bored tunnel – the longest in mainland UK, then there is an ancient woodland at Long Itchington which merits a mile long tunnel to protect its trees – problems normally resolved with a chainsaw. Then so much of the route will be in cuttings – passengers will see very little of the countryside – and there is a massive tree planting programme. In fact, much of the ‘destruction of the countryside’ being caused by HS2 is clearly for all this mitigation planting.

    I would suggest that, if we are serious about protecting the environment then maybe we should dispense with a lot of this mitigation, run the railway at grade wherever we can and only have cuttings and tunnels where they are necessitated by the topography. Then use the money saved to build more high speed railways. Railways have very little environmental impact – just look at the map of Kent and compare the impact of HS1 with the parallel M20 motorway.

    I am aware that HS2 Rebellion protesters have not glued themselves to motorways (although it would be interesting if they did). All I was doing was pointing out that protests like this will alienate the public unless they are backed with informed debate.

    I am not Mystic Meg so I don’t know if HS2 will be in use in 120 years time. The point of the 120 years is that it is the design period for major infrastructure such as motorways, bridges and railways. However, I am not sure that the figure is that fanciful. Phase One of HS2, under construction at the moment, parallels the London and Birmingham Railway, which opened in 1837 – the year of Queen Victoria’s coronation. It will be near to 200 years old when HS2 Phase One is opened and the 1837 line will not be closed but given over to a more intensive passenger and freight service made possible by the diversion of high speed trains to the new route.

    The statistic I quoted is based on present day figures for the different types of transport. Obviously, battery electric vehicles will reduce motorway CO2 emissions but then there is the prospect of HS2 being powered completely by carbon free renewables and so not increasing its carbon footprint at all during its operation (except, of course, trains will need replacing, as will rails and other components but railway infrastructure is generally very long lasting).

    The decision to use concrete slab track for Phase One will increase emissions and, yes, trees that are cut down will reduce carbon capture but even if that statistic was wrong by a factor of ten it would still mean that HS2 in its 120 year life (including construction) would emit less than one year’s emissions of the national road network – still a pretty impressive statistic.

    In fact, if we take into account modal shift – passengers transferring from road and air to HS2 – then there is a significant reduction in overall transport emissions. (This is despite the oft-quoted statistic that HS2 will not be ‘carbon neutral in its lifetime’ which is based on extremely conservative estimates of modal shift).

    I understand that Insulate Britain is a different organisation to HS2 Rebellion and I can agree 100% with their aims. I guess I wouldn’t be too happy with them blocking roads, which is a rather clumsy way of getting their message across considering that the people they are obstructing will sometimes be in desperate circumstances – but it is hard to argue that we shouldn’t do more to insulate our homes and workplaces (I have installed a fair amount in my house). However, improving heat insulation and investing in modern railway infrastructure should not be seen as alternatives but complementary.

    The frequent accusation levelled against HS2 – that it is all about shaving a few minutes off business people’s trips to London – couldn’t be further from the truth. Britain has never had a proper rail network – the Victorians linked towns and cities without much consideration to developing a proper cross-country network. By releasing capacity on that existing infrastructure, there is the opportunity for frequent and efficient passenger and freight services to provide an environmental friendly alternatives to the car, lorry and internal air services. If we are going to meet climate targets, we need to be investing heavily in these alternatives.

    Finally, I think that the use of the environmental argument against HS2 is a means of legitimising what is effectively a conservationist issue. I don’t like the term NIMBY. I have never been to the Chilterns but I do understand that people who have lived there – maybe for generations – will be unhappy about seeing this major construction operation disrupting their beloved countryside. However, that does not make them environmentalists.

    I was rather amused by a comment on a Stop HS2 forum that Stop HS2 stood firm beside Just Stop Oil. Now any true environmentalist wouldn’t have a problem with that – but the responses to that comment showed that a lot of Stop HS2 supporters were enraged by these activists blocking roads and petrol deliveries.

    It is a point I made to you some time ago. Just because many people will identify with Stop HS2 / HS2 Rebellion, it does not mean that they share a common purpose.

  9. Jake Smaje

    The links broken to the article…

    I think the core issues still remain with your argument about Dan, who is not a personal friend. I think your description of Anne Widdicombe as a sharp mind says a lot, are we talking about the person who suggested that Brexit was like ‘slaves rising up in revolt in a colonised country’, supports gay conversion therapy and promoted Brexit on a David Icke-affiliated anti-semitic conspiracy theory podcast. I think it is very difficult to describe that Anne Widdicombe as a sharp mind.

    Your arguments about bugger ecological damage elsewhere are ‘whataboutery’ really, a form of logical fallacy.

    Arguments about the future of the railway compared to the past need to take into account the modelled future social, political and economic scenarios of the climate crisis, for example the IPCC. Not the longevity of existing railway lines. It’s in this context that a project as expensive as HS2 is a really bad idea, we need action now not in 2035 or whenever from an environmental mitigation perspective this is far to late. This is the issue with the environmental case of HS2 it’s emissions are frontloaded to the period where cutting overall emissions is the most important. There is a very good environmental case against HS2 and it is not just a conservationist one.

    Finally, of course people have very different reasons for being involved in different movements. I do think if they join an organisation called HS2 Rebellion that is a direct action group then they are likely to be at least partially sympathetic to direct action. Of course, in the example you cite you are talking about Stop HS2, a different organisation.

  10. Jake Smaje

    Anne Widdicombe, who is also a climate change denier? That sharp mind.

    I think arguing for the environmental merits of a projects while also citing a climate change denier as a sharp mind maybe exposes the hollowness of the environmental arguments.

