The government is expected to confirm that HS2 will dig tunnels linking the high-speed railway to Euston station, although there’s still no confirmation that Euston station will be built.

HS2 tunnel entrance next to the M25 motorway

The Financial Times reported, citing industry sources, that approval for the £1 billion pair of tunnels from Old Oak Common to Euston is expected to be given shortly. The £1 billion cost is based on the 2019 figures, so the final bill will be higher to account for inflation since then. The ambition is to recover the cost of the tunnels from the wider Euston area redevelopment.

One official cited by the FT suggested that the cost of the tunnels could be recovered from a retrospective levy on property developers who have already started construction work in the area. That would be highly contentious as applying retrospective “taxes” is widely considered to be avoided at all costs due to the uncertainty it can cause. Property developers in London are also paying a levy towards the construction of the Elizabeth line, and will keep doing so until 2043.

Under the current plans, which may change again, the Euston station redevelopment will be funded by property developers who will then recover their investment by being able to build above the station.

It was always intended that some of the cost of the Euston station redevelopment would be recovered from oversite property developments, but the government’s requirement for more property above the station pushed the cost of the station up significantly because of the need for heavier foundations and podium slabs to support the buildings. In fact, in one report, HS2 estimated that the extra structural costs imposed on it to support the over-site development exceeded their budget for the station.

There was also the issue that in accounting terms, the cost of building the station accrued to HS2, but the surplus from the property development went to the Treasury, so HS2 saw costs rising but didn’t benefit from the increased revenues.

That decision made the cost of the new Euston station look worse than it was in reality.

Bundling the Euston station rebuild and the property development into one package at least solved the accounting problem, but expecting a property developer to invest around £6.5 billion in the site is a challenge. Adding in the risk of retrospective taxes adds to the uncertainty for the investors, which leads to higher costs to offset the risks.

Ahead of that, building the tunnels between Old Oak Common and Euston will remove one risk element and makes sense from an engineering perspective, even if it does mean there will be two large and largely unused railway tunnels for several years after HS2 opens between Old Oak Common and Birmingham.

One slight upside to the delay in tunnelling is that it opens the tantalising, if admittedly highly unlikely possibility of reviewing the decision to cancel the link between HS1 and HS2 just outside Euston station.

Although the link was intended to allow direct links from Birmingham (and the north) to Europe without stopping at London, it could be adapted slightly to include a junction outside St Pancras station. Such a junction could allow St Pancras station to act as a temporary terminus in London while Euston is being rebuilt.

That would put a strain on St Pancras station but it would be temporary and could be included in the existing St Pancras station redevelopment plans. Then, once Euston station opens, the HS1-HS2 link would enable a high-speed rail service between Birmingham and mainland Europe, which would also improve HS2’s economic position and help reduce CO2 emitting air traffic.

In the meantime, HS2 is busy building northwards and has announced that construction of the giant network of tunnels has now passed the halfway point — having dug 29 miles worth of tunnels that will link Old Oak Common with Birmingham.

(c) HS2


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  1. PeteD says:

    Building a dedicated and fast subsurface link from Euston to Eurostar would be much cheaper than a HS1 to HS2 link that would may have 3 trains a day each way to from Birmingham and Manchester. Such a link would allow one easy change from hundreds of stations that are connected by direct trains to Euston. I expect neither have a business case that stacks up

  2. Sam Milson says:

    At last, a mere 17 years after HS2 was given the green light!

    I’m not particularly political, but I do hope Labour highlight the government’s utter failure to get HS2 built (or virtually any infrastructure for that matter) at the next election.

    • Peter Feltham says:

      No chance I’m afraid.How many years has it taken to start the desperately needed Lower Thames Crossing ? is it now 20 and they still haven’t even started.Compared to our Continental freinds we haven’t a clue….Ah well at least the lawyers have made millions.

  3. David Jones says:

    While there are a lot of advantages to a HS1-HS2 connection, I fear that ship has sailed (or whatever the rail equivalent is). If this sorry state of affairs has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t change plans half way through a project.

  4. Ben says:

    Could an HS2 to HS1 link be used to terminate some services at Ashford International, allowing a smaller, simpler Euston terminus to be constructed without reducing overall capacity?

    If these trains also stopped at Stratford it would also relive some pressure from the Elizabeth Line at Old Oak Common. This utilises existing infrastructure and would potentially improve the business case for the link.

    • Bill says:

      If capacity constraint is not significant, I think this should be done instead of an expensive but not very useful 6 platform Euston Terminus. It can be a big opportunity for Kent to have train to more destinations and this is also the best use of the underused Eurostar platforms built in HS1. Room is also easier to find to expand either Ebbsfleet or Ashford as the Terminus with more platforms.

  5. alphalfly says:

    Couldn’t have built HS2 Old Oak Common without the tunnel. It’s just they, the government, have run out of time to privately fund the drive.

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