Serious Problems with HS2 in Camden

Over the years, local residents have used their local knowledge to consistently raise concerns about the proposed HS2 route in their area, mostly issues which HS2 Ltd seemed unaware or unconcerned about, with the prevailing attitude seeming to be that these problems, if indeed they are problems, would be sorted out by the contractors when they are appointed. Well in Camden, those concerns have been all stored up, as this letter from the Camden Civic Society to HS2 Minister Paul Maynard demonstrates:

Dear Mr Maynard,

The current March 2017 scheme for bringing high speed trains through the Camden Cutting into Euston Station in our view is not technically feasible. Its attempted construction will cause massive disruption and damage, and will create unacceptable safety hazards arising from the risk of catastrophic failure. Key to its difficulties are firstly the narrow width of the Camden Cutting and secondly the very extended ‘throat’
apparently required by the HS2 trains. We cannot see a feasible design being developed within the Limits of Deviation established in the 2016 Act.

a) The Background to our Concerns.

We are writing to alert you to a matter which we believe to be critical to the future of the HS2 project. HS2 was announced seven years ago and construction is due to start on in our area in about fifteen months. We have already been presented with a succession of schemes for HS2’s new tracks into Euston Station. Yet so far there has been no proposal from HS2 Ltd for bringing the trains through the Euston Approach which in our view does not carry with it unacceptable safety risks. The risks inherent in the latest scheme (hereafter referred to as the March 2017 scheme ) are set out in the attached Technical Report, written by the specialist railway structural engineer who has been advising us.

Forgive us for writing at some length but we believe the importance of the matters we bring to your attention justifies a reasonable level of detail. Our letter finishes with seven questions. We would be very grateful to receive answers to these as soon as possible.

If it would be helpful if we came to see you in person, together the engineer who has been advising us, we would be very happy to do so.

b) The First Appearance of the March 2017 scheme proposed by HS2 Ltd for the Euston Approach.

We were first alerted to a new scheme being developed by HS2 Ltd for the Euston Approach by Camden’s Chief Executive on 26th August last year. On 3rd March this year, at a second meeting with community representatives, HS2 Ltd presented two drawings showing an outline design for this March 2017 scheme. We understand that by this date this new scheme had been approved by HS2 Ltd’s technical board, and that it therefore had superseded the previous AP3 scheme. (It was of course on the basis of the AP3 scheme that Camden residents and businesses petitioned Parliament).


Image 1 as described. Click to enlarge.

HS2 Ltd has since released the first drawing, a plan comparing the March 2017 scheme to the previous AP3 scheme, and we attach this here. The second drawing is a series of four cross-sections of the March 2017 scheme. This drawing has not so far been released and for the meantime we are dependent on an informal photograph taken on 3rd March by a local resident; we also attach this. Any design for the Euston Approach will have particular difficulties with the stretch known officially as the Euston Cutting but now commonly referred to as the Camden Cutting. This famous railway pinch-point begins at the southern end of the existing Park Street Tunnels (under what is now Parkway) and extends southwards between retaining walls supporting Park Village East on the west side and Mornington Terrace on the east side. At its narrowest point it is crossed by Mornington Street Bridge. In this area, HS2 Ltd’s plan drawing is particularly hard to decipher, so we have made a coloured version of it, plus a coloured version of the most relevant cross-section, and we also attach these.

c) The Potential Advantages of the March 2017 scheme for Camden Residents

Image 2 as described. Click to enlarge.

At the minimal level of information so far supplied, the March 2017 scheme, in which the HS2 tunnels and portals have been extended southwards, has appeared greatly preferable to Camden residents over the AP3 scheme. This is for two major reasons.

  1. With the tracks coming in at a lower level, it would not be necessary to rebuild two important bridges (Hampstead Road and Granby Terrace bridges). Instead, it would only be necessary to extend them, thereby much reducing disruption to road traffic and pedestrians.
  2. It would also not be necessary to use the northern part of Park Village East as a construction site, closing this road for up to six years.

