A long-running campaign to reinstate the Euston Arch, the economic ambitions of Crewe and the residents of Camden could all become early beneficiaries of Sir David Higgins’ HS2 Plus report after transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin issued a statement confirming that the government would immediately implement some of his proposals.
In a written statement to Parliament yesterday, McLoughlin said: “The report sets out a clear proposal to accelerate construction so that the Crewe section of Phase Two would be completed by 2027, not 2033, and to build a new integrated hub station at Crewe. Therefore, I am commissioning HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to undertake work to allow both these proposals to be considered in detail as part of my consideration of the public consultation responses to Phase Two.”
On Higgins’ proposals to rethink the existing link between HS2 and the existing HS1 line, the statement reads: “The link requires too many compromises in terms of impacts on freight, passengers and the community in Camden. I, therefore, intend to take the necessary steps to remove the link from the Bill and withdraw the safeguarding of this section of the route as soon as possible. I will also commission a study into ways to improve connections to the continent that could be implemented once the initial stages of HS2 are complete.”
In addition, the transport secretary follows up chancellor George Osborne’s recent calls for a more ambitious redevelopment of Euston, and signals government backing for the long-running campaign to rebuild the Euston Arch. “I will, therefore, ask HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to develop more comprehensive proposals for the redevelopment of Euston, working with the rail industry and the local community. This work should include proposals for the Euston arch, which should never have been knocked down and which I would like to see rebuilt.”
Duncan Symonds, head of infrastructure at consultancy WSP, particularly welcomed the proposal to extend Phase 1 by 43 miles to reach Crewe, and the bolder vision for the redevelopment of Euston Station. “Aside from the obvious benefits there is the added bonus for freight of diverting high speed trains away from the congested Lichfield to Crewe section of the West Coast Mainline. To maximise potential, local plans for development around the hub and regional transport links would need to be expedited.
“Redeveloping Euston is also an obvious win – there are many examples of improved transport infrastructure unlocking wider economic and social benefits, you just have to look at King’s Cross and London Bridge Quarter to see the impact it can have.”
At the Institution of Civil Engineers, director general Nick Baveystock also welcomed the vision behind the report, but he highlighted the continuing need for political consensus on the project.
“Higgins’ aspiration to accelerate the delivery of HS2 is welcome news – we see no fundamental engineering reason why the line could not be operational earlier than 2033 and experience around the world also indicates this is possible,” said Baveystock. “The benefits are far reaching – not least the cost savings which could result from greater continuity between the two project phases and the positive impact on the UK’s engineering skills base.
“Realising this – as Higgins himself acknowledges – is, however, dependent on stability and going forwards this project needs strong commitment and support, both politically and financially. Government’s efforts to make the case for HS2 must continue and importantly, it should position the project as an integral part of a national transport strategy rather than a project developed in isolation. This includes further work to help strengthen connectivity for those locations not directly served by HS2.”