Transport for London (TfL) is warning that delays to the HS2 railway may require it to buy more Elizabeth line trains to cope with the thousands of people dropped off at Old Oak Common needing to get into central London.

The issue is that HS2 has pushed back when Euston station will open until the 2040s, leaving Old Oak Common station as the terminus for much longer than was currently expected. That means thousands of HS2 passengers will need to get to and from Old Oak Common station instead of Euston.

Although Old Oak Common station is being built specifically as an interchange station and was always intended to connect with the GWR and Elizabeth lines, only around a quarter of HS2 passengers were expected to swap services at the station.

With the delay to Euston station opening, this now means that when HS2 opens, all its passengers will need to swap services at Old Oak Common.

Physically, the station will be able to cope, as it’s built to handle traffic for the full HS2 line – and expects to handle as many as 250,000 passengers every day. Under the current plans Old Oak Common would be the London terminus for HS2 up to Birmingham, and by the time HS2 reaches Manchester, then Euston station will be open as well, and it has the capacity to cope with the additional passengers.

However, in the interim, all HS2 trains will stop at Old Oak Common, and not many passengers will want to stay there.

For people heading to west London, it’s always been expected that many will likely take GWR trains to Paddington. However, the majority of people are expected to want to head into central London, either as the destination or to swap onto London Underground lines — and that means the Elizabeth line will have to absorb vastly larger numbers of passengers than it is already carrying.

In an ideal world, TfL would be able to send some empty Elizabeth line trains stabled in a depot to the west of Old Oak Common station, but the location of the main depot rules that out.

This means that already crowded Elizabeth line trains will pull into Old Oak Common station and will need to pick up thousands of HS2 passengers trying to get into central London.

An empty Elizabeth line train can carry 1,500 passengers, but the trains won’t arrive empty, and HS2 trains will be able to carry at least 1,100 passengers each and are likely to be pretty full when they arrive.

That causes a problem.

In its latest board papers, TfL has said that the delays to HS2 station at Euston means that it will have to buy more trains for the Elizabeth line to cope with passenger demand at Old Oak Common.

Although HS2 isn’t expected to open until some point between 2029-33, TfL is warning that it will need to place the orders for the new trains soon, as the cost of doing so later will be significantly more expensive. That’s because the factory lines to build Elizabeth line trains at Alstom’s factory in Derbyshire are still in place, but will be demobilised soon. If the trains aren’t ordered before that happens, then the cost of reactivating the factory lines has to be included in the bill.

This is fairly routine when ordering trains — an initial order is made, and the contracts will include an option to buy additional trains at a comparable price, so long as the order is placed before the factory realigns its layout for a different order.

Although TfL is now expecting to break even in terms of its day to day operations, it will rely on the government to fund investments in new trains, and has warned that it needs confirmation from the government that funding will be offered to buy the additional Elizabeth line trains.

Ordinarily, in major infrastructure projects, if there’s mitigation needed to deal with its impact, then the cost is applied to the project. So, for example, if a project requires a local road to be redirected, its the project that picks up the cost.

In this situation, although TfL would eventually need to buy more Elizabeth line trains to cope with passenger growth – that purchase is likely being brought forward much earlier than expected and because of cost-cutting delays imposed on HS2 by the central government.

And yet, it would be conventional for HS2 to pick up the cost of the mitigations being required – so a cost saving measure at Euston station has the potential to cost more than it saves because of the extra Elizabeth line trains that are needed to cope with the delay.

TfL is warning that if it is unable to place the order for the additional Elizabeth line trains soon, then “failing to do so would mean delays and higher costs to remobilise the workforce, source materials and ensure the additional trains are ready to enter service.”

Although a bit of a mess in London, it’s good news for the workforce in Derbyshire who get the contract to build more trains.

One other issue though is where to put the additional trains.

