By Joe Mishan
I’m standing on a green in front of Euston Station on a grey October day. Around and above me are the majestic old plane trees so characteristic of London’s green spaces. Unfortunately, this space is due to be converted into a taxi rank to make way for the new High Speed Rail (HS2) depot extension.
One of the tree protestors tells me that he’s been up in the trees for 35 days and that he’s prepared to stay there for as long as it takes. He’s originally from Rumania, energetic, articulate, and clearly knows the tree climbing business (he says he can also dig tunnels if he needs to). So far the tree protesters have been left alone by the police but this is going to change when they start wanting to cut down the trees. The Euston site is only one of the many sites along the HS2 route being occupied by protestors trying to stop the destruction of ancient woodlands. The previous week I was at Jones Hill Wood near Wendover, where protestors were camping in the trees and in tunnels, holding out against the aggressive National Eviction Team in miserably damp muddy conditions. The trees there are nothing less than majestic: huge beech and oak trees soaring into the sky. I know it’s cowardly but I’m glad not to be there as they are put to the chain saw, which is likely to be very soon.
In Euston the XR drummers start up with their instantly energising and compelling beat, and we troop off up the road to Euston plaza to hand out leaflets. There’s a great little playlette put on by 3 witches who mix a (vegan) brew in their cauldron to magically instill sanity into the decision makers for HS2. I fervently hope it does the job.
HS2 is a high-speed rail line starting from Euston. The first stage goes to Birmingham and then it branches off to other northern stations such as Leeds and Manchester. It will cut 20 minutes off the journey time from London to Birmingham, and in the process the route will wreck 683 local wildlife sites 33 SSSI’s and damage or destroy 108 irreplaceable ancient woodlands. The estimated cost is £127 billion (yes billion!). It’s been condemned by a range of environmental organisations such as CPRE RSPB and the Woodland Trust who have described it as ‘environmentally devastating’. HS2 is surely the epitome of the grand old infrastructure project that should have been consigned to the history books long ago. Like a nuclear power station or a motorway, it is a massively expensive project that could be easily discarded in favour of cheaper simpler and less environmentally damaging options. Protesters want the money to be used to improve the existing lines and build or improve local transport options, at a fraction of the cost.
I leave Euston in awe of the protestors determination skill and bravery. The protest continues. If you’d like to contribute or find more information please go to the website here: https://standforthetrees.org/
Update from HS2 Rebellion on Twitter:
🌳💚Widespread jubilation as HS2 works will be unable to continue until Summer 2021💚🌳 https://t.co/BrQb01wgg1 Well done all at Jones Hill for the persistent, determined, ongoing protest. This highlights the need to focus on protecting wildlife on the rest of the line #StopHS2 pic.twitter.com/tRSjs5Rld0— HS2 Rebellion (@Hs2Rebellion) October 13, 2020
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