However, residents are well aware that it was not these mitigating effects which brought about the change. We understand that it was in fact the problems inherent in the AP3 scheme, most importantly the necessity for work to be carried out in the Camden Cutting close to the lines on which trains would still be running. This would risk accidents as well as require many interruptions to existing train services. We have heard that firms preparing to bid for the contract to build the AP3 scheme found it almost impossible to obtain insurance at an economic rate.

d) Concerns with the Birdcage structure.

Cross Section as described above. Click to enlarge.

The very large strutted ‘grade separation’ structure central to the AP3 scheme, known to residents as the ‘Birdcage’, also presented serious problems. Our railway expert has told us that that this was a form of construction not seen in any other railway scheme, in the UK or abroad. Additionally, this structure was to be used as a ‘prop’ support to a new barrette retaining wall which would replace the existing Park Village East retaining wall. Any movement of this barrette wall would result in ground movement extending across Park Village East and into the Grade II* listed John Nash villas on the opposite side of the road. These villas were built in the 1820s and are far from robust.

In his presentation to the House of Lords Select Committee on 11th October last year, petitioner Sam Price, a local resident who is also a highly experienced structural engineer, effectively emphasised the unusual scale and design of the Birdcage: ‘A huge, really huge, concrete construction. The sort of thing that I have never come across in my working life.’ Community representatives have recorded that at the meeting with HS2 Ltd on 8th November last year, Rob Carr, HS2 Programme Director, Area South, said that he was somewhat ‘horrified’ by this structure and was keen to get rid of it.

In Camden Civic Society’s petition to the House of Lords (no.770) we had written at paragraph 30:
…the incomplete information provided by HS2 on track layout in the throat and Camden Cutting and the need for a concrete box or ‘Birdcage’ structure suggests to us that this part of the railway design has … not been fully thought through.

e) Concerns with the use of a Design and Build Contract for the March 2017 scheme.

While we could see that the AP3 scheme had not been sufficiently thought through, unfortunately this is even truer of the March 2017 scheme. So far this new scheme has only been designed in minimal outline, to be handed over for the ‘Early Contractor Involvement Phase’ to be designed in detail by a ‘Main Works Contractor’ on a ‘Design and Build’ basis (on 1st August this year the contract for the Euston Approach was awarded to the Costain Skanska Strabag Joint Venture). The Main Works Contractor will have only a relatively short period to finalise a design before signing up various specialist sub-contractors, with the construction work itself due to begin in early 2019.

We are concerned about the wisdom of using a Design and Build contract for such an important piece of national infrastructure for several reasons:

  • HS2 Ltd has not developed a workable scheme for the works that they have contracted to
    Costain Skanska Strabag. With no workable scheme for contractors to tender against, costs
    are highly likely to escalate out of control.
  • We assume as a result that HS2 Ltd has not set any Performance Requirements to define
    acceptable levels of settlement, ground movement etc. With no definition of these critical
    parameters at the core of the contracts being let, safety of both railway operations and
    neighbouring communities is likely to be compromised.
  • HS2 Ltd has not yet completed the Ground Investigations that might assist contractors in
    pricing the risks associated with constructing the proposed works. We are aware that,
    where a large volume of excavation is involved, as in the case of the Euston Approach, any
    design will need to be modified in response to the actual conditions which are found to exist
    underground. But HS2 Ltd could have done much more by now to establish the conditions
    which prevail here. Formal Ground Investigations have only recently begun, when these
    could have been undertaken much earlier on publicly-owned land, most obviously along
    Park Village East and in the Cutting itself.

We understand that none of Crossrail has been built on a Design and Build basis. In our view, HS2 Ltd
should have followed this much more transparent manner of proceeding and produced a worked-up
design themselves.

f) Concerns with the Attitude and Competence of HS2 Ltd.

While we are very concerned about the poor level of information that has been given out, we are even more worried that HS2 Ltd themselves may not have any real understanding of the level of risk that this lack of information will bring. Instead, there appears to be a misplaced belief that contractors will offer innovative solutions that will compensate for HS2 Ltd’s failure to adequately plan their proposed works. This gung-ho attitude was evident when the Birdcage was proposed in the AP3 scheme, and we are concerned that despite the failure of the Birdcage and an earlier superseded scheme, this over-confident attitude is still prevalent.

