The Prime Minister has been urged not to agree to suggestions that the HS2 station at Euston could be scaled back in order to cut costs in the short term.

The current plans for the HS2 station at Euston will see it delivered in two phases, with six platforms opened first to carry HS2 trains on the first stage of the railway up to the West Midlands. The second phase of the Euston station would open later, with an additional 5 platforms to manage demand when HS2 is extended to Crewe, Manchester and Leeds.

Phase one was scheduled for completion in 2026, and phase two in 2033.

Once complete, HS2 will more than double the number of seats out of Euston station during peak hours and free up space on the West Coast Mainline for more commuter services to places like Watford, Northampton and Milton Keynes.

However, the Oakervee review from last year called for a redesign of the station scaling back the station and increasing the amount of oversite development to fund it. Earlier this year it was revealed that the Department for Transport has instructed HS2 to refine the development to build it in one phase, but with just 10 platforms instead of 11 platforms.

Speeding up the construction in one phase it is argued will reduce the cost of rebuilding the Euston station, while cutting the platform numbers won’t affect capacity on the HS2 line.

In an ideal perfect world, that is correct, as it’s technically possible to run the full HS2 service of 16 trains per hour (later rising to 18tph) with 10 platforms at Euston. However, the world is not perfect, and that additional platform is critical to delivering the capacity for HS2 to allow for delays and problems.

As HS2 is not just a single line shuttling between two stations but a forked line with junctions and stations, delays on a tight timetable will happen at times. You only need one person to jam a door accidentally for a minute at a station with their luggage, or there to be particularly bad weather somewhere along the route to cause a delay.

The government’s own report (pdf link) into HS2 said that “11 dedicated platforms are required to support this level of operation and any fewer could cause regular delays.” With 10 platforms at Euston, you have to get trains in and out to a very tight schedule, but the 11th platform gives trains (and the staff on them) a bit of capacity to allow for the occasional problem.

That delivers what most people want most in a railway – a reliable service.

An open letter from the group, London First (pdf link), calls on the government not to “build future problems into the rail network by descoping key aspects of the Euston station plan”, noting that with “transport investments of this scale relatively small additional upfront costs can yield significant benefits for decades to come.”

The letter was signed by leaders of organisations in London as you might expect, but also Manchester and Birmingham, showing the UK-wide concerns that the proposed reduction at London will affect HS2’s capacity across the whole line. If HS2 carries fewer trains, that means less capacity is released on the existing national network, and regional services which expect to see far more trains may have their ambitions cut back as well.

As the letter from London First notes, “to opt for anything less will result in a huge missed opportunity”

The Mayor of the West Midlands and the Leader of Manchester City Council both recognise the UK-wide impact that a capacity crunch at Euston would have on the line.

In the grand scheme of things, the cost-cutting at Euston is barely a rounding error in the cost of the whole project, but would deliver a capacity crippling blow to the whole line that could only be repaired at a later date at enormous cost.

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27 comments
  1. Chris says:

    HS2 could save a ridiculous amount of money if it went into Paddington. Space will be made available when Crossrail starts using their own facilities.
    Or better yet, if it went in to Paddington, then went thru a new tunnel to Euston/St.Pancras. Old Oak Common would then not be needed. Best solution would be find new contractors, ones who don’t rip off the taxpayers. For the same money as HS2, the Spanish could build a high speed rail line, from Barcelona to London. That is literally the scale of over charging happening.

    • ianVisits says:

      Sending HS2 to Paddington would cost about the same as sending it into Euston – you still need to build the tunnels and platforms — and crucially, the commuter capacity gain it delivers at Euston would be less if it arrived at Paddington.

    • ChrisC says:

      It’s too late to be making fundamental changes to the project now as it would increase the costs rather than reduce them plus work at Old Oak had also started and ditto at Euston. It would also affect the whole cost benefit of the project.

      One of the reasons why infrastructure costs rise so much is because there is too much political interference and wanting things added on or changed not because they would benefit the project in the long term but because it would benefit the politicians in the short term.

    • Bob says:

      My guess is HS2 terminating at Paddington would benefit you personally.

      Please provide your costings for a HS line between Barcelona and London. I would be very interested to study those.

    • Marauder says:

      Bar a section between Montpellier and Perpignan*, the high speed line between London and Barcelona already exists. The cost would then be about setting up a service rather than building a line 😉

      * The missing section is projected for the next decade https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGV_Montpellier%E2%80%93Perpignan

    • SteveP says:

      Commenter “Chris” shows all the hallmarks of being “mad” John Burns from Milton Keynes who regularly trolls HS2 discussions with utter nonsense.

      I’ve no idea where the space is at Paddington to build 10/11 extra 415m platforms (which strictly speaking should be straight – Euston had to get a derogation for its curvy bits) to accommodate HS2 trainsets.

      Crossrail, at best, “frees up” 2 platforms in the “urban” Paddington station (one of which is “only” 170m long after being extended) and most of that capacity is being utilised for new services.

  2. ChrisC says:

    Another example of short term thinking that needs to be reversed.

    Even if platforms aren’t used immediately they can and should be built in shell form even if all the passenger infrastructure aren’t immediately installed and operational.

    • James Miller says:

      I think that Oakervee might have got it right, based on an example of a project built by the GLC Construction Branch, who used my software. I suspect to build the project in one phase means that it is much easier to build the oversite development and it will be contributing cash flow to the project a lot earlier. The oversite development could be externally funded.

      Looking at the train operation plan, I think there are aspects of it, that have not been spotted by commentators and these could have fundamental affects on the operation of Euston.

  3. Owen O'Neill says:

    Hmmmm the letter from London first reads differently to me….
    (1) It doesn’t specifically say don’t reduced the number of platforms.

