UNTIL a "decent and reverent" burial is guaranteed for the
thousands of human remains currently resting in its path, the
proposed High Speed Rail link (HS2) should not go ahead, the
Archbishops' Council has told MPs.
A petition from the council to Parliament, published on Monday,
urges MPs not to pass the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands)
Bill in its current form. It calls for "ecclesiastical safeguards"
to ensure that the human remains that will be exhumed in the
construction of the line will be buried in consecrated ground "in a
The Bill, published in November, gives the Government the
powersto construct the first stretch ofthe proposed railway line,
from London Euston to Birmingham. Work is due to begin in 2017, and
trains are expected to run from 2026. In the second phase, the line
will be extended to Manchester and Leeds.
The construction of the first section of the route will
necessitate the exhumation of thousands of bodies, as three
consecrated, disused burial grounds will be destroyed: at Euston,
St James Gardens, in St Pancras; at the the old church of St Mary,
Stoke Mandeville; and at the Park Street/Curzon interchange in
The petition complains that the Bill does not make "adequate
provision to ensure that during and after the removal of human
remains they are treated in a decent and reverent manner, or that
they are subsequently reinterred in consecrated land".
The Church Buildings Council notes that HS2 will "severely
impact" St Mary and St Nicholas, Chetwode, a Grade I Listed
13th-century church situated less than 200 metres away from the
line. "This exceptionally quiet and serene rural location would be
The Archbishops' Council hopes to secure compensation for
individual churches, if the line goes ahead.
On Tuesday, the Rector of Amersham with Coleshill, the Revd Tim
Harper, said that if, as planned, the HS2 would go by tunnel under
Amersham, there would be "little danger" of structural damage to St
Mary's, Old Amersham, a Grade I Listed building, or to All Saints',
Coleshill, a Grade II* listing.
But he cautioned: "The chaos and disruption caused by the
construction process in this beautiful part of the Chilterns,
itself an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would be beyond
On Monday, a Church of England spokesperson said: "The C of E is
not opposing HS2 per se. Rather, we are petitioning for a
technical change to the Bill, i.e. we are opposing the Bill in its
present - in our view, technically deficient - form. It is simply a
matter of reinstating a clause which can be found in other
legislation relating to development, and has been left out of this
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Throughout the
development of HS2, burial grounds have been avoided as far as
practicable. . . Though the affected burial sites at Euston, Stoke
Mandeville, and Birmingham have not been in use for more than 100
years, HS2 Ltd will ensure that the affected remains are treated
with dignity, respect, and care."
HS2 has considerable cross-party support, but remains
contentious. The Government argues that the line is "vital to meet
the urgent rail-capacity needs on the main rail routes into
London". It also has the support of the British Chambers of
Commerce and the TUC.