The government has responded to a new report on high speed rail project HS2 by saying they'll remove the link that would have gone through Camden, and putting the redevelopment of Euston station back into play.
One of the London-centric parts of Sir David Higgins's report concerns a link between HS1, which runs between St Pancras and the Channel, and the proposed HS2. The route would have run through Camden Town and generated fierce opposition from traders, residents and Camden Council. Higgins concluded that the cost of building the link — £700m — wasn't worth the disruption to the community and existing rail and freight services, particularly when the interchange between Euston and St Pancras is a couple of hundred metres or one tube stop. He compares that journey to "transferring from one terminal to another at Heathrow". Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says he will take the link out of the HS2 Bill.
But where one potential source of disruption is removed, another appears. Whatever happens, Euston will need to expand to accommodate new, longer platforms for HS2. Whether to go beyond that has been the subject of debate for some time. Redevelopment plans were downgraded last year, but in February the Chancellor George Osborne came out in favour of using Euston station to kickstart jobs and housing. The Higgins report says:
"the real question is whether [the current Euston plan] is ambitious enough... It could also create the potential for considerable over-site development, which could combine housing, retail and commercial development. As in St Pancras and King’s Cross, this would maximise both the aesthetic and jobs impact of the development. Further work can and should be done to develop this alternative — and explore, in particular, how the private sector would help deliver a Euston that lasts, without additional contributions from the taxpayer."
McLoughlin agrees, and says he will ask HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to work up "more comprehensive proposals" for redeveloping the area. This creates more uncertainty for residents and more questions about how much of the area will be knocked down.
The Transport Secretary also took the opportunity to call for the Euston Arch to be rebuilt. This 70ft high structure was demolished in the 1960s when Euston station was enlarged. After much squinting at Google's Victorian map, the verdict at Londonist Towers is that the Arch originally stood where the concourse is now; campaigners suggest it could be rebuilt between the lodges that now house the Euston and Cider Tap pubs.
Photo by Wing from the Londonist Flickr pool