Law firm calls on Government to confirm stance on Oakervee claim that HS2 tunnels into Euston pose “major risks”

Posted on: 9th April 2020

In the latest development in a case brought by a London resident against HS2 Ltd, the Department for Transport has acknowledged the findings of its recent Oakervee Review, which states that the design for three tunnels below the Camden Cutting, forming the HS2 approach into Euston, is “expensive and exposes major risks to the existing railway and services during construction”.

The Government-commissioned Oakervee Review recommends that a new study “should seek to avoid the complicated HS2 approach to Euston station and minimise risk”.

The Department for Transport is co-defendant in a case brought by Ms Granger-Taylor and her solicitors Hodge Jones & Allen, based in Camden, London. HS2 Ltd, also co-defendant, maintains the Three Tunnels Design, as it is known, is safe and feasible.

HJA Solicitors said in a letter sent to the Government Legal Department last week that there was now a “conflict” between HS2 Ltd and the Department of Transport and called for the latter to “confirm [its] position on this material issue without any further delay… in the interests of avoiding further court time and costs.”

It now remains for the Government to decide whether it should adhere to the advice in the Oakervee Review or allow HS2 Ltd to require its contractors to push ahead with the potentially dangerous plans. The Three Tunnels Design, as proposed by HS2 Ltd, has never been formally approved by the Government.

In January, Ms Granger-Taylor won an order from the High Court to force HS2 Ltd to disclose more evidence outlining the safety precautions undertaken and the viability of the Three Tunnels Design.

That new evidence has again failed to prove that the Three Tunnels Design is safe. Colin Elliff, a specialist railway engineer who was brought in to assess the legitimacy of the Three Tunnels Design, and whose first report was instrumental in the January Judicial Review hearing, claimed the new evidence “did nothing to change the fundamental conclusion of my original report – that the proposed construction of a new railway tunnel presents unacceptable risks.”

Mr. Elliff’s original report revealed the Three Tunnels Design could cause a huge 10-metre high, 120-year-old wall to collapse into the new tunnels below or onto the existing West Coast main line, potentially crushing railway passengers. Evidence shows the unstable wall creating 130 tonnes per metre of pressure downwards onto the proposed 9m wide tunnel just 1.5m below.

In a bizarre turn of events, on 3 April parking suspension notices appeared near Ms Granger-Taylor’s home for the purpose of ‘HS2 Works’ to commence on 20 April and run though until the end of June – right in the middle of the COVID-19 lock-down and at a time when the number of victims in London is expected to peak.

Jayesh Kunwardia, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen said: “We now have two defendants in our case saying very different things – one that the tunnel scheme is fundamentally dangerous, the other claiming it’s totally safe. The contrast almost beggars belief. We urge the Government to do the right thing and acknowledge what its own advice says – that a new design is needed and that this one is fatally flawed.”

“We also call on HS2 Ltd to cease putting workers at risk by having them work during the pandemic. Considering the Three Tunnels Design has not been approved by Government, we struggle to see how employees of HS2 Ltd’s contractors can be deemed ‘key workers’”.

Ms Granger-Taylor, who lives half a mile from Euston Station, said: “The only party which seems to think the Three Tunnels Design is still feasible is HS2 Ltd, the designers of the HS2 scheme. Considering the loss of confidence in the whole project which would follow from admitting their problems in the Euston approach, that doesn’t surprise me.

“Now, the Department for Transport has raised serious concerns. Thousands of commuters travel into and out of Euston station every day and undermining the structural integrity of the area below and around the existing tracks with the Three Tunnels Design risks their safety. We urge the Government to do the right thing and consider alternative options for the London approach.”

The return hearing will take place in May 2020.

Counsel for Ms Granger-Taylor is Christopher Jacobs at Landmark Chambers.

To support Ms Granger-Taylor’s judicial review challenge through Crowd Justice, please visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/hs2accountability/

 

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