DSC 0204hs2fi - Euston HS2 #11

Being the one where the PM has given the project the full go-ahead for stage one from London to Birmingham Curzon Street. The stages northwards will be known as High Speed North and more details will be forthcoming over the next few weeks on how the whole project will be redesigned, reshaped, and rolled out.

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PM to announce new HS2 plans at lunch time, 11th February 2020. Source: Twitter

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The BBC at the Curzon Street, Birmingham, HS2 worksite, in readiness to live-broadcast in anticipation of the PM’s announcement on the go-ahead for HS2. The original London-Birmingham rail terminus can be seen in the distance. Source: Twitter

HS2 has been given the go ahead. Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister, signed off the acknowledgement to permit stage one of the project to go ahead. Stage two has been deferred ‘for a short review’ however indications are the government intends to complete the line to Leeds in one way or another.

However we will not know the full information for a while. The PM says the details of his ‘transport revolution’ will be made over the next few weeks. He said bus passengers across the country would see a dramatic improvement in their journeys. Brand new carbon neutral buses would be made available as part of this revolution.

The PM also made note of the recent proposals to reopen railway lines, and mentioned the fact the Poulton to Fleetwood route would be the first of those to reopen.

He also mentioned that there would be upgrades primarily designed to speed journeys through the junctions in and out of Bristol Temple Meads.

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The PM live in the Commons as he updates Parliament on HS2. Source: Twitter

The PM added that these and many other jobs could not be done in isolation thus the the joints between the knee bone, the fiber bone and the shin bone, and the ankle bones, the spine, all needed to be fixed and he claimed this would deliver prosperity to all parts of the country.

He did lead some criticism towards HS2 Ltd by saying it had been poor in its handling of local communities. He also pointed out the forecasts and the actual costs have exploded and there has been poor management, but on the whole it had not ‘detracted from the fundamental value of the project.’

In terms of Oakervee, he said copies of the review would be posted to the various departmental libraries (although it transpires the report was made immediately available online. See below.)

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The PM on BBC Live – HS2 and transport statement. Source: Twitter

He did say the HS2 project would provide thousands of extra seats and ‘make it much easier for travellers to move up and down our long narrow country – that means faster journeys…. passengers arriving at Birmingham airport will be able to get to Central London in 38 minutes….’

He also pointed out HS2 was not just about getting from London to Birmingham… but making a ‘rapid connection from the West Midlands to the Northern Powerhouse’ and implied it would finally give the Pennines routes the fast connections it needs.

Today the cabinet has given high speed rail the green signal we are going to get this done and to ensure that we do so without further blow out to either cost or schedule we are today taking decisive action to restore discipline to the programme. I will be appointing a minister whose full-time job will be to oversee the project. A new ministerial oversight group will be tasked with taking strategic decisions about it – there will be changes to the way HS2 is managed.

The PM did say Euston was ‘grossly behind schedule’ and that there would be many changes in regards to this and also phase 2b, c etc. He however did say all the stages would be ‘built as quickly and as cost effectively as possible and to make sure that happens we will be working closely with Northern leaders to explore options for creating a new delivery vehicle for the Northern powerhouse rail, and we will start treating HS2 north of Birmingham… as High Speed North.’

He insisted HS2 services would be running by the end of the decade.

Clearly the sections north of Birmingham are now to be referred to as ‘High Speed North.’

The Oakervee report has been published online with immediate effect. It has a simplistic front cover which doesn’t even mention HS2!

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Essentially the go-ahead was given last night in all but name. I screencapped the following tweet just after 10.10pm on the 10th February 2020. The BBC clearly had acknowledgement the government was intending to give the yes to the huge project. In under ten minutes it had received 275 retweets.

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BBC acknowledges HS2 go-ahead. Source: Twitter

That had been widely expected. It had been said for some days an announcement would be made today. It was very widely reported in the press the PM would make an announcement on this day in Parliament re the go ahead for HS2.

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The Standard’s comment on HS2 10th February 2020.

In fact, yesterday the Standard had indicated knowledge of the go-ahead. The newspaper’s comment section was absolutely confident the PM would be announcing the go-ahead for HS2. ‘It is excellent news that HS2 is getting the go-ahead tomorrow.’ The paper even reported the Old Oak to Euston section of the project was being taken out of HS2 Ltd’s hands.

