Campaigners are demanding that workers ‘stop digging’ after a 16-foot deep sinkhole opened up above a tunnel being built for the HS2 high speed rail line.
The huge hole is about six metres (20ft) wide and appeared above part of the Chiltern tunnel in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, leaving residents in horror.
A HS2 spokesperson said the sinkhole is related to“pre-existing ground conditions” in the “field above the Chiltern tunnels” and said investigations are “ongoing”. The site has been “sealed off” and there is “no risk to the public”, they added.
But campaigners say the deep hole is a sign that it is “time to stop digging” as the work is “ruining the countryside for a pointless train”.
On Twitter one user said HS2 is “denying” it has anything to do with the sinkhole, which sits adjacent to Shardeloes Lake, despite recently boring two tunnels beneath it.
Mike Watts wrote on ‘Stop HS2’ Facebook page: “I go for walks there. There’s only one beautiful Buckinghamshire and these politicians have ruined it.”
Another user, Kate Clark, commented: “Continuing to ruin our countryside for a pointless train.”
Catherine Bunting, a parish councillor for Great Missenden and Prestwood, said residents “want drilling to stop whilst the safety of the aquifer is independently assessed.”
She added: “They have expressed concern for the fragile aquifer for years now and HS2 don’t appear to address any of our concerns.
"The aquifer feeds drinking water to millions of people in the South East and feeds our chalk streams and rivers."
The 10-mile long Chiltern Tunnel is the longest tunnel on the HS2 route between London and Crewe with work on the tunnel said to be about half complete.
‘It is very worrying’
The leader of Buckinghamshire Council, which has opposed HS2, said the council has warned for 12 years of the possible damage the railway works could do to the land as a result of construction.
Councillor Martin Tett said: “This council has opposed HS2 consistently. The risk of tunnelling and what might happen in terms of ground collapse has been very present - we warned this could happen and lo and behold it has.
“There is nothing to be said in terms of being right about this. But it is very worrying and we must have the right reassurances from HS2.”
HS2 is due to be finished between 2023 and 2029 allowing passengers to travel between London and Crewe, and it will eventually run through Manchester.
But the government announced in March that the construction of the Birmingham to Crewe leg of HS2 will be delayed by two years.
Services will also not stop in Euston or central London for years to come with passengers expected to travel for half an hour on the Elizabeth Line instead to save money on the works amid high inflation.
HS2 has notified the Environment Agency about the sinkhole.