The HS2 railway might never reach Euston and Old Oak Common could become its permanent London terminus in an effort to avoid the cost of building the station at Euston.

Proposed Euston station (c) HS2

Old Oak Common can, just about, cope with the number of trains that would run between London and Birmingham, but it cannot cope with the additional trains that would be coming from Manchester and beyond. The terminus at Euston is needed not just because a key benefit of railways over airlines is their city terminuses, but because Old Oak Common cannot support HS2 if it extends north of Birmingham.

With reports that the government is considering scrapping the next stage of the HS2 railway north of Birmingham, then it could be just about possible for Old Oak Common to act as the London terminus.

However, HS2 would then fail to deliver the main purpose of the railway, which is to increase capacity on the suburban and regional railways as most intercity services would still be departing from Euston station using the existing railways.

So we’d end up with a relatively short shuttle service from Birmingham city centre to the edge of London, and, well, that’s about it.

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

According to The Times, proposals to scale back the project to being just the shuttle link are being drawn up by Downing Street and the Treasury.

Along with the reported plans to stop the railway at Birmingham and not extend it to Manchester, the line would be cut back to Old Oak Common to save the nearly £5 billion cost of building Euston station.

A senior government source told The Times that the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak had “made up his mind” to scrap both the Manchester link and the line running into Euston.

“Unless he can be persuaded to change course it is a done deal,” the source told The Times, although they added that the rump of HS2 would mean the government had spent most of the money but with almost none of the benefit. “Ending the line at Old Oak Common is pretty much the definition of a railway to nowhere.”

The government has previously committed to building the railway to Euston station but put the project on hold for two years to review the plans and spread the cost of the project over more years. Although announced as a cost saving measure, it will almost certainly push the costs up instead and was more about meeting an arbitrary political target for government borrowing limits.

It’s not just a short-sighted decision, it’s also, in the scale of government spending, a very odd one to shave a comparatively small amount of money off the bill in exchange for an enormous political cost.

To put the cost of Euston’s HS2 station into context, it’s about 5 percent of the HS2 cost (assuming the £100 billion cost of the whole railway), but that’s spread over some 20 years. Over the same period of time, Network Rail will spend around £160 billion on the existing railway. So spending £5 billion on Euston comes out of a total railway budget estimated at £260 billion — it’s almost a rounding error in the scale of railway spending.

And yet the damage from not building Euston station is almost unfathomablely large.

It’s worth remembering that HS2 is an investment, so it’s funded by borrowing against future income, not today’s taxes (excepting interest payments) so cuts to the project won’t then release more money to spend on things today — it just means less money in the future from a smaller economy.

The delay in building Euston station has left the area as a large wasteland in central London affecting businesses and residents alike. It’s also not fully paused as HS2 still has to spend money on maintaining the site and is carrying out enabling works to move utilities out of the construction site.

As annoying as it is to live next to a construction site (and I have often), it’s tempered by knowing that at least eventually it will stop and what’s built will improve the area.

Not building Euston’s HS2 station is the worst of all worlds.


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  1. Kevin says:

    My understanding is that two TBM’s were to be left in the ground at Old Oak Common pending the decision for them to contribute on to Euston. It seems now that future archeologists will be puzzling over these massive pieces of machinery left inexplicably at the edge of what was a major metropolis…

    • Andrew Farrer says:

      I am not for a minute defending the decision to halt (start?) HS2 at Old Oak Common, that is, in my opinion, entirley the wrong decision and the line should of course go on to Euston. But actually TBMs are not infrequently left underground part way along a line. once a tunnel is complete. If they cannot be sold on and used for aother tunnel there really is no point in recovering them.

      Not only historians, but also the travelling public on the near future, will certainly puzzle over this bizarre decision made simply to allow this governemnt to be able to defend its existing spending promises in a scrabble for votes in the next election.

  2. Andrew Wilson says:

    Christian Woolmar summed up the pointlessness of this situation. He called it the Acton to Aston line. Pretty much spot on.

  3. David Hawkins says:

    Using Euston as a terminus for HS2 has always struck me as a very 19th century solution. How many passengers to London want to end up at Euston? Very few. The vast majority will want to travel somewhere else and Euston is not particularly well connected to the tube network, especially the circle line.
    Why not connect HS2 to HS1 and have the terminus somewhere in Kent ?
    If I was travelling to London from Birmingham I might very well choose to get off at Old Oak Common and change to the Elizabeth line.

