Scheme’s city to city selling point marred as alterations to London terminus now scheduled to take 16 years
HS2’s central London terminus at Euston may not open for the start of the new service, with trains finishing at a station in the suburbs for several years, the minister responsible has told the Telegraph.
The Government is examining whether to end the service at Old Oak Common, near Harlesden, about six miles west of Euston.
Passengers would have to change to local Crossrail trains to reach the centre.
Robert Goodwill, the HS2 minister, said: “We are considering whether to open the service to Old Oak Common a few months early, and push back the completion of Euston for a few years.
“By changing to Crossrail at Old Oak Common you will be able to reach [parts of] the West End three minutes quicker than going to Euston and getting the Tube.”
Launching HS2 only as far as Old Oak Common, known as “Option 11” at the Department for Transport, would badly damage the scheme’s promised city centre to city centre journey appeal.
For many central London destinations, any time saved on the high-speed journey from Birmingham would be cancelled out by the need to change platforms and wait for a local connecting train.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, called Old Oak Common “the Ryanair solution, stopping in the middle of nowhere.”
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Although the area is scheduled to become a major redevelopment zone, it is currently an isolated and run-down industrial neighbourhood.
Changing to Crossrail at Old Oak Common would be the same or quicker for travellers to some central London stops on the Crossrail route, including Paddington and Bond Street.
But other destinations would be slower, businesspeople or travellers with luggage wanting to continue their journey by taxi would face much longer trips and connections with the Eurostar service at St Pancras would be far more difficult.
However, finishing HS2 at Old Oak would give the scheme’s promoters more time to solve what has become their most pressing problem, the redevelopment of Euston for the new service.
Last year, plans to completely rebuild the station were scrapped because HS2 “simply couldn’t get the costs and benefits of the scheme to balance in an affordable way,” according to its development director for the project, Rupert Walker.
Revised plans presented earlier this month keep two thirds of the existing 1960s terminus, but add a new station alongside it for HS2 trains.
The redevelopment is now scheduled to take 16 years, seven years longer than before.
The local MP, Sir Keir Starmer, said the plans were “a mess” which would “devastate” the area and end up delivering “half the station in twice the time.”
He said: “It does not make sense to bring a 21st-century, high-speed railway into a densely-populated part of north London simply because that is where the conventional station is. The only sensible plan is to abandon the project altogether.”
Sir Keir, the former Labour mayoral candidate Tessa Jowell and many others including the House of Lords’ economic affairs committee have asked Government to make Old Oak Common the permanent terminus of the line to save money and avoid blighting Euston.
The Euston redevelopment will demolish 215 homes, with about 250 more potentially made uninhabitable and another thousand affected by noise and vibration.
Twenty thousand square metres of open space, including a public garden, will be lost and hotels, restaurants, pubs and shops bulldozed, with about 3,000 jobs at risk.
An extra 650 heavy goods vehicle journeys a day will be made in the area at the height of the project.
New changes to the scheme tabled last week will affect a further 486 property owners near the station.
Mr Goodwill confirmed a report in the Telegraph last week that the redevelopment will cut number of platforms for the existing, conventional service at Euston by more than a third, from 18 to 11.
Two of Euston’s six approach tracks for conventional trains will also be removed, though one would be reinstated later.
The reduction badly undermines HS2’s central justification, that it will release capacity on the existing lines for new commuter and inter-city trains. Capacity will be created along the line, but there will be nowhere for trains to go once they reach London.
Ending HS2 at Old Oak Common would worsen its already poor connections to city centres and local transport networks. HS2 will not run to the main rail station in five of the seven main provincial cities it is supposed to serve.
In three of these cities – Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby – it will not even run to the city centre, with passengers expected to take local connecting services to parkway stations up to ten miles away.
The next three months will be a crunch time for the scheme, with the possibility that it could still be scrapped.
The new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has attacked HS2 as “a project with the aim of turning our great regional cities into dormitories for London businesses.”
The SNP has threatened to vote against HS2 if Scotland is not connected to the network, something for which there are no plans.
The two groups could combine in Parliament with Tory rebels to defeat the scheme.