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Protesters against UK rail link evicted from London park

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Aaron Chown/PA

The encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, Wednesday Jan. 27, 2021. Protesters against a high-speed rail link between London and the north of England said Wednesday that some of them have been evicted from a park in the capital after they dug tunnels and set up a makeshift camp. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

LONDON – Some protesters against a high-speed rail link between London and northern England were evicted from a park in the capital city early Wednesday after they dug tunnels and set up a makeshift camp.

The protesters had occupied Euston Square Gardens, claiming there were plans to build a temporary taxi rank over the small green space outside Euston Station, the London terminus for the so-called HS2 trains.

HS2 Rebellion, which is an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned high-speed railway, 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."

Though dozens of police officers are monitoring the area, several protesters can be seen sitting in tents, set up on wooden platforms high-up in trees, around the park. A large, wooden makeshift camp remains in place on the south side of the green space, which is said to have been constructed over a 100-foot (30-meter) network of tunnels.

HS2 Rebellion is calling on the British government to scrap the “expensive, unpopular and destructive” project in light of the climate emergency. But the government is pushing on with the plan, which is expected to cost tens of billions of pounds, for largely economic reasons.

“I’m in this tunnel because they are irresponsibly putting my life at risk from the climate and ecological emergency," said Blue Sanford, an 18-year-old protester from London.

With the help of local residents, soil from the 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.

The protesters have previously said they could potentially “hold out in the tunnel for several weeks," during which time they hope a court will rule against HS2 for breaking the law by attempting an eviction without a court order and during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Safety is our first priority when taking possession of land and removing illegal encampments,” a spokeswoman for HS2 said.

HS2 Rebellion claims that the planned HS2 line, due to link up London, the Midlands, the north of England and eventually Scotland, will see 108 ancient woodlands “destroyed” and “countless people being forced from" homes and businesses.

HS2 said only 43 ancient woodlands will be affected by the railway’s route between London and Crewe in northern England, with 80% of their total area remaining intact.

Construction work on the rail link commenced in September.