Stop HS2 had said they were hearing the PM had in fact sacked the entire board of HS2 and was imposing further new conditions on the line being built.

I do not know how Stop HS2 found out all that! Nevertheless the following article from the Standard which I collected late pm on Monday was my first inkling there had been changes to the management of HS2 and the devolvement of the Euston section away from the company.

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This is scanned from the paper itself. There’s an online version here.

Soon all sorts of confirmations were being produced by the press. The Financial Times informed readers HS2 would be broken up into three parts… like the Standard, it too confirmed the central London section to Euston would be hived off to a different management altogether.

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The FT – just a few minutes after it published its own assertions re HS2. Source: Financial Times

As part of the HS2 revelations it was being said the government would also reinvigorate Britain’s bus services. Clearly despite the Tories slashing of bus services in past years, they didn’t want to be seen as too biased towards just a new railway. It wouldn’t have sat well with the new MPs the party had gained in the north and north east.

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New buses and network expansion to get Britain moving. Source: Twitter

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Bus service expansion clearly an attempt to mitigate the doubters of the HS2 project. Source: Twitter

The Oakervee Review (and Lord Berkeley)

The Oakervee Report was due out on the 18th October. It was deferred and sources said it would not be released until late in November 2019. It wasn’t. In the meantime there was a leak. Then the newspapers were able to get hold of copy of the report, and finally the BBC summarised the Oakervee conclusions just to give an idea of the recommendations being made in terms of HS2.

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Early indications of what the Oakervee Review was aiming for. The Leeds stage of HS2 to be deferred. The £10m shown is wrong – it should be £10 billion! Source: Twitter

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Lord Berkeley warned HS2 budget was ‘out of control.’ Source: Twitter

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In the light of Berkeley’s assertions, the government was being urged to publish Oakervee. Source: Twitter

Lord Berkeley, one of the participants in the Oakervee report, claims he was dumped from the review process. In due course he wrote and issued his own ‘dissenting report’ challenging and refuting many points about the need for HS2 and putting the case for a better, more reinvigorated, rail network.

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People were urging the PM to publish Oakervee. After all, it was promised months ago! Source: Twitter

Today Lord Berkeley was saying of HS2: “I think it’s a vanity project for people who want to get to London quicker.”

Its onwards with the Hyde Park Now show…

I stopped doing my Euston HS2 progress reports because of the review that was instigated by Transport Minister Grant Shapps in August 2019.

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Announcement of the ‘independent’ review of HS2 August 2019. Source: Department for Transport

What it means is having given myself a considerable break from reporting upon the matters of HS2 it seems its time to pick up the thread once again!

One might think I have not been doing anything. Far from it! I have been photographing progress at Euston whenever I have passed the site, which is usually at least once a week, if not more. It means progress at the site hasn’t been missed and important changes in the area recorded.

At this particular stage the pair of Euston towers are almost down to ground level. It was supposed to have been completed by January 2020. It seems its slightly behind schedule as the Grant Thornton tower still exists in part behind the hoardings.

However in terms of the other parts of the site, the Bree Louise pub has gone as too has the Calumet store, the former Euston Thistle hotel and the rest of it. There’s a big gap now stretching from the Hampstead Road bridge right across to the top end of Melton Street. Even the huge tent that was erected for the exhumation of the graves in St James’ Gardens has too gone. in

Work is still under way at the top end of this large gap to demolish the estates on the west side of Hampstead Road. Much of it is gone however there are still sections waiting to be demolished, especially the buildings immediately adjacent to Hampstead Road and the railway itself. These buildings were largely the Camden council estate buildings which stood in the way of the new HS2 approaches to Euston.

A legal challenge has been made by the residents of Park Village East against HS2 and it is due to be heard in the high courts. There is concern the alignment of the new tunnels out of Euston will not have sufficient underpinning – and this could cause the collapse of a retaining wall and subsequently the historic houses built by John Nash.

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Apart from several special features, the last full HS2 progress report on this blog was July 2019.

