image captionRoc Sandford with his children Blue (left) and Lazer during a protest in central London in 2018
The father of two climate change activists fears they could die inside a network of tunnels they helped to dig in protest at the HS2 rail project.
Roc Sandford’s children Blue and Lazer have been in the tunnels, near Euston station, for the past nine days.
The 63-year-old said he was “scared he may never see them again” and criticised efforts made to remove them.
HS2 has rejected claims by Mr Sandford that Lazer has been subjected to an assault by those trying to evict him.
Bailiffs discovered earlier that the 20-year-old had locked his arm and ankle inside the tunnel network, where seasoned activist Daniel Hooper – better known as Swampy – and his son have also taken up residence.
“Lazer, who is locked in the downshaft, keeps getting things dropped on him, choked, put in wrist locks or being stood or sat on,” Mr Sandford said.
image captionLazer Sandford’s arm is stuck in a “steel arm tube” inside the tunnel, campaigners say
A spokeswoman for HS2 said the safety of staff, protesters and emergency services was of “paramount importance”.
“We are doing all we can to end this illegal action safely, and progress has been made with access secured to the underground tunnel,” she said.
“As has been reported this [Friday] morning, the illegal trespassers have attached themselves underground, which increases the danger to themselves, but also to our team and the emergency services.”
Blue, 18, and Lazer are among nine protesters burrowed underground – something their father supports, despite the risks involved.
“I was really scared they would die down there and I would never see them again,” Mr Sandford said.
image captionBlue Sandford pictured in the tunnel, which campaigners say is 100ft (30m) long
image captionDr Larch Maxey, one of the demonstrators, said bailiffs had dug a parallel “down shaft” to connect to the protesters’ tunnels
In August, HS2 Rebellion campaigners started occupying a site on Euston Square Gardens, which is where the entrance to the tunnel is located.
They are on land that HS2 requires so it can build a temporary taxi rank, as part of the high-speed rail project.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, whose constituency includes Euston, said the most important thing was to make sure lives were not at risk.
Mr Sandford argues that his children have been left with “no choice” but to protest in the way they have been.
He added: “They shouldn’t have to be doing this. They should be studying.
“My children and their fellow tunnellers are fighting for all our lives and I’m really proud of them.”
Previously, Blue said she was on a “school strike” for climate change, while Mr Sandford said his son started protesting once he left school.
image captionDaniel Cooper – better known as Swampy – is one of the campaigners below Euston Square Gardens
image captionFor more than a week, enforcement officers have been trying to remove protesters from tunnels below the HS2 Rebellion encampment in Euston Square Gardens
Speaking from his remote island home, Mr Sandford said he had been able to remain in contact with his children.
As well as the allegations he has made about the treatment of his son, Mr Sandford said the protesters were being denied the right to monitor oxygen levels in the depths of the tunnel network.
However, the HS2 spokeswoman said there was no evidence to support Mr Sandford’s allegations.
Earlier this week, High Court judge Mr Justice Robin Knowles refused an application by one of the protesters, Larch Maxey, who was trying to stop bailiffs from trying to remove them.
The judge said the activists’ predicament was “very dangerous” and that Dr Maxey should inform the authorities about the number of people in the tunnels and cease any further digging.
image captionThe entrance to the tunnel is through a shed in Euston Square Gardens
It is an order he has not complied with, the HS2 spokeswoman said.
She said: “The High Court this week issued an order which required another illegal occupant of the tunnel, Dr Maxey, to leave the tunnel and encourage others, including Mr Sandford’s children, to also do so.
“Continuing to ignore the court order compounds the illegality and risk of their actions.
“Mr Sandford should urge his children to remove themselves from the tunnel as soon as possible – for their safety and the safety of the other activists and HS2 staff and agents tasked with removing them from the danger they in which they have placed themselves.”
image captionSome of the protesters above ground have been arrested
The campaigners say that HS2 is using “huge amounts of high-carbon steel” in the rail project, something they say “will only make the climate emergency worse”.
An HS2 report published last February said the project would not reduce CO2 overall for more than 100 years, largely because of the emissions created during tunnelling and construction.
However, HS2 now says that forecast is out of date. It also points to measures it has taken to reduce construction emissions by using less steel, although it has not produced any new figures.
HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. It is hoped the 20-year project will reduce rail passenger overcrowding and help to rebalance the UK’s economy.
The campaign group alleges HS2 is the “most expensive, wasteful and destructive project in UK history” and that it is “set to destroy or irreparably damage 108 ancient woodlands and 693 wildlife sites”.
However, HS2 bosses have said seven million trees will be planted during phase one of the project.
They also say that much ancient woodland will “remain intact”.
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