Anti-HS2 protesters have been digging under Euston park for four months

A climate activist who spent four months building a secret tunnel in a bid to stop the HS2 rail project has vowed to stay underground even if he runs out of food and water.

Dr Larch Maxey – one of five HS2 rebellion members currently occupying the 100ft shaft – has given up his job and family life to commit to stopping ‘societal collapse’.

The former PHD researcher is no stranger to protests, having spent 20 days up a tree in Parliament Square last September. But he overcame his fear of claustrophobia to put his life on the line with HS2 Rebellion’s biggest stunt to date.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Larch revealed how a team of around 30 climate activists aged between 16 and 70 secretly came together to build a tunnel under a park outside Euston station.

The protesters started digging the tunnel – code-named ‘Kelvin’ – in September and say it is their ‘best defence’ against being evicted from Euston Square Gardens in central London, where they set up camp in August.

The group claim this will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers.

Larch, 48, said that they will stay underground for ‘as long as it takes’ to stop the £160bn high speed rail network project.


He told Metro.co.uk: ‘We have got food and water. For me if it runs out, I will still stay down there, that’s my level of commitment.

‘I have spent 25 years studying the climate crisis and watching it unfold, I will do what it takes to stop societal collapse.’

Larch admits the protesters are putting themselves in danger and that aspects of life underground ‘won’t be pleasant’ – such as when they need to go the toilet.

But he says the sacrifices are worth it to stop the ‘demise of society’.

Climate activists argue the HS2 line, due to link up London, the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland, will see 108 ancient woodlands ‘destroyed’ and ‘countless people being forced from the homes and businesses’.



Larch, who has been living in HS2 camps since March last year, said: ‘I have never lived in a tunnel. We are all overcoming our fears and stepping up to deal with the climate emergency.

‘This is scary but we have worked together to do it in a way that is safe and have made sure we have enough air supply. Spirits are high, everybody is excited.’

Bailiffs have already arrived at the site to evict members of HS2 Rebellion from the Euston Square Gardens camp, but the group say the protest is still ‘going strong’ with several people on roofs and trees.

Those who made it underground believe they can hold out in the tunnel for several weeks thanks to a secret trap door keeping bailiffs from getting in.

The group says it used spoil from the digging to ‘fortify the barricades’ at the network’s entrance and insulate the ‘pallet fortress’ to keep tunnellers warm as they sleep between shifts.

The tunnels are supported by wooden joists and thick boards to prevent collapse.


Larch said they managed to dig the underground network without anyone spotting by working at night and hiding the soil in the walls of a shack pallet at HS2 Rebellion’s camp on Euston Square Gardens.

The makeshift home – dubbed ‘Buckingham Pallet’ – has evolved into a community centre where members of HS2 Rebellion have been providing support to homeless people.

Larch said physically digging the tunnel was actually ‘quite simple’ and that getting people on board was initially the hardest challenge.

‘Back in September, that’s when we started digging,’ he told Metro.co.uk.

‘It was quite slow at first. It was quite a challenge to get enough people on board and to get people inspired, but that’s what helped build it, people aged 16 [to 70] working together to dig and shore up the tunnel, get materials from skips, take the nails out and bring it here.

‘Physically we did most of it by walking [to and from skips] and digging by hand.

‘It was quite simple really. We started by digging a hole in the ground, that was a least six feet deep, that’s a down shaft. Then the soil holds itself together and doesn’t collapse. Then you go horizontal, you go down with a spade, shovel, a mini pic axe. We just chipped away at it.



‘The core material was very lose. It was a bit like sand so there’s a risk of collapse. We needed to shore it up so we created vertical props, roof boards, we had additional bits of wood and side plates. We just kept going. Then we bucketed [the soil] out.’

Larch said the process was hard work but ‘incredibly enriching’ and that support from the local community had been ‘amazing’.

‘Strength and resolve in the face of the climate emergency is what enabled us to build this tunnel,’ he said. ‘That and a common purpose and the bravery to tell the truth’.


The group’s actions come after a community notification issued in December revealed an ‘interim’ taxi rank would be built on the east side of Euston Square Gardens to support the construction of a proposed HS2 station.

Construction works are due to begin this month and continue until December.

A spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd said the company could not comment on the specifics of protesters’ activities as it was yet to take possession of the land, but said ‘illegal’ actions could be a danger to people’s safety.

‘Illegal action such as this is costly to the taxpayer and a danger to the safety of the activists, HS2 staff, High Court enforcement officers and the general public, as well as putting unnecessary strain on the emergency services during the pandemic,’ she said.

‘Safety is our first priority when taking possession of land and removing illegal encampments.’

Despite it running tens of billions of pounds over budget and several years behind schedule, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for the railway in February 2020.

The HS2 spokeswoman said it provided ‘a cleaner, greener way to travel, helping to cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, reduce demand for domestic flights, and help the country to cut its carbon emissions in the fight against climate change’.

She added that it had been approved by MPs on ‘multiple occasions’ and would support Britain’s economic recovery and was supporting thousands of jobs.

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