    • Wob says:

      Eh? The Victoria and both central branches of the Northern lines aren’t well connected? Really?
      Why and how would a terminus in Kent work either?
      I recommend you check a map

    • Si says:

      Euston is going to be well connected to the Circle line as part of the HS2 station works. With that, Euston will have four tube lines’ worth of distribution across Central – two via the West End, two via the City – as well as buses, taxis, and even walking.

      There’s no room on HS1 for HS2 services to all run to Kent, (especially in addition to terminating services), and not having a zone 1 station on either line is a disaster for both routes.

      And that you’d change at Old Oak Common is why they are building an HS2 station there – it’s an excellent distributor with about a third of passengers are modelled as using it rather than Euston and the true number is probably going to be more like 40%.

  4. Andy says:

    Of course Rishi wants to scrap it, he’s perfectly happy getting private jets to UK destinations. Running headfirst into the problem but it’s just not getting through to him.

  5. The Tories Are Dumber than a Rock says:

    Stupid idiots.

    I hope Keir Starmer has more than 1 brain cell.

  6. Gordon says:

    As it stands, Euston (A 19th Century legacy) would be significantly inferior to Old Oak Common which benefits from the highly effective Elizabeth Line across London.

    What would be far better would be for the line to continue OOC to a South Bank Central HS station as proposed by both consultants BuroHappold and a previous London Mayor, providing significantly superior connectivity than Euston. With a further station at Canary Wharf before heading East and joining HS1 this routing as was proposed, could then also deal with StP capacity constraints (another terminal expected to feel pressure from demand for new international paths by another 2 operators so far in addition to Eurostar!) and large land take in central London for inefficient terminal stations avoided.

    • ChrisC says:

      Please put your crayons away.

      How much would all of that cost for the tunnels and stations?

      It’s far too late to make major changes like that to HS2 now.

    • Si says:

      Euston is being cut as it costs too much. The idea that 10 to 20 times the cost of Euston could be spent instead is cloud cuckoo land.

    • I b Banging says:

      Someone’s got a different idea, quick quick attack attack them !!

    • Alistair Bell says:

      ChrisC: my crayons have been on a much simpler trajectory. Surface the OOC tunnels on either side of Queen’s Park Depot, take over the DC lines from there (closing South Hampstead and Kilburn High Road, both of which have tube stations very close by), reboring those tunnels if need be, then going via Primrose Hill to Camden Road (move the existing station to the northern pair) and onto HS1, which is already a flying junction. You get to call at OOC and Stratford (both of which get you on the Elizabeth Line for good connections to central London) and terminate at Ebbsfleet.

      You may also need to build a couple of flyovers in the Gospel Oak and Brondesbury areas to maintain the freight capacity lost by the closure of the Primrose Hill link, but that’s a LOT cheaper than tunnelling all the way across London.

    • Some Genuine Constructive Feedback says:

      I feel the comments are being a little insulting and not giving many reasons why your ideas won’t work. Here’s some genuine, constructive criticism:

      – Euston’s connections are vastly superior to Old Oak Common. OOC will have connections to the Elizabeth Line (which currently doesn’t have the capacity to deal with HS2 traffic without Euston) and potential connections to the West and North London line branches of the Overground. None of this exists yet. On the other hand, Euston already has a rail station, Watford Overground, Victoria, both branches of the Northern, and is a short walk from Euston Square with the Met, Circle, and H&C. Under the current Euston plan, the addition of HS2 will include an in-station connection to Euston Square and the lines mentioned above. Also, there is a proposed Automated People Mover to Kings Cross and St. Pancras, with access to HS1, additional rail services, Thameslink and the Piccadilly line. The proposed Crossrail 2 will stop at Euston, linking fast North-South services to HS2.
      – HS1 doesn’t have capacity for the entirety of HS2 to join it and terminate at Kent (I assume you mean Ebbsfleet). Plus, Ebbsfleet wouldn’t have the capacity – it would need a lot of new terminating platforms, so much you might as well consider build a different station. There might be some advantages, such as having the option for international services to either terminate at St. Pancras or continue North, but it would be very expensive and may not have much benefit (see Regional Eurostar). Also, Britain’s exit from the EU means that any HS2 stations with international services will require customs areas and border checks.
      – A South Bank station would require extra tunnelling (more expensive), continuing it to Canary Wharf would require a bunch more tunnelling (more expensive), and terminating the trains in Kent wouldn’t make much sense (and require more expensive tunnelling). Plus it would require 4 new stations instead of 2 – more expensive. Also, the plan would be much more expensive than the current, which as you can see is a big problem. The government’s attempts to save money on the already pricey Euston plan have resulted in higher costs and delays. They plan you described wouldn’t have a chance.
      – I just looked at the BuroHappold proposal itself and there are multiple additional problems I don’t have time to go into as this is already getting quite lengthy. And that former London Mayor of yours is also the Prime Minister that cut a lot of HS2 and made delays at Euston much much worse.

