The Anglican Church is to oppose the HS2 rail line because it would desecrate graveyards along the route and human remains would not be treated in a “decent and reverent manner”, according to a report.
The Archbishops’ Council, led by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, said the parliamentary Bill to build the line should not be passed unless there are “ecclesiastical safeguards”.
It said there should be greater safeguards to ensure exhumed remains are treated properly and added it was also concerned about noise and vibration from the trains forcing nearby churches to close.
“Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House that the Bill may not be allowed to pass into law as it now stands,” the council said in a petition to the House of Commons, according to The Daily Telegraph.
It added that the Bill did 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”.
During the building of the Channel Tunnel rail link, graves near St Pancras Station were dug up by digger trucks.
Sir Tony Baldry, a Tory MP who acts as a liaison between the Government and the Church of England, said the archbishops were making a “serious point”.
“It’s a matter of common decency that when people are buried in consecrated ground they expect their remains not to be disturbed except in truly exceptional circumstances,” he said.
“I would hope HS2 will be willing to engage and consider what they can do to mitigate the impact on churchyards and remains they may have to inter.”
The construction of HS2 would affect three graveyards. The expansion of Euston Station to accommodate the line would require more than 30,000 bodies in an 18-century graveyard to be exhumed and moved.
Another 2,600 remains in a 12-century graveyard at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire are on the route of the tracks and other remains in Birmingham would have to be moved to allow a new terminal to be built.
A spokesman for the Church of England said the church was “not opposing HS2 per se, rather we are petitioning for a technical change to the Bill”.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said burial grounds had been avoided “as far as practicable”.
“We understand that the removal of human remains to enable HS2 to progress is a sensitive and emotive issue, which is why this issue is specifically dealt with in the Hybrid Bill and why HS2 Ltd recently published a paper setting out how it would deal with affected burial sites along the route,” he said.
“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.”