  11. Martin Sloman

    Hi Jake,

    Try this: and if that fails, just Google ‘Scotsman, wind turbines, forests’ and that 2014 article should come up (and plenty of others relating to the environmental impact of these turbines). Please note that I am not anti-wind turbine, I was really surprised that this is such an issue.

    Regarding Anne Widdecombe. You have previously accused me of logical fallacies but you are guilty of one yourself. Just because a person agrees with something that another person says doesn’t mean that they agree with everything that person says. By that logic, if you are artistic, love dogs, hate hunting and favour a united Europe you are clearly a Nazi because you have so much in common with Adolf Hitler.

    I don’t even know if Widdecombe supports HS2 – her objection to Swampy might just be about the methods he uses. Whatever, the rights or wrongs of her position, it still doesn’t let Swampy off the hook regarding his misrepresentation of the ‘deforestation’ issue.

    What I think is important when discussing this issue is to maintain a healthy scepticism on both sides of the argument. Even a curmudgeon like myself can get drawn into that environmentalist romanticism that you see in so many HS2 Rebellion videos. Who wouldn’t want to be sleeping under the stars in some bluebell wood with young ladies playing guitars and singing about the beauty of nature whilst the orange meanies are outside with their chainsaws? But the main thing is our ability to step back from this and see if for what it is.

    I take your point about HS2’s emissions being ‘front-loaded’. That is inevitable though given the nature of major infrastructure and we must not lose sight of the fact that even if all the emissions of HS2 were to be released in one month at the start of the project, they would only equal that month’s UK road emissions.

    By the way, that is not ‘whataboutery’. There is an obvious trade-off between vehicle emissions and rail investment (and also other ‘green’ transport such as cycling and walking). Environmental groups are fond of saying that more traffic should go by rail but to increase rail capacity requires building new infrastructure.

    There is always this belief that engineers and technocrats have no interest in the environment – in fact a large amount of resources on projects such as this are employed to reduce the environmental footprint. Even the decision to use slab track for Phase One of HS2 has an environmental advantage. Sure, it uses a lot of concrete but then slab track should be able to last for sixty years in service with minimal maintenance, compared to conventional concrete sleepers that are often replaced in front line service after 25 years. So, whole life accounting might well favour slab track.

    I admit I get confused about the relationship between Stop HS2 and HS2 Rebellion and I do tend to treat it as one organisation with two names. However, they may be separate organisations but there is clearly a lot of overlap between them.

  12. Martin Sloman

    One other point I would make concerns the whole philosophy of environmentalism and its relationship to our modern technical society.

    I guess environmental concerns have been with us since the Industrial Revolution but they got a huge impetus in the late 1960s with the first images of the Earth from space – the iconic photographs taken from Apollo 8 and following moon missions. Our planet was both beautiful and fragile. Hence the irony that one of the greatest technical accomplishments of man resulted in antipathy towards the technical world.

    There was a cult book in the 1970s – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, which addressed these issues. On a motorbike tour of the USA, Pirsig comes across some farm labourers receiving a brand new combine harvester. These guys were overjoyed – thinking of all the back-breaking work they would be spared. He contrasts this with some ex-hippy friends of his living in a New York apartment. One day he visited them and found they were suffering from a dripping tap. The woman was clearly very irritated by this problem that her partner was unable to fix but she wouldn’t mention it. Pirsig realised that for her to admit to the tap problem would be to also admit to her reliance on underground pipework, dams, reservoirs and pumping stations – the technical world that she despised.

    The point was that, if all technology were to stop, those farmers would probably survive. However, his friends in the Manhattan apartment would be dead within a week.

    I have a book ‘Wonders of World Engineering’ which belonged to my father and dates to before World War II. It has titles such as ‘Romance of the Safe Deposit’ – this antipathy toward he technical world is a relatively new thing.

    Even though I don’t represent HS2 and I am far from being an expert on the subject, I like to engage with the opponents of the project just to try and get over some of its merits and attempt to answer questions such as why the line speed is so high, why it isn’t possible to upgrade existing railways instead and why the route goes through an ancient woodland rather than the adjacent field.

    I feel that the Swampys of this world will never lower themselves to even try and understand (except in an extremely superficial way), the purpose of a project such as HS2. Consequently, it doesn’t matter that HS2 isn’t the biggest deforestation programme since World War I – it is cutting down trees and so is bad.

    We are facing a climate emergency and it is going to result in a lot of changes for a lot of people – maybe all of us. However, the solutions will have to come from engineers and scientists engaging with the general public not back to nature people in tree houses.

  13. Jake Smaje

    Have you heard of the Luddites? The 19th century activists against technical innovation in production that marginalised them…

    I think you have created a bit of a straw man that centres on Dan Hooper when it comes to environmentalist. It’s not good for your argument, I feel sorry for Dan and it basically prevents you seeing the diversity in opinions and approaches that exist within environmentalism.

    1. Martin Sloman

      The Luddites were not opposed to new machinery on the grounds that it was bad for the environment but that it removed their traditional employment. The problem was not so much with the new automated looms but the fact that their ownership concentrated financial power in a few hands. If you read ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ by Friedrich Engels, he describes how this came about. I don’t see a great applicability to the HS2 argument.

      I am not victimising poor Swampy. If you remember, I gave him as an example of the way HS2 Rebellion tends to use exaggerated arguments. To take the pressure off Mr Hooper (who I guess is now reeling under my remorseless logic), I would point out that there are plenty of other HSR pronouncements that I could have used instead – starting with the title graphics of this website.

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