      – The main problem is that there are no Central London stations in your plan. The Elizabeth line will be overloaded with traffic from HS2, as the majority of passengers on board will want to go straight into Central London, filling Elizabeth line trains. The point of Statford and OOC are to allow those going in outer London to get off without going straight into the city.
      – There also may be some concerns about taking over the DC lines. Apart from the changes north of Euston (What would happen to Watford Overground services? The Bakerloo, with its ancient trains, cannot be extended to Watford), I don’t think trains will be able to run at high speed due to the curves of the line, and it may also disrupt freight, other passenger services, and areas of Camden. Also see why the HS1 to HS2 link was cancelled – it caused problems with existing services and won’t be very future-proof. Your idea may be cheaper for HS2 right now, but long term it probably will cause some problems.
      – See above for problems with terminating in Kent and connecting to HS1.

      There are a lot of things I haven’t mentioned, such as the fact that significant works have already begun at Euston and abandoning them would cause significant harm. However, this is already a very lengthy comment. I hope this helps.

  7. Emeritus Green says:

    A through station under Kings Cross St Pancras and a Terminus at Stratford International seems like a very good idea.

    Especially with all the building work going on at Stratford, they should be able to fit it in without flattening half of Camden.

    Just like a through station in Manchester, with lines going on to Carlise and Leeds, is a very good idea

    • Aled says:

      Based on industry noises, my gut feeling is that they are aiming for HS1 to end at Old Oak Common.

      With Crossrail linking up from here and using the existing line to Abbey Wood, where if you notice there is a lot of PR being pushed for Crossrail trains to be extended across to Kent. If you look at the drawings being marked up, it looks like Crossrail could relatively easily be extended to Ebbsfleet International (a HS1 site).

      Honestly that might make more sense. Many people, including myself do not want to travel to central London, as we live in the North/West/East/South.

    • GordonP says:

      Just to note that “Some Genuine Constructive Feedback” had mixed a lot of their comments within my text without separately identifying their comments. Please look at my original text.

      I will comment on “Central London” and this is just a personal view. Whereas in the past I would broadly define “Central London” as the area within the Circle Line. since the opening of the Jubilee Line and the move of the economic centre of London eastward I would now broadly include the area London side of Stratford, Canning Town (City Hall), Canary Wharf, London Bridge, Waterloo. Just my view, no more but relevant to HS and London generally.

    • Some Genuine Constructive Feedback says:

      Hi Gordon.
      Central London is often defined as anything in zone 1 of the tube map. Stratford is within zone 2/3.
      London Bridge and Waterloo have always been seen as central London. The Jubilee line did not move Stratford closer to Central London, similar to how crossrail has not moved Reading into London.

      Also in that specific sentence about Central London I was not referring to your comment. There is clearly a section addressed to “Gordon” and then after is a section addressed to “Alistair”. It shows that instead of taking in the feedback I gave, you seemed to have pinpointed small parts you were confused by and continued to talk about proposals that don’t work (as I have shown) elsewhere in this comment section.

  8. Chris S says:

    Why not build the Midlands terminus in the fields outside Coventry and save the cost of the link to Birmingham? Or save the cost of the middle section by ending the northern part at Leamington and the Southern part at Aylesbury, and running a shuttle bus between the two? Neither would be much loopier that Curzon Street to Old Oak Common, after all!