Depending on how many are needed to absorb HS2’s passengers, there’s a potential requirement for an additional depot for the Elizabeth line to be built. The depot at Plumstead may have the potential to be expanded, but it would suit the requirements of the HS2 mitigation to have a depot to the west of London, where they could then run relatively empty trains into Old Oak Common station.

That of course pushes the bill up even more.

And all these additional costs are because of an attempt to save money by delaying the HS2 station at Euston.


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  1. Dominic says:

    What’s the chances of the DfT / the Treasury refusing to fund any additional Elizabeth line trains, leading to dangerous and uncomfortable journeys…

  2. Kevin Roche says:

    In my experience, most Government “Cost Saving Measures” are more expensive than the original plan and inconvenient for almost everyone involved. Some businesses will make more money as a result. I’m sure most readers can give examples.

  3. Blob says:

    Isn’t the government hiding the fact that Crossrail 2 is being seriously delayed, and this is what in turn delays HS2 Euston station opening?

    The original plan was that when HS2 passengers come into London…
    If they want to go East/West they get off at Old Oak Common for Crossrail 1,
    If they want to go North / South they get off at Euston for Crossrail 2.

    They are delaying the Euston HS2 station because Crossrail 2 wont be ready in time for it, and the Underground network wont be able to handle the HS2 passengers.

  4. Keith says:

    Potentially there may be a change of government in the next couple years. With that there’s a chance that the current delay on the Euston to Old Oak Common stretch may be reversed. Feels like a short term saving, which will create a greater long term additional cost.

  5. Adam Edwards says:

    If I were TfL I would also be demanding the Govt via HS2 fund the Overground stations either side of Old Oak Common which have also been “postponed”. These were planned to be on Old Oak Common Lane and Hythe Road to serve the Richmond and Clapham branches of the Overground. The give more options to encourage people not to use the Elizabeth Line.

  6. Roman says:

    How are the underground stations around Euston supposed to cope with the extra traffic once HS2 finally arrives? To my knowledge, the lines are not getting extra trains nor are the station(s) being upgraded.

    • ianVisits says:

      There’s a huge new tube station being built at Euston, and the subsurface signalling upgrade will eventually allow a quarter more trains to run on the line.

  7. Jamie S says:

    The extra demand assumes that people are actually going to use HS2! Who’s going to get off at New Street, trek all the way to Curzon Street to get a train, then change again at OOC when there are already two direct routes between the cities?

  8. Kai Chung says:

    There is also the option of Flying on BA from Manchester to London too don’t forget.

    • ianVisits says:

      Hardly any though – the railways carry most of the traffic between those two cities.

  9. Sid soumouth says:

    When the novelty of HS2 is over and the track goes back to its low level of use
    Why we need lots of trains sitting on sidings doing nothing.
    That’s of course HS2 finishing 2040?

  10. Boogies Trains says:

    Should be easy enough to put a turnback facility to the west of the new station so that trains turn back there rather than Westbourne Park. The stub of the old main line to Birmingham is available.

  11. David Hawkins says:

    Could some HS2 trains run into Paddington ?

    • ianVisits says:

      If you spend a fortune on a new tunnel and tracks and expand Paddington station to cope. Yes.

  12. David Winter says:

    AIUI, the Paddington (Westbourne Park Sidings) terminators will be transferred to OOC. That will give plenty of empty trains to absorb such traffic as HS2 can attract. The EL OOC platforms are designed to accommodate the terminators. With the 24tph capacity limitation on Crossrail, perhaps TfL might need to look at a project to bring the 345 fleet up to its full 11-car length if 10 empty tph are not enough to clear traffic offering at OOC ‼️

  13. SteveP says:

    Isn’t there already an issue with track capacity west from Paddington? Is it even possible to run more Elizabeth Line trains on this route?

    For whatever reason, these lines seem to be plagued with constant signalling problems and multiple overhead wire failure incidents, resulting in many hours if not days of poor service

    Not to ignore the frequent “lack of staff” problems

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