Khan seeks reassurances on HS2 plans for London

The London mayor has written to Rishi Sunak over his concerns with how the high-speed line will serve the capital, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan (inset) is seeking reassurances over HS2
Sadiq Khan (inset) is seeking reassurances over HS2

Sadiq Khan has written to Rishi Sunak with concerns over his plans to finish the HS2 rail link at Euston.

The mayor told the prime minister that while he welcomed the commitment to complete the high speed line into central London – rather than terminating it at Old Oak Common, near Acton – “urgent clarification” was still needed “on a number of critical issues”.

Sunak confirmed last week the long-rumoured decision to cancel the northern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester, but he also pledged to “create a new Euston development zone, building thousands of new homes for the next generation of homeowners, new business opportunities and a station that delivers the capacity we need”.

Khan said he was worried about the plan to use private sector investment to fund the completion of the Euston terminus, with the mayor pointing out that it is expected to cost £6.5bn, “and potentially more for the tunnel link to Old Oak Common”. He said this seemed like “wishful thinking”, given “current challenges in the British economy”.

As part of the new proposals, a planned pedestrian tunnel linking Euston Station with nearby Euston Square Station has also been scrapped. Khan said the tunnel was “a vital part of the HS2 scheme”.

The mayor wrote: “HS2’s own figures show 85% of their passengers arriving at Euston then need to use the underground to continue their journey which will overwhelm the existing LU [London Underground] connections.

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“I am deeply concerned that your recent announcement will leave the Euston terminus of HS2 a distant hope, resulting in a line which ends at Old Oak Common for decades, if not permanently, in what would be a devastating blow for passengers using the line and for the economy of London and the whole country.”

The BBC has reported that if enough cash is not put forward by private funds, the high-speed line will only run from Birmingham to Old Oak Common. Khan said such a scenario could mean it would in fact take longer to travel to central London from Birmingham using the “high speed” line than it currently does using existing services.

The government has said that when it comes to funding the project through private investment, it would take on the “lessons of success stories” from other schemes such as the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and King’s Cross Station.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it wants Euston station to “be open and running trains as soon as possible”.

A DfT spokesperson told the BBC there was “already support and interest from the private sector”, adding that ministers had held discussions with key partners since the announcement.

“It is simply wrong to talk down the scale and benefits of this regeneration,” the spokesperson said.

Sunak said a new development company, separate from HS2 Ltd, would manage the delivery of the Euston project, adding there “must be some accountability for the mistakes made, for the mismanagement of this project”.

The prime minister has pledged money saved as a result of the northern leg of HS2 being axed will be spent on alternative rail, road and bus schemes instead across the country – in a set of projects known as ‘Network North’.

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