  9. John Watkins says:

    If they’re going to cancel Euston and north of Birmingham they might add well abandon it all now. Cancel the track and trains and hand the trackbed over to Sustrans for an express cycleway.

    • Charlie says:

      The Chiltern Tunnels are about 80% complete. What would you do with two 13 km-long caves?

    • Andy T says:

      Send the political architect’s of this well thought out plan in to them and take bets on how many can find their way out? Even money at best 🤔

  10. Roger Jacques says:

    HS2 should have been from St. Pancras, through the tunnel and from West Hampstead in a near enough straight run to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Then different lines could have been added East or West from the central core as and when needed

    • Gordon says:

      Indeed I believe that the key is the cross city HS connectivity as we see successfully planned and constructed in other cities around the world.

      In Madrid, for example, the cross city Chamartín – Atocha 7km under city HS tunnel is now complete and the Madrid HS rail bypass via Torrejón de Velasco has been open for some years.

      The BCR for a major terminus station at Euston probably crumbled when the key HS1 – HS2 link was removed.

      We can see why the engineers and the Mayor of London at the time were looking at the South Bank for direct connectivity with rail services SW, SE (and TL apparently). Also Canary Wharf, as an important international business centre, was another understandable aspiration for them.

      My personal view is that some platforms at Euston are necessary for Euston terminators (and the work has started) but let’s not lose sight of the strategic overview. The UK is decades behind other countries in being able to plan effectively for HS and London HS to the East of OOC is just a disaster.

  11. John. Airey says:

    So it’s taken just over 14 years to apparently cripple the biggest UK infrastructure project this century. Whilst the rest of the world is building High Speed lines. (Excluding you USA you have no idea about running passenger trains).

    What an embarrassment to the world this will be, plus the political fallout pretty much guarantees defeat at the next election.

    I am surprised someone somewhere hasn’t blamed Brexit. It’s the usual scapegoat.

    • MilesT says:

      Little harsh on the US, there are people who know how to do high speed rail and passenger rail, but the right projects are difficult politically.

      California has some of the same project implementation/costing concerns as HS2 in my opinion, Brightline Florida is leathally demonstrating that High speed rail is incompatible with at-grade roadway junctions (an outcome of building to available funds), Texas will have an “out of centre” terminal station location issue (for some of the terminals) same as Old Oak common/Birmingham Curzon again due to funding and the politics of major city centre disruption of construction/cost of tunneling.

  12. Steve says:

    Why would a 6 platform station at Old Oak Common (I believe this is the plan?) only be able to deal with the Birmingham trains and nothing more? I thought the HS2 offering to Birmingham was to be 3tph – sure Old Oak Commons 6 platforms could cope with 6tph as a minimum? Of course, if HS2 isn’t built beyond Birmingham then this is all irrelevant anyway!

  13. J P Addenbrooke says:

    Still time to make HS2 into what is really required for UK, turn it into a freight railway down the spine of the country.

  14. Julian Walker says:

    We’ve been here before. There were serious proposals for HS1 to terminate at Stratford International because “not everyone wants to go to St Pancras and it will save money”. HS1 got built to St Pancras and HS2 will arrive at Euston.

    • Nico says:

      HS1 discussion involved the Eurostar so its a little different. Paris / Amsterdam to Stratford dont work

  15. NG says:

    Not building Euston’s HS2 station is the worst of all worlds.

    Well.. it’s the tories – smashing everything up & stealing all the money
    Agree that an E-W facing through station Euston – King’s Cross would have been a much better idea, but that means “International Travel” by TRAIN -& we can’t have that, can we?
    – Quick, let’s smash that up as well & put “security” farce in, to make it almost as unpleasant as flying, eh?

  16. Alex McKenna says:

    We expect this current gang in Westminster to be dishonest, greedy, self serving and ignorant, but now we see how incompetent they are as well. All the gifts!

  17. Paul P says:

    Calamitous – wondering if the current Govt should even be put in charge of a pair of scissors. I also hope this means the idea of a central London high speed through station connecting HS1 and 2 could be resurrected at a future date, perhaps by a Labour Govt. It would resolve one of the bigger mistakes made in high speed rail planning so far (though it pails into insignificance compared to spending a fortune to just connect Birmingham and North West London – Jesus wept).