    (2) after the quoted bit above the same paragraph goes on to say “Instead, we urge the Government to have the same ambition for the development of Euston as you do for Northern Powerhouse Rail – properly integrating the critical onward connections that will maximise the transport, regeneration and economic potential of HS2.”
    …..so the ‘descoping’ could be read as related only to the onward connections.

    (3) and the kicker is the bullet points in the letter say…
    “allowing maximum opportunities for oversite development;”… which is part of what the de-scoping to 10 platforms achieves by allowing for bigger pillars to support the oversite dev.

    So sitting in government I could choose to read this as supporting the de-scoping to 10 platforms.

    • ianVisits says:

      It doesn’t specifically say not to reduce the platforms, but as the de-scoping is exactly that, and the letter is to transport people, it’s presumed that they didn’t need to spell out the obvious to them. The de-scoping is specific to the station, as per the Oakervee report as 10 platforms would reduce onward connections. There’s no mention in the letter about needing bigger pillars to support the oversite development.

  4. Peter Johnson says:

    It is absolutely vital that all 11 platforms are built. Without them, either the service becomes sufficiently unreliable that ridership will suffer, or somewhere in the North is going to lose its HS2 train service – for ever. Whoever supports the 10-platform option is going to have to front up and say who that is. Red wall seat, perhaps?

  5. Derrick Schultz says:

    I wonder if a staging platform at Old Oak Common would be able to accommodate the same especially with it being said to be connected into Crossrail there. At Euston itself I think if there were 11 platforms and one was a shared platform with other services for issues wouldn’t this also allow for reliability, but wouldn’t be able to be established until the Network rail portion of the station is determined.

    • simon says:

      Will the HS2 platforms and the classic line platforms actually be parallel allowing a ‘shared use’ platform 11?

    • SteveP says:

      @Simon – the HS2 lines may be parallel (ish) to the classic lines, but they are much lower down in the ground, so a shared platform won’t be possible. There actually was such a thing in the original plans (they called it a “hybrid” platform) but it got deleted at some point which allowed them to move the HS2 lines even lower.

      The classic lines into Euston are already on what (in railway terms) is a quite steep incline, so it’s not practical to make them any steeper.

      Way back when, they used to use cable winch to “pull” trains up the hill of “Camden bank,” subsequently what are known as additional “banking” engines used to provide some extra push. Modern electric stock is lighter and more powerful and can make it on it’s own.

    • James Miller says:

      Has anybody got any idea why Birmingham Interchange needs four 415 metre platforms for just six trains per hour, none of which join and split?

      I suspect that they are for smooth operation of High Speed Two to the North. It’s probably cheaper to put the balance station in Birmingham than at Euston.

      Nobody would want to buy a flat by Birmingham Airport.

  6. Hector Blowtorch says:

    As keen as I am on HS2, it seems strange to go ahead with this when Network Rail has gone bust because the railway is seeing the lowest passenger numbers of the last 150 years.

    Who is going to use this high speed network?

    • ianVisits says:

      You can’t judge a railway that’s going to carry its first passengers long after the pandemic is a fading memory by the effects of a couple of years of the pandemic.

      The railway will be here for 200+ years, let’s judge it on that timeframe.

    • Melvyn says:

      Network Rail has not gone bust and imagine if London Underground expansions in the 1920s had been cancelled because of the worldwide flu pandemic which just like covid19 will be just a blip in history……!

      Anyway HS2 is being funded by the Government as a separate project just like Crossrail was built separate from TFL and Network Rail funding.

  7. NG says:

    “De-Scoping” – like having Highbury & Islington & Walthamstow Central ( Vic-line ) to have only TWO escalators, rather than three ….
    And 50 years of crowding & unsafe congestion as a result, yes?
    Should serve as a warning, if anyone would pay attention ….

  8. Richard Dickinson says:

    As a now retired HGV driver I was a train driver that was made redundant in the 70s it’s all very well on starting up all these new fast lines etc where are the start coming from because to my mind it seems hard to retain staff let alone getting new staff.

    • Bob says:

      Are you kidding? Train drivers are paid through the nose. There are no shortage of applicants when vacancies open up.

  9. Terry O'Grady says:

    Passenger congestion at Euston could be alleviated considerably If the London Northwestern Railway trains made an additional stop at Queens Park. This would enable passengers to alight and catch the Bakerloo line to Paddington connection to Crossrail/Elizabeth line

    • ianVisits says:

      You said that last week as well – repeating it here won’t change the situation, you need to explain to the rail operator how it would work and how it would be to their benefit to make the change.

  10. David says:

    I find it odd that a 14 tph service needs 11 platforms. Can anyone explain the rationale behind this?

    • David says:

      My bad it says 16-18 tph in the article. I completely misread this.
      I find that number quite high for a high speed line. It sounds more like an ambition than a reality.

  11. Ramon Prasad says:

    All of you guys so keen on Euston + St Pancras just explain to me in very simple language how a family arriving from anywhere in UK on HS2 at Euston Station gets itself to St Pancras Station to board an HS1 train to somewhere in France or Belgium or Holland.

    Alternatively, having failed at that task explain how a family arriving from anywhere in Europe on HS1 at St Pancras Station gets itself to Euston station to board an HS2 train to somewhere in the UK.

    Task No.3 explain, in very simple language why the railway engineers of our country have turned down the very simple job of making Euston/St. Pancras into a THROUGH STATION, in which it is not necessary to alight in either direction, but such family to be able to stay on the train to complete its journey to where ever.

    • ianVisits says:

      The two stations are very close to each other and there is reserved plans for an elevated walkway to link them.

      The decision not to create a link between HS2 and HS1 is disputed, but ultimately was a cost-cutting exercise by the politicians in charge.

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