HS2 will not go to Euston without private funds

6 months ago 144

HS2 construction workImage source, HS2 Ltd

By Michael Race & Katy Austin

Business reporter and Transport correspondent

The HS2 rail line will not be extended to London Euston unless enough private investment is secured for the project.

If cash is not put forward by private funds, the high-speed line will only run from Birmingham to Old Oak Common in the capital's western suburbs.

This would mean passengers travelling to central London would have to change.

The government has said it is "getting a grip of plans" for Euston, adding there had been two "unaffordable designs" for a "gold-plated" station.

It has already cut the number of planned platforms for high-speed trains from 11 to six.

The BBC has been told the project at Euston would be dependent on private investment, with the government stating it would take on the "lessons of success stories" on other schemes such as the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and King's Cross station.

Old Oak Common will be the UK's largest newly built railway station when opened, but there are concerns over the lack of options for onward journeys with government modelling suggests two-thirds of people would prefer to travel to or from Euston.

The Department for Transport (DfT) stated it wanted Euston station to "be open and running trains as soon as possible", and that its "rescoped approach" would save £6.5bn.

To "get the best possible value for the British taxpayer", DfT officials said they would "ensure that funding is underpinned by contributions from those people and businesses its development supports" and by leveraging "private sector investment".

But critics have attacked the change in stance, with railway consultant William Barter, whose recent clients include the government, calling the new plans "totally unambitious".

As part of the now scaled-back proposals, a planned pedestrian tunnel linking Euston station with the nearby Euston Square tube station has also been scrapped.

Image source, Grimshaw Archtechts

Image caption,

Plans for HS2's Euston station previously included a roof coloured bronze or gold

Extending HS2 to Euston involves digging a 4.5-mile tunnel from Old Oak Common and building a new station at Euston next to the existing West Coast Main Line terminus.

Work had already started on Euston, but it was halted in March because costs had ballooned to £4.8bn, compared with an initial budget of £2.6bn.

A document issued by the DfT said the government would look to create a "transformed 'Euston Quarter' - potentially offering up to 10,000 homes" as part of its new plans for the station.

Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council which is where the station is being built, said the "worst-case scenario of the station being abandoned in its current state had been avoided, warned pledges on affordable housing, jobs and investment locally must not be broken.

Mr Sunak said on Wednesday that a new development company, separate from HS2 Ltd, would manage the delivery of the Euston project, adding there "must be some accountability for the mistakes made, for the mismanagement of this project".

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