  18. Dan says:

    What an absolute farce. I can’t wait to see how ridiculously crushed the Elizabeth Line gets.

  19. Richard says:

    Never understood why HS2 needed to go to Euston when its obvious potential is direct through connection into the European trans continental High speed network. That potential is more likely tourist based and offers a genuine time alternative to direct air travel up to around 1500 miles between major cities and beyond.
    Very few travellers want to detrain at Euston and walk to another station. It is antiquated thinking.
    Old Oak Common has the scope to allow HS2 to connect directly to HS1 and, coupled with introducing competitive services, customs and passport inhibitions will soon be overcome with modern technology. It should then be easy to get on at Curzon Street in the evening and alight in eg. Milan, the following morning.

    • GordonP says:


      I have already mentioned Madrid (and it’s worth noting that Spanish HS has significant security checks that normally work without too much issue but can make HS interconnection a bit lengthy if you’re not careful!).

      Paris also planned in advance. Marne la Vallee (Disneyland) is on the Paris bypass HS line which opened as long ago as 1994! Puts HS1-HS2 connection into perspective I think.

      My final word. A lot is said about cost cutting. In business if, in simplistic terms, cost cutting was everything then the the business in question would put down the shutters and close. Costs saved but no business either.

      Does this apply elsewhere I wonder?

  20. Brian.Bell says:

    Probably find there was always a secret adgenda not to reach Euston. That way they could get away with demolishing a slightly run down area, and have acres of extreemly valuable real estate to sell to developers for hundreds of posh unafordable flats.

    • ianVisits says:

      A comment that requires industrial quantities of tin foil hat for the conspiracy theory.

    • Andy T says:

      That comment also assumes the government is capable of coherent joined up thinking, just 5 minutes reading the headlines alone puts that one to bed

  21. Keith says:

    Using Old Oak Common as a terminus would only make sense in my opinion if it’s was being done as part of a phased opening of the line, not too dissimilar to the Elizabeth line.

    For example…
    Phase 1a. Old Oak Common to Birmingham
    Phase 1b. Euston to Birmingham
    Phase 1c. Euston to Manchester

    A phased opening such as this might enable some of the costs to be recovered by opening parts of the line sooner, whilst other parts are still being built.

    One of the issue with Old Oak Common being the terminus is the impact on the Elizabeth line, with users needing to transfer onto it. This combined with the work already done at Euston is surely a reason why the line needs to go all the way to Euston.

    With an election looming in the next year hopefully some decisions may get conveniently delayed. Then if the polls prove correct and there’s a change of government those then in power may see sense and the long term view.

    • Richard says:

      We need the planners of our rail infrastructure to rid themselves of this londoncentric victorian view that necessitates London being the terminus of any major new line. At most London should be viewed as a stop off or on, or, indeed, a stage. HS2 must link somehow directly with HS1 or its potential is always going to be limited to the extent it will never repay the investment already incurred or committed.
      A link from Old Oak Common to St Pancras is relatively straightforward in engineering terms.

    • ianVisits says:

      Is it Birmingham-centric to suggest a terminus for the railway in Birmingham?

  22. MilesT says:

    Well it certainly would have been better to have made this decision before spending a lot of money on planning, demolition (including social housing and amenities), blighting and compensation (including to Stanley Johnson).

    Focussing on mitigation:

    Is there any space near Old Oak Common to make a bigger terminus?

    Would there be any funds now to increase the Elizabeth line fleet size and train length (as was already planned) while it is cheaper (bring the fleet expansion forward and necessary station amendments)

    What mitigations would be possible at the Birmingham end to make the best of what will be delivered? FUnding better local transport from the station to where people really want to go?

    If we are now cutting corners, could we have a cheaper train fleet that goes a bit less quickly (maybe a more flexible fleet–more “Classic compatible” in nature)

  23. David C says:

    It’s now looking particularly unfortunate that the plans to connect Old Oak Common to the two nearby branches of the London Overground, by building a new station at Old Oak, were dropped an earlier round of HS2 cost cutting – this would have provided at least some connectivity from south and south west London, and slightly better links to inner north London too – and in doing so, take some pressure off the Elizabeth Line (some details of the options consulted on are here – – with some more here –

    If we do end up with a railway to the suburbs, maybe some element of those plans could be revived to make Old Oak Common work a bit better as a London hub for onward travel and take load off the Elizabeth Line. Though I suspect the ship has now sailed with – as far as I am aware – no passive provision built in for future upgrades.