When we spoke informally to Suzanne Crouch, Head of Programme Interface at High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, on 1st July, she told us, in broad terms, that one reason for putting out the March 2017 scheme on a Design and Build contract was so that a “ground-breaking” innovative method could be found which would solve the puzzle of how to construct this stretch of the new railway. But what this method might be, HS2 Ltd themselves do not yet appear to know.

g) Conflicts between Safety and Political and Contractual Pressures.

The long-term cost benefit ratio of HS2 remains in doubt. But what seems certain is that firms contracted to build this new railway will make healthy profits (see for example a headline in Construction News for 7th August: Keller targets HS2 windfall – Keller has set its sights on securing £50m of work on HS2 when construction begins in 2019). We understand that Design and Build contracts can be particularly profitable, as without a detailed schedule at the time of signing, they are much more difficult to price. If the Main Works Contractor for the Euston Approach becomes aware during the design stage that the March 2017 scheme is too risky and as a result not feasible, we do not know what incentives there are in place, if any, to encourage the contractor to report such problems at an early stage.

An additional factor very evident to us are the profits anticipated from commercial development above and around the redeveloped Euston station. We wonder whether a contractor working on the railway scheme itself will feel in a secure enough position to say that the planned redevelopment of Euston should be halted because they cannot see a way to bring the HS2 trains safely through the Approach. (We should mention here that, in our view, the scale of development possible at Euston has been consistently exaggerated. Unlike at King’s Cross, there are no Railway Lands at Euston, and instead the station and the Approach are surrounded on three sides by long-established housing. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is pervasive, not least within the DfT, as remarks by your predecessors have shown.)

Another cause for concern is that so much of work is being planned and is due to be carried out at a number of steps removed from the scheme’s commissioner, the UK Government. We can see a similarity with the over-extended line of responsibility behind the decision to clad Grenfell Tower in flammable panels. In that case, there was the elected authority (the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea), the arm’s length Tenant Management Company, an architect, a main contractor and several specialist sub-contractors. In the case of the HS2 scheme, HS2 Ltd itself is the arm’s length management company, and as noted above, HS2 Ltd has failed manifestly to stamp its technical authority and requirements upon the project.

From the beginning of the project, the proposed new railway line has furthermore been split up into sections, now called ‘plots’, each due to have their own Main Works Contractor with several subcontractors. There have also, over the last seven years, been very substantial changes in personnel within HS2 Ltd. And it is has been noticeable that during the design stage, the contracted designers have appeared to change at regular intervals. For example, HS2 Ltd are now seeking to award their third architectural contract for the design of ‘the HS2 station’ at Euston.

We do not know, among these myriad enterprises and extended chain of command, who might step up and say that the new design for the Euston Approach is not feasible or, if they did, who would listen to them.

It is in many ways very unfortunate that HS2 has continued the receive cross-party support in Parliament. Almost all criticism of the HS2 project, even when it comes from highly qualified sources, has either fallen upon deaf ears within the Government or, we fear, has been actively suppressed.

h) Principal Differences between AP3 Scheme and March 2017 scheme.

For clarity’s sake, we are giving a short description here of the March 2017 scheme in the area of the Camden Cutting, as it is shown on the drawings we have attached:

  • The March 2017 scheme moves the tracks downwards by about 5 m.
  • It shifts the tunnel portals approximately 300 m southwards from a point south of Parkway
    to about the same distance south of Mornington Street Bridge.
  • Because the Inbound track still has to divide into two between Parkway and Mornington
    Street Bridge (in order to enable the trains to get into their platforms at Euston without
    conflicting with outbound movements), it becomes necessary for this division to take place
    below ground.
  • For this short stretch an additional Inbound tunnel is planned (making a total of three
    tunnels with three portals in the vicinity of Mornington Street Bridge).
  • An underground ‘cavern’ must be created to make it possible for the Inbound tunnel to
    divide into two – this cavern will extend from just north of the Oval Road/Gloucester Avenue
    road junction to a short way south of Parkway.
  • The cavern has to be created under the existing tracks (because these are due to remain
    open during its construction) and for this reason it cannot be constructed by the cut-andcover
    method but instead has to be entirely excavated below ground. Its shape seems likely
    to be a flattened cone, tapering towards the north.
  • Because the tracks take up more width when they are inside tunnels than when they were
    within the ‘Birdcage’, the two Inbound tunnels have to bow outwards between the cavern
    and the portals, with the western tunnel swinging well outside the existing railway boundary
    so that it is below the carriageway of Park Village East.
  • The Outbound tunnel also has to curve slightly to the west with the result that it runs for
    about 75 m directly under the existing Park Village East retaining wall.
  • This March 2017 scheme does not leave enough space for the Park Village East retaining wall
    to be rebuilt.

The construction of the Cavern (in lieu of the Birdcage) and retention of the existing Park Village East retaining wall (in lieu of its replacement with the Barette Wall) both represent huge changes from the previous AP3 scheme. We cannot accept that the March 2017 scheme is simply a ‘Design Development’ of the previous AP3 scheme.

i) The Need for a new Environmental Statement.

Since the March 2017 scheme is being presented by HS2 Ltd as a modification of the old AP3 scheme, HS2 Ltd claim they do not need to provide an Environmental Statement. It is true that the March 2017 scheme retains a similar track layout to the AP3 scheme. But its move to a lower level requires a quite different method of construction, with much more excavation, and in its principal structural forms – both the new Cavern and the existing Park Village East retaining wall – it is radically different. We therefore consider that a new Environmental Statement is imperative, and we are seeking advice with regard to the applicability of the current legislation.

While vague about methodology, HS2 Ltd in contrast appear absolutely determined to keep the March 2017 scheme within the Safeguarded areas as set out in the AP3 Environmental Statement, and within the horizontal and vertical Limits of Deviation as defined in the Act. This seems to us to impose an additional and unnecessary level of inflexibility, above that inherent in the narrowness of the site.

The Camden Civic Society is very fortunate to have been advised by a specialist railway civil engineer of many years’ experience. This person (who wishes for the meantime to remain anonymous) has provided us with a Technical Report on the March 2017 scheme and this is attached as a separate document.

The considerable risks evident in this scheme, as set out in the accompanying document, are divided under two principal headings:

  • tunnelling under and near the existing retaining wall;
  • excavating the cavern.

While the final form of the cavern and the methodology for creating it are still to be worked out, the
existing retaining wall is available for study. Members of the Camden Civic Society have direct
knowledge of this wall and can provide a summary of its problems.

j) History of Park Village East Retaining Wall.

The retaining walls to the Camden Cutting were built during the widening of the railway in the period 1900-1906. These walls were constructed in solid ‘mass’ brickwork, with a battered (i.e. inclined) face. The higher western retaining wall supporting Park Village East has been a very troublesome structure throughout its history. It has shown a strong tendency to ‘overturn’ (move into the cutting from the top) and it has undergone three serious interventions principally to correct this tendency, around 1920, around 1940 and in the early 1960s.

During the repairs of c.I920, very large concrete ‘counterforts’ or buttresses were added on the street side of the wall to inhibit the overturning. The original drawings of the counterforts indicate that they probably extend around 1.5 m below the base of the retaining wall, but one drawing is inscribed ‘depth of concrete to be determined on site’, adding to the uncertainty. On 13th July this year, Park Village East residents were told by a senior engineer working for HS2 Ltd that HS2 Ltd currently had no way of knowing how deep the counterforts reach. Given that, as in the crosssection drawing attached here, the Outbound tunnel may run as close as 1.7 m below the base of the wall, this lack of knowledge about the counterforts is a primary reason for our doubting the feasibility of the March 2017 scheme.

