A significantly cut back HS2 railway will reach Euston station, but won’t be extended past Birmingham, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has announced.

The previously proposed Euston station (c) HS2

Announcing the cancellation of the rest of the HS2 project, the Prime Minister said that the government plans to spend the budget allocated to the HS2 railway on a new Northern Network to link up towns and cities across the midlands and north of England.

He promised that the new “Network North” would receive £36 billion of upgrades, including a number of rail upgrades, some road improvements, electrification of the North Wales main line, and the expansion of the West Midlands metro, and a £12 billion upgrade of the Manchester to Liverpool line.

He also said that Leeds would receive funding for a new tram service.

However, although no timeline was offered as to how quickly they would be delivered, and although the Prime Minister said they would be delivered quicker than HS2, as most of them are not in the planning stage, there will be several years of work to prepare the designs and align the availability of equipment and the workforce.

That may eventually end up being faster than HS2 was expected to be delivered, but not by much.

He also confirmed that HS2 will be extended from Old Oak Common to Euston, but there’s an implication in his conference speech that Euston station will be scaled back from the current plans.

In his speech, he said that the site would be repurposed for housing and that a new development agency, the Euston Development Zone, would be created to oversee the development, which he expects will save £6.5 billion on the project. That will need clarifying later, as that’s pretty much the expected budget for the entire Euston project.

The Euston station project also included a major upgrade of the London Underground station at Euston to cope with the thousands of extra people expected to use the station, and at the moment, it’s unclear if that is also going ahead. If Euston station is scaled back for HS2 to run just to Birmingham, it will be harder to argue for a tube station upgrade.

(Update – It has been confirmed that Euston will be a 6-platform station, and the underground station will be scaled back, with the cancellation of the link to Euston Square already confirmed – also, although not explicitly stated, the wording of a release suggests that the Euston approach tunnels might be cut from three to two.)

HS2 as a shuttle (red) vs what was planned (grey)

A scaled back Euston station today would also prevent any future expansion of HS2, unlike for example, when Euston station was first opened in 1837, when it was explicitly designed to add platforms later to cope with passenger growth.

The Prime Minister said that people who want to retain the HS2 project should “have the honesty to admit that they would now be cancelling the hundreds of alternative projects right across the country that people would benefit from instead.”

The alternative is that the UK could have both — HS2 creating a high capacity backbone railway through the UK, and also local public transport upgrades to maximise the benefits created by the capacity increases delivered by HS2.


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  1. Keith says:

    Given that the work at Euston won’t be finished before the next general election it’s quite possible that plans will change again, particularly if there’s a change of government. The same applies to the now cancelled Birmingham to Manchester section.

    • William Buckland says:

      I doubt work at Euston will even start before the next election. Design, costing, approval and contracts all have to be done beforehand. So it’s highly likely that plans will change again. Today’s announcement is play-acting, pure and simple. Do glance at the DFT document listing promises to the North. A bigger pile of rubbish you will never see. £12 billion is promised for a railway between Manchester and Liverpool. £2.8 billion for a multi-line Leeds transit system.

    • ChrisC says:

      William but work at Euston has already started and is visible from arriving and departing trains.

  2. jimmy says:

    I’m not a big fan of Rishi Sunak

  3. John Watkins says:

    I’m not sure a scaled-back version of Euston is the best option. We keep hearing that HS2 is to increase capacity – maybe what should be done is to use it to move freight instead of passengers. For that Old Oak Common is maybe the right end point?

    • Jamie Stallwood says:

      The way to release capacity is to use the fast lines from Euston to Rugby for more local and freight services. But that means fewer fast trains for the poor souls in Milton Keynes, Watford and Northampton! Not one study has actually been done to say how much capacity WILL be released, and now that it’s only going to the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, the answer might be not very much at all!

  4. Fred says:

    The Prime Minister said that people who want to retain the HS2 project should “have the honesty to admit that they would now be cancelling the hundreds of alternative projects right across the country that people would benefit from instead.”

    Very clever way to make anyone who wants to restart HS2 already have knives in their back…

  5. Maurice Reed says:

    HS2 has been a cock-up from the start. Like so many construction projects in this country it’s gone over time and over budget. Too many people lining their pockets with ££££ in the companies involved.

    Should have got the French to build it! They constructed numerous TGV lines and have all the relevant skills in building high-speed lines.