My last proper HS2 progress report was made in July 2019, The next was really about the anti-HS2 demonstrations (led by Chris Packham, StopHS2 and Extinction Rebellion) rather than a progress report.

I did a further report which was a refutation of some of the arguments upon the need for a new high speed railway, this was done in November 2019. Early in 2020 I did a special two part feature on the former taxi rank – which had been closed because of HS2.

Euston, we have a problem

One of the surprises was the announcement Euston would be hived off from the main HS2 project. Clearly its a case of ‘Euston, we have a problem.’

Why did the London section get hived off? There has long been thought that HS2 should finish at Old Oak. In fact Lord Berkeley, as did former HS2 chairman, Terry Morgan as well as others, recommended the Euston section be deferred or even dropped to keep the rest of the line on track.

Certainly there are huge problems with the line from Old Oak into London. On the basis of this the government thought it was best to split this from the main section of construction. No doubt this will split the costs of the line thus the main section will somehow look less costly than the projections being made.

Little has been said regarding one aspect of Euston which is sure to add even more cost to the project. What this entails is the present London terminus was actually built very lightly.

The superstar late 1960’s station has far fewer piles than usual driven in to the ground because it was anticipated there would be no oversite development. Thats why it has always represented an air terminal rather than a railway terminal. One simply does not do oversites at air terminals for a very good reason! But then again, trains don’t fly do they?

When Euston was rebuilt between 1959 and 1967 they didn’t put sufficient piles in for an oversite development…. The foundation costs are horrendous as you have to drill through the existing station. To re-engineer Euston [properly] you have to create a super slab over the whole of the station.

The HS2 proposals is these require considerable oversite development for the malls, the various facilities and so on. Besides the expensive tunnelling northwards to Old Oak, Euston itself is going to cost many time more than envisaged because substantial parts of the 1968 station will have to be closed in order to permit additional piling and other works to take place.

The platforms for HS2 at Euston will be much lower than the present platforms. It means there will be a big hole in the ground westwards of what were platforms 17/18. Much shoring up and strengthening of the present station’s foundations will be needed.

It has been said this will cost HS2 Ltd an extra £2 billion. Essentially the cost of works at Euston therefore doubles from £2.5 billion to £4.5 billion.

Previously it had been said HS2 would no longer involve the total demolition of the 1960s station. Maybe not but still the plans involve the demolition of the station westwards of the large concourse, including it seems the iconic 1960s designed ticket hall.

It has also been said the substantial underground junction immediately outside of the station will now be modified. Instead of what was to be essentially a series of grade separated junctions, it will probably be a far more simpler layout, perhaps incurring a couple of minutes or so time penalty in terms of total transit time.

HS2 – the work never stopped

When Grant Shapps said HS2 would be put on hold pending a review, it was implied work would halt altogether. As it turns out, there was barely any pause in any work on the new line. In fact any pause seems to have merely been an assertion. What the contractors got up to wasn’t the government’s problem apparently…

Contractors were ripping up trees and establishing new work sites especially Buckinghamshire around the Colne Valley and the Missendens, whilst new work sites were being established all the way up to Birmingham, especially around Leamington, Kenilworth etc.

There was even a video showing contractors undertaking a night-time job much to the annoyance of residents. There was suspicion things were being done under the radar to give the works stealth in terms of progress. There was also a video from late last week where HS2 apparently blocked ambulances from reaching Harefield hospital but permitted works vehicles through!

Upon learning of the go-ahead, anti HS2 campaigners have said ‘this is war.’

Demonstrations are continuing and no doubt further camps will be set up along the route of the projected new railway.

One of the biggest publicity events against the HS2 machine was the walk led by Chris Packham around the Colne Valley last November. Huge numbers of people joined the walk. The aim of this was to highlight the destruction to the area, including its waterways, lakes, and wildlife habitats.

In terms of the pro-HS2 lobby, there were of course many numerous articles written in favour of the railway. RAIL’s Nigel Harris made an exception to publishing protocol and released full page views of his own thoughts on the new railway. First page of Nigel Harris’ thoughts on HS2. Second page of Nigel Harris’ thoughts. Original source on Twitter.

Others have continued to give their support to the new railway insisting it must be built at all costs. Will the railway be operational by the end of this decade as the PM claimed? Time will tell….