The wall has continued to move, as can be seen from the manner in which the pavement and gutter on the eastern side of Park Village East regular sink, requiring that they are frequently repaired to make them safe for pedestrians. The carriageway itself was reconstructed after the 1960s intervention using reinforced concrete slabs and we suspect that these slabs have trapped numerous voids. The vulnerability of the wall and lack of the stability of the back-fill on the street side has been shown up again by the two Ground Investigations carried out very recently at two spots in the northern part of Park Village East; although very minor interventions in comparison with the major construction work planned, these Ground Investigations apparently caused the eastern gutter to sink further in certain places. At the same, time, probably because road traffic was diverted from the east to the west side of the street to make room for the work, some of the concrete slabs appear to have tilted slightly.

k) HS2 Ltd’s own recorded Concerns with the Park Village East Retaining Wall.

We wish to emphasise that our views on the stability and integrity of the existing Park Village East retaining wall are generally endorsed by HS2 Ltd’s engineers. Earlier on in the history of the development of the HS2 project, local residents were several times told by representatives of HS2 Ltd that the retaining wall had to be rebuilt. For example, Robert Young, an HS2 Ltd engineer responsible at that point for the Euston area, is recorded as having said to a meeting organised by the Regent’s Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee on 13th May 2013: “Our view is that the majority of the settlement is caused by the failure of the [retaining] wall” and “The wall is moving”.

At a meeting for residents of 117 Parkway held on 23rd April 2013, a different HS2 Ltd engineer (name not recorded) is reported as having said: “The wall has expired its asset life” and: “It has certainly moved a lot”. This same engineer also said that the wall, which was built as a narrow pyramid in section, is now, as a result of its overturning tendency, actually leaning slightly into the cutting. At a meeting of the Park Village Residents’ Association, on 7th January 2014, Robert Young defined the wall has having a “Safety Factor of less than 1”. (In technical terms, this means that the theoretical destabilising forces are in excess of the stabilising forces, and major movement or outright structural failure can be reasonably anticipated.)

The proposals for stabilising the retaining the wall so far mentioned in meetings in relation to the
March 2017 scheme are as follows:

  • adding ‘berms’ to the bottom of the wall in the cutting to help prevent ‘sliding’;
  • inserting two rows of ground anchors through the wall and under Park Village East and its
    villas, the lower row to help prevent sliding, and the upper row to help prevent overturning.

It is hard to believe that these measures would be adequate if the wall began to move rapidly, as has happened in the past. The use of the ground anchors to stabilise the wall, which would apparently make use of the weight of John Nash’s listed Park Village East villas, is also highly questionable in conservation terms.

l) Concerns with the previous AP3 Scheme.

Putting the information we have ourselves gathered on this together with the opinion we have received from our specialist railway civil engineer, we have reached the following conclusion. In the AP3 scheme the retaining wall would have been rebuilt as a barrette wall. Even though it would have been set back, slightly increasing the width of the cutting, this still would not have created enough room for the ‘Birdcage’ structure carrying the new tracks to be constructed safely while the existing tracks continued in use.

We are therefore certain that the previous AP3 Scheme would never have been feasible unless the barrette wall were moved westwards to the extent of requiring the demolition of the listed villas along the west side of Park Village East. We would therefore regard any return to the previous AP3 scheme as wholly unacceptable.

m) Likely Effects of the March 2017 scheme on the Park Village East Retaining Wall.

Our specialist railway civil engineer has reviewed the history of the Park Village East retaining wall, and he has expressed several major concerns as to the effects that the March 2017 scheme will have upon the wall. The following is a summary of his comments which are presented in full in the Technical Report appended to this letter.