    Sadly I do fear the growing debacle of HS2 will make rail investment as a whole seem even more high-risk and politically toxic, and rub off on to other more minor local rail upgrades.

    • Yikes says:

      That’s absolutely terrible – I thought the overground plans were still in place. Without them and under the current Old Oak Common terminus plan, the entire train will be dumped off at OOC and nearly everyone fill flow into an Elizabeth Line train, easily crowding the network. I doubt many people will walk 15-20 minutes to North Acton or Willesden Junction. That’s an incredible short-sighted plan (just about what I’d expect from the Tories). Even with faster frequencies and the additional trains requested by the mayor I doubt the Elizabeth Line would be able to handle being the only reasonable option for getting to and from HS2.

  24. Dave says:

    I know we have inflation – but £5 billion for a railway terminus station!!?? beggars belief really, is it lined in gold?

    From the start, hack, hack and hack again. Death by just several cuts!

    Yep, just a line from Birmingham to a London suburb. Rest of the construction world? – just laughing!

  25. mikeH says:

    The most comments ever?

  26. mikeH says:

    So many commentators and hardly any agree with each other, not surprising the Government can’t get it right either.

  27. Michael says:

    I’ve always said to people this a project too much.
    We can’t do fantastic super speed lines in this country.
    We should have been spending the money ON ALL LINES
    IN THE COUNTRY,to improve all trains and rail lines.
    The Government doesn’t care about us using trains or the people who work on them.

  28. Steve Ehrlicher says:

    Well, if the government had really wanted to win friends and influence people (not donors/funders), then they would have started at the north and worked down.

  29. Captain Haddock says:

    Is £5 billion really that much for a new station in St Pancras? HSBC tower – i.e. one building is valued at £1.04bn and covers a (comparatively) small amount of land.

    The rebuild of Reading Station cost £900m and London Bridge cost also cost >£1,000m.

    This is complex and massive expansion from what is a fairly decrepit station on some of the most expensive land on the planet – let’s not forget, much of the spend is land purchase.

    My overall view on HS2 is it started with the wrong messaging – “we’ll knock 20 minutes off a trip to Manchester – and it will only cost £50bn to build”. What should have been said is “we need more capacity”.

    The logic for going for high speed to Birmingham is lost – short distance with minimal time saving, but that increased speed comes at incredible cost.

    Spending 300% more for a really fast train set (compared to 125mph) between the outskirts of two cities not too far from each other is bonkers.

    • Captain Cod says:

      I agree. I think the argument about time saving was more from politicians trying to advertise the scheme to the public. Most industry experts were saying quite clearly that the largest benefit would be additional capacity, with the speed being a welcome benefit of modern railways. Unfortunately, any benefit in capacity and speed is ruined if it’s cut back to a tiny line between a city and a suburb. The government has ruined the project by trying to unnecessarily cut costs by delaying the scheme and cancelling proponents, making it long-time more expensive and reducing the possible benefit and profit. I hope that a new government has a different approach and aims to complete the plan in full.

  30. James says:

    The thing that should be cut is Heathrow Airport’s vanity station at Old Oak Common. HS2 changes the fundamental geometry so that Birmingham Airport is the natural long-haul aviation hub for all of England’s cities. Birmingham needs a second runway. Heathrow needs Love-Field-style restrictions to reduce noise pollution on West London and make it adjust to its new role as a regional airport for people from the Thames Valley to go on holiday to the Balearics and the Canary Islands.

    • ianVisits says:

      Old Oak Common is not a vanity station – far from it.

    • dave says:

      I live in Bermondsey (zone 1/2) and if HS2 went all the way to Euston it would almost certainly be quicker for me to get to Birmingham International than all but Heathrow of the “London” airports. OOC on the other hand takes bloody ages to get to.

  31. Al says:

    Are high speed stops at Euston and St Pancreas really essential? The abandonment of a direct HS2-HS1 link between Old Oak Common and Stratford International or a provision for it, together with HS4Air to help alleviate concerns about HS1 being unable to take on all of HS2 makes the whole thing project pointless.

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