… and suggestions for how to avoid them

Euston Station, part 3

As I promised in my blog Growing pains … (posted 10 Jul 2012), in this blog I will examine suggestions that have been made for avoiding the need to redevelop Euston Station on an enlarged footprint, as required by the present plans for HS2.

One possibility, employing a “double-deck” design for the new Euston Station, was suggested by HS2 Ltd and is discussed in paragraphs 6 to 16 of Annex B on pages 124 and 125 of High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future consultation document (here). Whilst HS2 Ltd accepts that this option would “have fewer community impacts”, it has ruled it out on the grounds of cost (15% to 20% more expensive), engineering complexity and risk and increased disruption for a longer time during the construction phase. HS2 Ltd also warns of the increased noise and visual intrusion that would result from “the new high level platforms and the structure carrying those lines”, which “would introduce a 23 metre high, visually intrusive structure and an elevated operational railway in a heavily built-up area”.

HS2 Ltd has, it appears, considered only one double decking arrangement; building the second deck above the normal platform level. The obvious alternative of building the second deck below the normal platform level, which would overcome the objections on the grounds of noise and visual intrusion, has been rejected by HS2 Ltd as “infeasible”, but without there being any evidence that this option has been given proper consideration. Work by the local action group indicates that this alternative is worth exploring further, but HS2 Ltd appears to have a closed mind on this issue.

Unfazed by this intransigence, the London Assembly, in its response to the public consultation, suggests that the option of “stacking” platforms should be explored further.

Another option, recommended (at least as an initial solution) by Lord Mawhinney in his report High Speed Rail Access to Heathrow (here), is to make Old Oak Common the London terminus for HS2 and to rely on Crossrail for connecting journeys.

The inference is that HS2 Ltd doesn’t like this option either, judging by paragraph 3 of Annex B on page 123 of High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future:

“Most stations in outer London were also ruled out as the longer interchange and journey time for most passengers to get to and from the stations would erode much of the benefits of the high speed line.”

This is a characteristic example of HS2 Ltd dogma, presented as irrefutable truth but without a scrap of evidence to back the assertion up. In fact, analysis on journey times (excluding waiting for trains) undertaken by the local action group, shows that Crossrail will be such a speedy way of accessing ultimate destinations in London that the reverse is true for the vast majority of journeys via Old Oak Common. Examples of destinations that prove to be “closer” to Old Oak Common than Euston, as revealed by this analysis, include such popular stations as London Bridge, Charing Cross, Bank, Tottenham Court Road and Canary Wharf.

An interesting, and innovative, take on the Mawhinney recommendation that has been proposed in some quarters, including the pro-HS2 Greengauge 21 and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is to remove existing commuter services from Euston and connect them into Crossrail instead, thus reducing the number of platforms required for the new Euston Station.

HS2 Ltd has reviewed this suggestion and reports its findings in section 7.4 on pages 63 to 65 of Review of HS2 London to West Midlands route selection and speed (here). This review sees some merit in the suggestion, but finds that “the overall footprint [of Euston Station] could only be reduced by six metres”, that this would not make “a substantial difference to the impacts of the expanded station on the local area” and “would not reduce the number of demolitions required to construct the station”.

Diverting suburban services away from Euston is also a feature of the Heathrow Hub proposal that has been put forward. The proponents of this scheme say that doing this, together with twin-tracking the HS2/HS1 interconnect, will avoid the need to enlarge the footprint of Euston Station (other than an extension southwards towards Euston Road). So we have another example of informed opinion questioning HS2 Ltd dogma.

Another suggestion that has been made to relieve the pressure on Euston is to incorporate the existing, and currently unused, high speed station at Stratford International into the HS2 plans; the proximity of this station to the new financial district in Docklands being cited as an advantage. This is not favoured by HS2 Ltd for similar reasons to rejecting Old Oak Common as the London terminus.

I feel that the final word on this vexed question should go to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, which says in paragraph 98 of its report High Speed Rail (here):

“Insufficient attention has been paid to the economic justifications for the siting of high-speed rail termini. It should be noted that most travellers going to Euston for business purposes will still have onward journeys to make to either the City or the West End. If that is so, then the Government should reassess whether terminating at either Old Oak Common or another station on the Crossrail network might not be a more effective solution given concerns about the capacity of Euston.”

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Fran Heron (Euston Against HS2), Peter Jones (pan-Camden HS2Alliance) and Tim Stockton (Primrose Hill HS2 Reference Group) for providing information that I have used in this blog.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by aboodoo on July 14, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I think that building a lower deck at London Euston may well be problematic, in that you’ll be getting very close to the and Victoria and Northern Line tunnels.

    My solution would be to divert local services to Crossrail (as stupidly, Crossrail will have 14tph from Central London terminating at Paddington, which were originally to serve other branches of the Great Western and Chiltern Lines), then extend Euston station towards Euston Square to increase platform lengths (by which point, it would already be “low level”, connect it into Euston Square tube station, and build a new concourse on top. This would involve demolishing the “Podium” building, and possibly building a new bus station on Euston Square at a higher level, in front of the new concourse. I don’t see then how 18 platforms won’t be enough.

    Reply

  2. Anzir raises an interesting question about double decking “downwards”. The City Branch of the Northern Line runs down Hampstead Road before swinging east beneath the Euston concourse. Similarly the Charing Cross Branch runs down Evershot Street before swinging west. The area of potential interference with a lower level station is thus primarily limited to the southern extreme of today’s Euston (and also where the City Branch runs beneath Hampstead Road Bridge). With smart thinking the Tube lines and platforms could be incorporated in an atrium, at right angles to the Euston long distance and suburban platforms.

    If that was impractical in the worst case one could envisage removing any conflicts by adding small lengths of new Tube tunnels (so that the Charing Cross Branch would down Hampstead Road and then on to Warren Street while the City Branch would run down Evershot Street). Not cheap and you’d need new tube platforms but it could work.

    Moreover although a double deck station “upwards” was dismissed by HS2 Ltd as being visually obtrusive it needn’t be ugly (think Berlin Hauptbahnhof). Has HS2 Limited bothered to ask the opinions of local residents?

    Having said all the above it would in our opinion be unnecessary to expand Euston as Old Oak Common makes a far more practical hub with far better connectivity.

    Reply

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