A Treasury task force, which is scrutinising the proposed £42billion rapid rail line between London and the north, said it would consider axing the most expensive last few miles of HS2 into Euston.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council, which is the host borough for the new station, says it would only welcome the move if it saves significant amounts of taxpayers’ money while still transforming one of London’s poorest areas.
The last few miles of the HS2 route is the most expensive with the final section of tunnelling and the remodelling of Euston station and compensation costs for property owners around Euston amounting to at least £5billion.
If the Euston section were abandoned, the line would instead start and terminate at Old Oak Common, which is already set to become Britain’s best connected railway station as an HS2 hub.
Whether it is a hub or a terminus, five of the nation’s airports will be linked to the high-speed rail network for the first time through Old Oak. Central London and Heathrow will be just 10 minutes away from Old Oak via Crossrail and the Heathrow Express.
The council has recently consulted on a Vision for Old Oak which shows that 90,000 jobs and 19,000 new homes – in addition to new schools, open spaces, shops and leisure facilities – could be created in the area thanks to HS2 but is now seeking reassurances about the possible terminal idea.
Cllr Nicholas Botterill, H&F Council Leader, “All major infrastructure projects should be reviewed regularly and we should not be scared of modifying them if costs can be reduced while delivering similar benefits. Terminating HS2 at Old Oak Common would undoubtedly save money and may have additional benefits for kick starting regeneration in the area but there may also be downsides that need to be explored. For example, direct road access would need to be improved dramatically.”
“We’ve always worked on the assumption that Old Oak would be the secondary London station and we need to look at the implications for road and local rail connections if many more people are set to use Old Oak. The station would also need to be double in size and all of this adds costs rather than reducing costs.”
Around half of working age adults within 1.2 miles of the station site are unemployed and some parts of the area – which includes a large amount of railway land, two waste recycling facilities, the Car Giant dealership and other light industrial uses – are in the bottom 1% most deprived nationally.
Meanwhile, a report from accountants KPMG says HS2 could boost the UK economy by £15billion a year and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin argues that the benefits of HS2 are not simply faster journey times and new jobs, but also freed up capacity on busy rail and road routes. “The main reason we need HS2 is a heart bypass for the clogged arteries of our transport system”, Mr McLoughlin said.
The high-speed line would run between London and Birmingham from 2026 before being extended to Manchester and Leeds from 2033.