  • In its ‘battered’ form and its mass brickwork construction, the Park Village East retaining wall
    is typical of huge lengths of Victorian/Edwardian structures that line the UK’s railways.
  • These structures rely upon their mass to counteract the horizontal forces imposed by the
    earth retained behind these walls.
  • When subjected to contemporary soil mechanics analysis, these structures are generally
    found to have ‘failed’, i.e. the destabilising effects caused by the retained earth exceed the
    stabilising effects of the wall’s mass. It is only the fact that soil mechanics theory usually
    overestimates earth forces that keeps the majority of the UK’s retaining walls in place.
  • The historical movement of the Park Village East retaining wall indicates that at this location
    actual earth forces are close to theoretical earth forces. It is reported that certain sections of
    wall adjacent to Mornington Street Bridge are already leaning outwards – this represents
    considerable movement from its original battered form.
  • It is not known how much supporting ‘strutting’ action is provided by the Mornington Street
    Bridge. Any disturbance to/reconstruction of this bridge will have major implications for the
    stability of the wall.
  • It seems clear that the counterforts constructed in the 1920s have at best only been partially
    effective in restraining movement of the wall.
  • While only a small amount of movement is currently in progress, the wall is no better than
    ‘metastable’. Any disturbance, for instance by tunnelling work immediately below the wall,
    is likely to remobilise earth forces, and the wall will become unstable once more.
  • Any movement of the wall will propagate across Park Village East to result in settlement to
    the listed villas on the west side of the street.
  • The proposed HS2 tunnels – especially the central Outbound tunnel – will pass
    extraordinarily close to the underside of the Park Village East retaining wall. This will create
    several major risks:
  • The natural settlement caused by the tunnelling work may have the effect of remobilising
    existing earth forces behind the wall, and causing the wall to continue its outward
    movement leading to ultimate structural failure.
  • Use of ground anchors or placement of berms in front of the wall may have some effect in
    reducing horizontal outward movement.
  • However, these measures will be totally ineffective in eliminating the downward vertical
    movement likely to be caused by the proposed tunnelling immediately below the wall.
  • The vertical loads imposed by the wall on its immediate footings will instead be exerted on
    the tunnel below. This will cause major distortional effects upon the tunnel while it is being
    bored. There is a range of ‘disaster scenarios’ ranging from the tunnel boring machine
    becoming trapped to total structural collapse of the retaining wall into the tunnel. This
    would of course also affect Mornington Street Bridge, with the risk of progressive collapse
    across the entire railway approach to Euston.
  • Whilst a variety of mitigations might be employed by the contractor, for instance advance
    grouting below the retaining wall, these measures only reduce rather than eliminate the risk
    of structural failure.
  • Our specialist railway civil engineer has commented that he has never seen a tunnel planned
    to pass so close below an existing retaining wall.
  • Review of the available drawings indicates that the tunnel is so close to the base of the
    retaining wall that the counterforts constructed in the 1920s – which extend at least 1.5m
    below the base of the retaining wall – might actually obstruct the progress of the tunnel
    boring machine. It does not appear practicable to conduct sufficient site investigation to
    determine that this risk does not exist.
  • Additional risks are created by the interweaving of the 3 tunnels, which again are passing extraordinarily close to each other.

For all the above reasons, we consider the current March 2017 scheme to be dangerous and
therefore unacceptable. Whilst we recognise that there is some mitigation that might be applied to
the risks by expert contractors, we can see no evidence in the quality of the information presented
to us that HS2 Ltd is doing enough to manage this risk. We can see clear parallels to the `Grenfell
Tower situation. We are sure you will appreciate the gravity of our concerns.

n) Likely Effects of Constructing the Cavern below the Park Street Tunnels.

Our specialist railway civil engineer has also reviewed the outline proposals to construct a cavern below the existing West Coast Main Line, and also below the structures that comprise the Park Street tunnels. The following is a summary of his comments which are presented more fully in the appended Technical Report.

