TfL at the Lords Economic Affairs Committee on HS2

Earlier this month, Michele Dix, managing director of planning at Transport for London, gave evidence to the Lords Economics Affairs Committee. The session covered the Euston rebuild, Crossrail 2, the (lack of) HS1 link and Old Oak Common.

What was clear is that HS2 Ltd do not collaborate even with Transport for London, in spite of needing to work together in a number of areas.

With regard to Euston, Ms Dix said that she had been told that HS2 Ltd were still working on Euston, but the “costs for Euston were higher than the envelope of costs expected for Euston” and that it would be “brought back to the Committee next year, towards the end of the summer [2015]”. She told the committee that what had gone into the Hybrid Bill was “not satisfactory” and David Higgins had hoped to put an alternative forward in December (David Higgins told MPs in March this year there would be “a radical new plan for Euston in six months” – i.e. September 2014).

Although there had been plans developed which fitted with the Borough of Camden’s Euston area plan, she said “The design that was on the table did fit up until recently, but the work they have done shows that the cost of developing and delivering that, and the timetable for delivering that, exceeds the envelope that they have.” The plans needed to fit in with the Underground and Crossrail 2 as well as rebuilding Euston: the scheme was about £4 billion to £4.5 billion, but the funding envelope was £2 billion.

Ms Dix told the committee it was essential to build Crossrail 2 before HS2 Phase 2, and that the timeline for Crossrail 2 was under consultation.

On the topic of the link to HS1, Ms Dix told the committee the original plans were unworkable. She said
“We objected to the original HS1-HS2 link that was in the original proposals, because it would have been totally inadequate and it would have had an adverse effect on our own overground trains. We wanted to see that link taken out, but at the same time we want to see a proper link put back in. So we do want to see an HS1-HS2 link provided but we would like to see that as a twin-bore tunnel that went from Old Oak Common to join with HS1 and onward to Stratford. “

She went on to say that HS2 Ltd were unwilling to look at the things Transport for London had asked them to look at and TfL wanted to understand the HS2 Ltd plans.

When asked by Lord Skidelsky whether they lobbied, a visibly frustrated Ms Dix said “We lobby. We do the work and we say, “If you do this, it fits in with that. If you do this, then please make provision for that”. We want to do that through collaborative working, being part of forums, boards and so on, but when we cannot achieve it through collaborative working we petition.”

Ms Dix was critical of the current plans at Old Oak Common, pointing out that

A key piece of infrastructure would be needed, because you have two railway lines—the West London Line and the North London Line just running past Old Oak Common—but no station, and you could go past the development site but you could not get off. Therefore, you need to put two stations there so that you can get off and then you can access HS2 and Crossrail 2. They would then help to deliver the uplift in value that would be associated with that development, which would then add to the benefits of the scheme. That is the approach.
Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach: They would also involve a cost?
Michèle Dix: They would involve a cost, but the cost could be covered by the uplift in the scheme because of their existence. If they are not there, all you have is an interchange.

When asked what the effect of the rebuild on passengers using Euston, Ms Dix first said without any work done Euston would be crowded. Pressed further:

Michèle Dix: It will depend on what the scheme looks like, because at the moment we do not know what the scheme is. There was a scheme on the table a few months ago. There is no scheme on the table now. I am not designing the scheme.
Lord McFall of Alcluith: I understand that.
Michèle Dix: I am TfL. HS2 and DfT are designing the scheme with Network Rail. We want to influence the shape of the scheme, such that the travelling public and the people who live in that locality have a station that works. What will £2 billion look like? It depends in part on what comes out of the design, but we hope that it will look like a station that works and that is accessible, a station where onward distribution is easy and where it is obvious where you go when you come out of the station.

Lord May of Oxford was critical of the analysis done by proponents of HS2 saying

“I am strongly tempted, and trying to resist it, to say that I find much of this discussion leaving me grateful that all my life I have moved in a world where the people I have to deal with know what they are doing, have a focused approach to interacting with people, and you can have coherent conversations with them. I find this painful. …Then people went on talking about it and there was very little in the way of believable quantitative analysis. I wonder if you could tell me that I am wrong.”

Michèle Dix’s frustration was clear when she said “I would just say that I am not responsible for the economic evaluation of HS2″  and that “ I think it is a good thing for everybody, and I do not know why that is incomprehensible.”

Lord May of Oxford: It is the lack of coherent underpinning analysis that I find painful. I am not talking about you, in particular.”

Often groups and individuals who are blighted by HS2 are blamed for not being able to work with HS2 Ltd, but from her evidence it is clear that even though Transport for London supports HS2, HS2 Ltd will not collaborate with them.

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