A homeowner is taking legal action against HS2 as she believes the multi-million pound scheme breaches her human rights and could endanger lives.
Hero Granger-Taylor, 65, has received an engineer’s report that claims planned tunnels close to her home could cause a 120-year-old 10 metre high wall to collapse ‘with catastrophic consequences’.
The report looked at the impact of planned tunnels underneath an historic area of Camden, North London, where Miss Granger-Taylor lives and concludes that the old brick retaining wall, which is within metres of her property in Park Village East, could collapse into the new tunnels below or onto the existing West Coast main line.
The report, by chartered civil engineer Colin Elliff, states that the worst case scenario could be “total structural collapse” putting “the personal safety of hundreds of rail travellers and residents at risk”.
The design approved by Parliament for the HS2 approach to Euston included train tracks inside an open box within the Camden Cutting, but that design was dropped in 2017. The current design is for the new tracks to run underground in tunnels. HS2 Ltd has released very few plans for the new design – known as the Three Tunnels design – despite repeated requests from Miss Granger-Taylor and her solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen. Plans that Miss Granger-Taylor has seen reveal that the closest tunnel could be as little as one and a half metres below the foundations of the cutting retaining wall.
Her legal team has now written to HS2 warning that unless they reveal the full plans for the Three Tunnels design in the next two weeks judicial review proceedings will be issued. They are also demanding a copy of the latest environmental impact statement and assurances that the proposed design will not lead the wall to collapse. In addition they want documentation showing HS2 have carried out assessments as to whether the scheme breaches Articles 1 and 8 of the Human Rights Act – protection of property and the right to life.
Miss Granger-Taylor, who lives half a mile from Euston Station, the intended terminus for HS2, and has also submitted three petitions about HS2 to parliament, said: “There is a real chance that the wall will collapse, dragging the road and the houses down along with it. There is also a danger to life if the wall falls into the cutting, either directly onto a train or causing a derailment. Alternatively, according to the engineer, the wall could collapse directly into the tunnels below, as they are being built or later. There is a serious risk to life if this scheme goes ahead.
“My house is already unstable and I am anyway very worried about the damage the tunnelling could do to my home. There are parts of the road that are already sinking so I can’t imagine what tunnelling below it will do.
“My view is that the Camden Cutting is an insoluble problems for HS2 Ltd and they don’t have a safe way of getting the HS2 trains into Euston Station. The previous design was vetoed because the cutting was too narrow but the land where my house stands is owned by the Crown Estate, so it cannot be compulsorily purchased in order to obtain more space. Now HS2 Ltd’s contractors are having to try to squeeze tunnels in below my street and are refusing to hand over the drawings that would allow us to see whether this design is safe or not. You have to ask what they have to hide as they are ignoring our requests for more information. I believe the Three Tunnels design is their last desperate roll of the dice: they appear to have no other way of getting the new line through, even though this design is potentially so dangerous.”
HS2 was first announced in 2010 and the High Speed Rail bill was introduced to Parliament in November 2013. In September 2015 the bill design for the Euston area was replaced by what was known as Additional Provision 3 (AP3) and this was the plan when the High Speed Rail bill received Royal Assent in February 2017. Under this design the Camden cutting would have been widened and the old retaining wall would have been demolished. A new stronger wall was to be built closer to the Park Village East houses. Shortly after the bill’s enactment the AP3 design was dropped in favour of the Three Tunnels design which incorporates three nine metre interweaving tunnels and a large cavern to the north. It is believed the Three Tunnels design would be cheaper to build than the earlier AP3 design. Not rebuilding the cutting’s retaining wall must represent a saving in construction costs.
The report says: “HS2 Ltd has released only a limited number of documents showing the 2017 Three Tunnels design and this has made it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. However, even in this limited documentation, both the size of the proposed underground structures and their proximity to existing structures are readily apparent, and there is a clear risk of catastrophic collapse, both during construction, and also afterwards. To date HS2 Ltd has offered no credible information to explain how this underground structure can be efficiently and safely constructed.
“In general, particular aspects of the 2017 Three Tunnels design so far disclosed by HS2 Ltd carry an unacceptable level of risk of settlement and collapse. It is very difficult to see how the risk can be safely mitigated simply by applying any level of best practice in construction.
“The parallel alignment of retaining wall and tunnel raises the very obvious risk that the concentrated deadweight of the retaining wall – estimated at 130 tonnes per metre – immediately above will cause the tunnel below to simply collapse with catastrophic consequences.
“There is a range of disaster scenarios ranging from the tunnel boring machine becoming trapped underground, to the total structural collapse of the retaining wall into the tunnel. In the worst case this could be a catastrophic collapse which, as well as having a disastrous effect on the infrastructure, could put the personal safety of hundreds of rail travellers and residents at risk.”
Jayesh Kunwardia, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who is representing Miss Granger-Taylor, said: “We have made repeated requests for information from HS2 about the Three Tunnels design, but nothing new has been forthcoming. There is evidence that the proposed scheme poses a serious risk of loss of life and of causing great damage to properties in the area. It is unacceptable that they have not given us sight of a complete set of drawings and Ms Granger-Taylor is left with no other choice but to take HS2 to court.”
Miss Granger-Taylor is attempting to fund the judicial review through Crowd Justice. Donations can be made at www.crowdjustice.com.