  • This cavern is necessary to enable the single Inbound tunnel approaching from the north to
    split into two Inbound tunnels, to enter Euston station on the east and west sides.
  • Unlike the tunnels, which will be of segmental circular cross-section and around 7m
    diameter, the cavern is likely to comprise a reinforced concrete chamber, a flattened cone in
    shape increasing in width from around 8m width at the north end to 15m width at the south
  • The Park Street Tunnels lie directly above the cavern. These are massive structures, with cast
    iron decks that are highly sensitive to any settlement.
  • No detailed information has been supplied to indicate how far the cavern is located below
    the foundations of the Park Street Tunnels. The closer that the cavern is to the surface, the
    greater any settlement effects will be on the structures above.
  • In its scale – both 170m length and 15m assumed width – the proposed HS2 cavern structure
    is without direct precedent in UK construction.
  • Its construction carries a major risk of causing unacceptable settlement to the sensitive
    structures above.
  • This would have the consequent effect of preventing safe operation of all rail services into
  • There is also a significant risk of catastrophic structural collapse.

The Camden Civic Society is greatly concerned about these self-evidently dangerous schemes which
have plainly not been properly thought through. Moreover, the current March 2017 proposals fall
far outside any structure that was contemplated at the time that the HS2 Bill was progressing
through Parliament. Whilst the proposals can be presumed (see our earlier remarks) to lie within the
Limits of Deviation, it is obvious to us that these Limits, and the Act itself, are no longer appropriate
to the HS2 scheme as it is now developing.

o) Rationale for Tunnelling below the Park Village East Retaining Wall and for Construction of Cavern below the Park Street Tunnels. 

It is clear from all of the foregoing commentary that HS2 Ltd’s proposals in the vicinity of Park Village East and Parkway carry huge and unacceptable risks. It is natural that we should question the fundamental rationale for these proposals, more particularly:

  • What is their purpose?
  • Why do they need to be where they are proposed to be?
    Our specialist railway civil engineer has supplied the following commentary:
  • The proposed HS2 works, i.e. the tunnelling below Park Village East retaining wall and the
    construction of the cavern below Park Street Tunnels, will all form part of the ‘throat’ of the
    proposed HS2 station at Euston.
  • The ‘throat’ is the length of route in which the number of tracks reduces from 11 in the
    platforms through successive sets of points to the 2 tracks that form the HS2 line from
    London to the West Midlands.
  • The HS2 throat – which extends from the platform ends near Hampstead Road Bridge to the
    north end of the Cavern near Gloucester Avenue – is approximately 750m in length.
  • This is by far the longest throat of any station in the UK and, we suspect, anywhere in the
  • The primary factor driving the HS2’s throat northwards into sensitive areas is plainly the
    speed for which HS2 has been designed, and the imperative – apparently justified by the
    ‘business case’ – for superfast journey times between HS2’s very small number of stations.
  • If HS2’s speed could be locally reduced, it might be possible to construct the line with much
    greater horizontal and vertical curvature. This would allow the tunnels to be much deeper as
    they pass below Park Village East and would also eliminate any need for the cavern.

There has been continuing and sustained public scepticism at HS2 Ltd’s prioritisation upon extreme speed, and at the unreasonably high value placed upon every minute shaved off existing journey times. We share this scepticism, particularly since HS2’s ‘need for speed’ appears to have such destructive effects upon our own community. We are particularly concerned that HS2 Ltd appears to have undertaken no ‘value engineering’ analysis to determine:

  • how journey times might be affected by slower speed operation in the Euston throat;
  • the effects that locally slower speed operation might have on HS2’s business case;
  • the reduction in construction cost and risk that would result from simpler construction with
    much reduced impact on sensitive structures.

p) Other Strategies to bring High Speed Lines into Euston.

HS2 Ltd would in our view give themselves a greater chance of solving the problem of the Camden Cutting if they were prepared to admit that the Act’s Limits of Deviation are a straightjacket, and that extending the design outside them, something which would be necessary to build a cavern more safely, would be a wise step even if this meant taking a supplementary bill through Parliament.

In our view, to make sufficient space for new lines within the Euston Approach, it would also be necessary to grasp the problem of the number of train services due to come through the narrow Camden Cutting and to divert away from Euston some of the existing train services, certainly during the period of construction and probably also in the long term HS2 Ltd should also return to their original plan of redeveloping the whole of Euston station in one continuous process. As we attempted to argue during our presentation to the House of Lords Select Committee, if the High Speed station is completed first, as under the AP3 scheme, while leaving the eastern Network Rail side of the station substantially unaltered, it becomes more or less impossible
afterwards to rebuild the eastern side.

