Revised designs for HS2’s station at London Euston have been shown off, replacing the curved arch roof with an angular design and adding more information about how the station will integrate with the local area.
The HS2 station is being built with ten platforms next to the existing Euston station, along with a new underground station that will also include tunnels to nearby Euston Square tube station – creating a Bank/Monument style connection. Although understandably most of the attention will be on what the station looks like, in practice, most of the effort and the end success is dependent on the urban planning and making sure the building works as a railway station and doesn’t end up as just a pretty bauble.
The latest plans have been drawn up by a design consortium made up of Arup, WSP and Grimshaw Architects, working into HS2’s station construction partner, Mace Dragados JV (MDJV).
The master plan for the wider area, said to be the last major regeneration opportunity in London, will be for the new HS2 station to sit beside the existing station, and for a large 60-acre development above the station. One of the main aims of the redevelopment of the Euston station is to open up a lot of blocked-off areas. At the moment, Euston station is pretty much a solid fortress that sits in between residential areas. People living on one side who, for example, may need to get to school on the other have a long detour to get around the station.
When work is completed, locals needing to get from east to west, there will be two raised walkways that will run above the station and linking Drummond Street to Doric Way, and Robert Street to Pheonix Road. A new north-south road will also pass over the station, roughly where Cardington Street is today – although renamed Whittlebury Street, which was the original 18th-century name of a lost road in that location.
That aims to open up the solid block of the Euston station to recreate the permeability in the area lost when Euston station was originally built.
The core design of the station, with the platforms below ground and the waiting area, was already agreed upon, but they have been working on how that ground floor space will work. The passenger waiting area concourse will be slightly larger than Trafalgar Square — and the largest station concourse in the UK — so there’s a lot of space to work with. The main intention is to put the escalators and lifts down to the platforms in the middle of the concourse, and have waiting areas around it. That way there’s more space in the unpaid area of the station, and the concourse itself can act as a long covered passageway for people using it to get around the local area.
To assist that, the side of the station facing west won’t be a solid wall as Euston station is at the moment but will have, as architects like to call, an active frontage, so expect shops and parks. But to improve connections between the station and the outside, they’re ensuring the entrances to the station align with the side roads, so for example, it’ll be easy to get from the station to the cafes and restaurants on Drummond Road.
One of the complexities for the station design team is building a station while not knowing what the above site development by Lendlease will look like as that’s still under consultation. No idea what size the buildings will be or where they will go, so they’re having to ensure there are enough supports for those buildings, and yet also having to design a station that works for passengers.
The most obvious element of the station is a newly designed truncated triangle that replaced earlier concepts for a curved arch. Aesthetics aside, the main reason for the change is that the internal structure has been designed to draw warm air up and out of the station, so it acts as a giant passive air cooling system. A row of wide glass panels at the top will draw light down into the station reducing the amount of lighting needed during the daytime. Specifics are not decided yet, but the roof will be some version of bronzed anodised aluminium, giving a warm colour above to contrast with the cooler concrete and steel structure below.
Many of the components, including the roof structure, will be constructed off-site at factories outside London, and then brought to London for assembly. Not just creating jobs outside London, but also less disruption in London.
Outside the station, in addition to an enhanced Euston Square Gardens at the front of the station, HS2 will deliver a major new public green space in the north as well as community gardens in the west, and 2,000 cycle parking spaces.
HS2 will be holding a number of engagement sessions to showcase the new design to members of the local community and passengers during May and June this year, and details of those events will be announced here.
All this construction work and the inevitable disruption to local residents is to enable Euston station to handle many more peak hour trains. They estimate that the 3-hour peak period will be able to handle three-quarters more seats on trains, thanks in part to having the new high-speed trains, but mainly because the local commuter lines won’t need to share space with older intercity trains.
By putting the intercity trains on their own dedicated tracks, you release tons of capacity for local and regional services, making rail travel a much more convenient alternative to the motor car.
And yes, before anyone says it, yes we do need the extra capacity. Weekend travel is already close to its pre-pandemic volumes, with people having to stand on trains instead of getting a seat, and there’s a slower but steady return to rush hour volumes during the week as well.
So while people whizzing up to Birmingham and beyond get there faster, people commuting from Watford and Milton Keynes get a lot more seats to sit on, and a much nicer station to arrive at.