HS2 has won a court case which threatened to seriously alter their plans to dig train tunnels to Euston station.
The current plans are for three large tunnels to run from Euston station to link it with the HS2 line, but a local resident near the station, who it was noted also opposes HS2 in principle, Ms Hero Granger-Taylor had sued HS2 claiming that the design was fatally flawed.
Her argument was that the tops of one of the three tunnels would come too close to the bottom of the foundations of the retaining wall that lines the existing mainline railway cutting on the approach to Euston station.
The concern being that if the retaining wall were to collapse, not only would the landslip block the mainline railway, the collapse would likely cause considerable damage to the houses that line the road next to it – including her own.
Her claim was that the design of the tunnel approaches to Euston station was “inherently dangerous”, and as such it breached her human rights “to family and private life and quiet enjoyment of property”.
Although initial hearings allowed the case to proceed, the case was dismissed today following written submissions from both sides.”
Although the gap between the top of the tunnel and the bottom of the retaining wall seems small – at 1.5 metres, it’s well within tunnelling tolerances. Also, as with all tunnel projects, a lot of monitoring equipment is used to check for subsidence, and if necessary, apply compensation grouting or similar to offset the soil loss below. The shallowness of the gap does make that harder but is still achievable.
The main flaw in her argument as written up in the judgement was that at the moment, HS2 is still developing the plans for how it will dig the tunnels, and hence the plans are unsafe, whereas HS2’s counter-argument was that plans cant be deemed unsafe if the plans don’t exist yet.
The case, therefore, turned on whether the final designs were likely to be not just dangerous, but also that HS2 would proceed anyway knowing the risks.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that “I cannot conclude on all the evidence that the three tunnels design is so inherently flawed in the vicinity of the retaining wall that no engineering solution could be found to construct it safely”
He also noted that it seemed impossible to accept that HS2 would be “so reckless and so wilful that it is dogmatically persevering with a concept that it does not believe can be delivered safely.”
Although HS2 is pushing on with the design for the three tunnels approach to Euston station it is noted that if they are unable to design a viable method of constructing it, they are likely to seek an alternative design.
He concluded that the tunnelling project “strikes a fair balance between her private interests and the wider public interest in implementing an important infrastructure project”.