    This cancellation leaves the UK with egg on its face.

    • Dave F says:

      I agree with most of that.

      Bear in mind, though, that the Channel Tunnel was built with private money yet still incurred an 80% cost overrun, although some of that was due to ‘enhanced safety, security, and environmental demands.’

      The original budget ‘guesstimate’in 2012 for the WHOLE of HS2 was 33 billion. A cost overrun of 100% for London-Birmingham-Manchester and Leeds may have been just about acceptable.

      A 300+% overrun is just absurd. Almost unbelievable, actually.

      What the hell has been going on? Who has been in charge of the budget all this time? Who is accountable? Why was private money not used for any, or all, of this?

      It’s an utter shambles which has blighted many peoples’ lives, destroyed acres of pristine countryside and for what?

  6. Dave F says:

    Using the same logic, the third runway at Heathrow will be kicked into the long grass, right?

    • Prince Charlie says:

      The third runway has been in the long grass for quite a few years now really.

    • ChrisC says:

      The 3rd runway isn’t a Government funded project though.

      Ditto the 2nd one at Gatwick.

  7. Andrew Wilson says:

    I’m assuming that the link from Water Orton to the Trent Valley line at Lichfield has not been cancelled. If it was that wouldn’t allow HS2 trains to progress to the north at all.

    • Pete says:

      If I were Labour I would as a minimum commit to Phase 2a to Crewe and a 6 platform station at Euston with room reserved for another 5 platforms in the future.

  8. Daniel says:

    Personally I do get reasoning reducing the platforms at Euston to 6 but there should be protected areas for future expansion when needed and I recon cutting the link to Euston Square really is a mistake.

    • M G says:

      a question r.e. the *6 platforms* planned at Euston… are these specifically for the HS2 trains, on top of the current 16 platforms, or is Euston to be a six platform station TOTAL?

      6 platforms surely can’t serve all northbound High Speed, Avanti and London NWR services? Am I misunderstanding how the new network will actually work?

    • ChrisC says:

      M G yes you are

  9. Prince Charlie says:

    The Northern backlash will hand labour the next election, and Kier Starmer will simply restart the project.

    Predictable really

    • Cameron Allan says:

      Not sure it’s that easy for Labour. Whilst we are railway savvy and know how capacity works most people aren’t. We know that hs2 delivery huge amounts of capacity for local networks. But many people just see hs2 as a fast way to get to London and don’t see what hs2 provides that the existing WCML doesn’t already.

      Among the publi hs2 is 50% support 50% dislike or maybe even more dislike. Therefore whilst it is completely bonkers to have it just going to Brum from a railway planning perspective, politically I’m not sure labour will take the risk of promising to rebuild it. We shall see at the labour conference in Liverpool in a couple days time.

  10. Mk says:

    His biggest announcement at his party’s conference and it was just him _cancelling_ a project. That’s his legacy. A tiny man with tiny ideas.

    All Labour has to do to restart it with political capital intact is to resume work starting from the North. Do the imaginary Network North projects and link them up.

  11. ChrisC says:

    What is being missed is their plan to sell off a lot of the land already bought between Birmingham and Manchester making it nigh on impossible to build in the future.

    And it seems their Plans for Euston are doing the same.

    To apparently not even preserve that prevents any future expansion at Euston.


    • ianVisits says:

      Lots of things were missed off from the article, because those things weren’t known at the time the article was written.

    • ChrisC says:

      Ian it wasn’t intended as a criticism of you or your article but of a more general nature of the media and politicians who should know better.

  12. Jacob says:

    “….and a £12 billion upgrade of the Manchester to Liverpool line.”

    Would this be high speed (186mph) too?

    How much improvement in journey time would the 12 billion create?

  13. JC says:

    Simply a mind-blowing exercise in wasting taxpayer money and opportunity. Perhaps those involved were discussing with Via and Amtrak how NOT to run a successful passenger service.
    I cannot fathom why this is so hard to achieve. There should be a mix private/public money invested. Issue bonds. Start digging. The end.
    If the consumer is purchasing from a private rail company surely there must be a concession for sale to operate the actual HS2 train. This company should have some skin in the game to build the line, not just be handed a profit center once you and I paid for the line.
    Running a high speed line between 2 fields is utterly pathetic, until you realize it’s you – dear taxpayer – footing the bill. Then it’s a criminal waste of money.

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