Following publication of minutes of an emergency meeting of the HS2 Euston Strategic Board, it has been revealed that work on additional provisions which were due to be submitted to amend the current HS2 Hybrid Bill have paused, as the design being worked on for Euston station is ‘not a fundable solution’.
Euston Development Director Rupert Walker told the meeting on 9th October that designs could not be made to work as there was no business case, and that to make the business case for the Euston station rebuild, more development would have to be included. It was also revealed that there were also unresolved issues concerning the operation of trains during construction.
The figures, which were not revealed have been costed twice and appraised by Deloittes. The refusal to reveal the figures or the working behind them was not taken well by Camden Council leader Sarah Hayward, who with regard to the assumptions used in determining that the schemes were unviable asked: “How can Camden properly consider without sight of the work underpinning it? It is not acceptable to present only one side of the story.”
HS2 will require a complete rebuild of Euston, as every track and platform would have to be moved to accommodate HS2. When the HS2 Hybrid Bill was deposited, the originally proposed total rebuild had been scrapped, in favour of an extension of the station to be built on the western edge of Euston. However, it was then decided to go back to the rebuild solution, with over station development (OSD) being included in an attempt to make the project financially viable. The last cost estimate for the Euston rebuild was £7bn, with £5bn of it expected to come from the OSD.
Walker stated that HS2 Ltd and Network Rail:
“Simply couldn’t get the costs and benefits of the scheme to balance in an affordable way so the designers have stopped work. We want to get them working again with fundamental information. It would be useful to know if there is any flexibility in the EAP in terms of affordable housing, knowledge economy, tall buildings etc.”
However, the fundamental problem with this request is, as Hayward had highlighted, the sharing of information. To underline the problem of HS2 Ltd being willing to work with those HS2 has significant implications for and diverge any sort of information, the action point relating to this part of the meeting reads:
“HS2 Ltd/Network Rail to consider whether they can share more information on viability assumptions with the London Borough of Camden and Greater London Assembly.”
Whilst in terms of engaging the community of Camden, four and a half years after HS2 was first announced, there is currently a period of eight weeks ongoing in which NR/HS2 are speaking to stakeholders to “find out what sort of engagement they want”.
Previously, the chair of the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee Robert Syms MP had said that his committee, which is currently hearing petitions from those living close to the HS2 route, might ‘skip ahead’ to Camden, to try and get it done before the General Election in May. But as Walker stated “designs wouldn’t be looked at until next year”, that scenario is now impossible.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“HS2 Ltd dropped their original plans to rebuild Euston because they were too expensive, but then went back to that plan, expecting the land-grab to be a cash-cow which would help contribute to the burgeoning costs to this white elephant. Now HS2 Ltd themselves are admitting the plans are not fundable and have no business case, the obvious solution to scrap the entire project and invest in affordable infrastructure improvements instead of this vanity project becomes even more obvious. We have always known that there is no business case for HS2 and that the costs will only ever keep on going up, but now HS2 Ltd are admitting it themselves, it is surely time to scrap this boondoggle before more taxpayers money is wasted.”
Robert Latham, Chair, HS2 Euston Action Group added:
“The HS2 Euston Action group has consistently argued that HS2 Ltd has failed to recognise either the cost or the complexities of bringing HS2 into a vibrant, densely populated, high value area such as Euston. We have seen the cost of the station rise from £1.2bn, to £2bn to £7bn, and now to an unspecified figure that HS2 state that they are now unable to afford. The opening date for Euston Station has been pushed back from 2026 to 2034.”
“All these developments have been discussed in secret behind closed doors and without any community engagement. The question to be asked is whether the government is willing to pay the real cost of bringing this vanity project into Euston. This is not just the cost of the station, but the additional costs of mitigation measures and fair compensation for local residents and businesses. It seems that it is ‘no’. The sooner this is recognised, the better.”