The Camden Civic Society is not against High Speed Rail in principle and in our petitions to Parliament we have supported two alternative schemes that would avoid most if not all of the dangers outlined in the foregoing paragraphs. One is Euston Express, which would bring the new trains by tunnel to Queen’s Park but from there into Euston along tracks at existing track level within the area of existing railway – this would be the equivalent to the pattern on the Continent where high speed trains, for the last few miles of their journey, travel on conventional tracks at relatively low speeds.

In particular we have backed High Speed UK, a countrywide alternative to HS2. High Speed UK’s design is far better integrated with the existing railway system than HS2, creating shorter journey times as much by greater connectivity as by high speed. Without an imperative for a continuously high speed, tunnels could be built much deeper under sensitive structures and there would be no requirement at all for HS2’s proposed cavern.

Both the Euston Express and High Speed UK schemes envisage rebuilding Euston within its current footprint. This is something which, from the point of view of residents, people working in Camden or just travelling through to another part of London, would be a huge improvement on all of HS2 Ltd’s various designs.

q) Questions for which seek Responses from your Advisors at HS2 Ltd and the DfT.

You will appreciate both the gravity of our concerns. Given the huge amount of money due to be spent on this section of the HS2 line, it is important to resolve these issues in a transparent manner. To aid this transparency, we would be grateful for your urgent response to the following questions:

  1. How close will the HS2 tunnels pass below the footings of Park Village East retaining wall?
    (these data needs to be supplied as a referenced cross-section drawing showing all relevant
    levels of existing and new track and surrounding structures)
  2. How deep is the proposed Cavern? (these data needs to be supplied as a referenced crosssection
    drawing showing all relevant levels of existing and new track and surrounding structures)
  3. What Risk Assessments have been so far undertaken for the proposed tunnelling works
    below Park Village East retaining wall and for the construction of the Cavern below the Park
    Street tunnels?
  4. What criteria for ground movement and structural settlement have been stipulated to the
    Design and Build contractor?
  5. If these criteria have not been so far established, who is responsible for setting these criteria
    and how will they be incorporated into the Design and Build contract?
  6. How will the safety of the Camden community and the travelling public be assured in the
    light of the apparent conflict between public safety and political pressure behind HS2?
  7. What alternative track configurations and track speeds have been considered, in order to
    reduce the risk to the Park Village East retaining wall (for example, by passing lower beneath
    it) and in order also to eliminate any need for the proposed Cavern?

We would be grateful for your urgent responses to our questions.

4 comments to “Serious Problems with HS2 in Camden”
  1. The devastation across the country could still be stopped if the government would cancel HS2 and accept they made a mistake in rejecting the alternative bid from Ultraspeed UK that was not restricted to existing railway routes but could use motorway corridors instead. The case is put very convincingly in their Factbook and the Swiss Rapide company now marketing the system should be consulted immediately.

  2. I would applaud the Govt if it had the courage to drop the project immediately. Yes, as contracts have been signed so compensation would have to be (sell) spent. Whatever the amount, it could not come near the consequent benefit to the countryside and its residents. No doubt Labour would crow, but they have the easy job- that of being in Opposition easiest job in Parliament……

  3. I have read approx 60 % at this time. This confirms all that I already suspected. Namely that
    1) HS2 have NOT GOT A CLUE how to build a railway or a 250 mph train.
    2) They dont give a damn what happens and are only concerned about the money to be made.
    3) This is one big giant rip-off fraud scheme, with bribery and corruption going all the way to the top , I believe.
    4) BEWARE !! The standard way that dodgy enterprises like this are undertaken is the following. Take Note. Govt commissions Company A to do X, Company A forms several other Companies to do the Work, Cos B & C. B and C do some shoddy work , take the money and run. Cos B & C are wound up and the culprits disappear “without trace”. The Police and the Courts do Nothing !! and if you are unlucky Lawyers make money out of the case whilst achieving nothing !!

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