The cost of building HS2’s terminus station at Euston has nearly doubled to £4.8 billion since it was originally planned, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO), with the constant changes to the design having wasted over a hundred million pounds.

Proposed Euston station (c) HS2

Last month the government said it was pausing work on building Euston station to save money, although it was widely noted at the time that delays usually lead to higher costs. This has now been borne out by the NAO report that said the latest change would “lead to additional costs and potentially higher costs overall”.

Alarmingly considering the impact of the decision, the NAO says that neither the DfT nor HS2 knows what the impact of this pause will be on the overall schedule of the HS2 Euston station and when it will open.

In 2019, Euston station was budgeted at £2.6 billion, which rose to £4.4 billion in 2020 and the NAO report now puts the bill at £4.8 billion, and that’s at 2019 prices, so excludes the effect of inflation. Of that figure, a huge £1.5 billion will go on just buying the land needed and preparatory works to enable the station to be built. HS2 has also spent £548 million on starting to build the station.

So there’s over £2 billion spent so far.

Plan for the HS2 station (c) HS2

There’s also been a lot of changes to the design, imposed on HS2 by the government. The change from a two-phase construction and cutting the site from 11 to 10 platforms is estimated to have wasted £106 million in preparatory work.

While the 10-platform design DfT chose in November 2020 was estimated at the time to be less expensive than the previous 11-platform design, it still exceeded the available budget by £1 billion.

There’s also a conflict between HS2 and the government about how the oversite development would be provided, with the government pushing for more buildings to help recover more of the cost, but at the same time, the Treasury wasn’t approving the funding needed for the additional structural support needed in the station to hold them up.

Inflation is also causing problems, with the Department for Transport (DfT)’s internal systems assuming that there would be a fall in construction prices between December 2019 and August 2022. In fact, they rose by 18%, which is adding pressure on the DfT to secure additional funding from the Treasury.

The report is recommending that the budgets be reset at 2023 prices rather than the 2019 prices currently being used to factor in the impact of inflation on the construction industry. This would at least allow the project to be more honest about its costs.

Euston station is a complex site, as it’s effectively three projects — the new HS2 station (including the new London Underground station), the rebuild of the existing Euston station, and the oversite development that will run above both stations.

Although the NAO report says that the delay to HS2 may make it easier to integrate the HS2 and National Rail station rebuilding works, there’s still a lack of coordinated planning between the two projects.

There’s also the problem that the planned rebuild of the national rail station is still not approved by the government, and funding has not been allocated. It’s currently estimated to be costing between £1.3 and £1.6 billion.

The lack of clarity about what is happening with the existing Euston station then adds uncertainty to HS2’s plans for its site.

In conclusion, the National Audit Office is warning that the DfT’s and HS2’s attempt to reset the programme since 2020 “has not succeeded and further action is now required to develop an affordable and viable station”.

Euston station is now not expected to open until 2041, at the earliest, due to the delays, both at Euston and HS2’s extension to Manchester.

Adding to the pressure to get Euston station open though is the difficulty that Transport for London would have in getting people from Old Oak Common into central London, and is already seeking funding to buy additional Elizabeth line trains to try and cope with the thousands of passengers dropped off in west London.

Although the government has committed to building Euston station, speaking on Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show on Sunday, Michael Gove, the Levelling-Up Secretary once again cast doubt on Euston station suggesting that Old Oak Common could remain the terminus for London.

Although Euston station is expensive, a large part of the cost is simply buying up the land to build it, and although its shrunken 10 platforms will put pressure on HS2’s ability to run all the trains it plans to offer — that’s still a lot more than the six platforms being built at Old Oak Common.

Old Oak Common station (c) HS2

As a terminus, Old Oak Common could just about cope with a HS2 railway that reaches Birmingham, but once the line to Manchester opens, the increase in train frequency will require at least an additional four platforms at Old Oak Common — or as it happens, the ten platforms at Euston station.

Although Michael Gove said that he doesn’t “know what the final decision will be about where the terminus will be,” the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt has previously said that he could not see “any conceivable circumstances” in which HS2 would not run to Euston.

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15 comments
  1. 100andthirty says:

    As I recall it, there was a dispute about over-site development when Euston was rebuilt in the 1960s leading to the current low rise station which British Railways had to get on and build something for it’s flagship West Coast Main Line electrification project. History repeats itself!

  2. ChrisC says:

    “… but at the same time, the Treasury wasn’t approving the funding needed for the additional structural support needed in the station to hold them up.”

    Typical silo thinking that like the constant changes to the project actually leads to spending more money totally unnecessarily.

    Someone needs to knock some heads again and say if we want cash from the over site development we need the funds now to make it structurally possible other wise cough up for the lost cash from the over site development but we’ll save on not having to build supports for it.

  3. Bobbing Blob says:

    The first picture at the top of the page…

    that seems like a very narrow path for passengers to walk along, no? Helpfully though, the visualisation only includes a women with a child, plus a few singletons walking along it, so clearly it’s wide enough.

    Anyone know how many trains per hour Crossrail might potentially be if TFL is allowed to buy some new trains?

  4. Alan O'Connor says:

    A huge amount of public money is being wasted on the HS2 project, from an originally estimated £35 Billion to the current £155 Billion.
    In addition, the entire HS2 project has become obsolete since its original conception, as actual physical movement is now far less necessary for communication. In terms of cost benefit, HS2 is completely without value, as it results in very little time saving. The entire HS2 project should be scrapped as soon as possible, before any further public money is wasted.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Everything you say is true if the project is about time saving. But it isn’t, therefore the very foundation for your comment is incorrect. You should read why HS2 is really needed and reconsider.

  5. Steven Clark says:

    The only advantage of this fiasco is that it provides an object lesson on how not to build a new railway
    So the rest of the world can learn from our incompetence.

  6. Brian Butterworth says:

    As we say in software development: on-time, on-spec, on-budget – you can pick only two!

    (aka the project management triangle)

  7. Warnie says:

    Euston has always been one of my favourite London stations. It’s far easier to navigate than most and the plaza is a pleasant place to wait for a train. It’s a pity that the main station building can’t be retained, somehow.

    • ChrisC says:

      It’s a horrible station for both departures and arrivals. The concourse is often crowded and until some recent changes it was cluttered with things and structuers that just got in the way of a proper passenger flow.

      The corridors from the concourse to the platform is far too narrow for the number of passengers that need to use it and the ramps down to the platforms are too steep.

      It was fit for purpose once but not now.

  8. GoringMan says:

    There’s been surprisingly little discussion about the impact of this on the wider Old Oak development plans, with an apparent assumption that everyone would transfer to or from the Elizabeth Line or GWR at OOC. The missing piece (and part of the eternal funding wrangles between central government, Network Rail, OPDC and TfL / GLA) is the Overground NLL/WLL and West Coast Main Line connections at Willesden Junction and the in-limbo new Hythe Road & Old Oak Overground stations.

    More info here: https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/buildings/opdc-chair-old-oak-hythe-road-stations-off-table-18-06-2019/

    and here: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/61._wjsfs_2018.pdf

    • ianVisits says:

      I did write about them – at the time the project was put on hold. There’s not been any updates since to write about.

    • GoringMan says:

      Sorry! Only found this site recently.. I really meant little dicussion in the wider press. Quite a bit of coverage of the TfL funding bid for more Elizabeth Line stock and the ongoing impact on Camden residents, but not much if any about the fallout of the Euston delays on OOC more generally. If by some very unlikely miracle the result was acceleration and funding of the Willesden Junction rebuild, WCML platforms and Hythe Road / Old Oak Overground stations then there could be a silver lining to the clouds?

  9. Roy wood says:

    With all his money being spent on the station are they re building the Euston arch to make a grand entrance

  10. Knowledgeable personal says:

    One of the biggest reason of the inflated HS2 costs is the difficulty in acquiring land. Not only do they have to agree on a price with inflation and more competition for land costs are going to heighten. However, a lot of land once HS2 is done, replanted and running, can be resold and with the value increasing could generate a large income.

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