HS2 Ltd’s work at Euston started six years ago with more than £1 billion already spent, as chancellor Jeremy Hunt said it’s not “conceivable” it won’t reach London.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he did not see “any conceivable circumstances” in which HS2 would not run to its planned central London terminus at Euston, amid reports that section of the route could be axed because of rising costs.
Soaring inflation means the redeveloped Euston station may not open until 2038 and could be axed completely, with trains instead stopping at a new hub at Old Oak Common in west London’s suburbs, according to The Sun.
The newspaper also reported that a two to five-year delay to the entire project is being considered.
Hunt, asked by BBC News after a central London speech whether ministers were committed to HS2 going “all the way to Euston”, replied: “Yes we are.
“And I don’t see any conceivable circumstances in which that would not end up at Euston.
“And indeed I prioritised HS2 in the autumn statement.”
Mr Hunt said the UK does not have “a good record” of delivering complex, expensive infrastructure quickly, but he is “incredibly proud” that HS2 is being built under a Conservative Government.
He added: “We’re going to make it happen.”
Phase One of HS2 involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a.
Phase 2b will connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands.
The planned extension to Leeds was shelved in November 2021.
Nigel Harris, managing editor of Rail magazine, claimed it would be “catastrophic” to scrap HS2’s Euston station as there would be “no incentive” for people to switch from West Coast Main Line services.
He said: “If you’re flying into Heathrow, you don’t want to go to Southend. That’s effectively what you’d be doing.”
Mr Harris added that Euston is “being built right now” with billions of pounds already spent on preparatory work and buying up property.
Construction of a 4.5-mile long tunnel between Old Oak Common and Euston was expected to begin in 2024 and take two years to complete.
HS2 has been dogged by criticism over its financial and environmental impact.
In October of last year, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove suggested capital investment for HS2 would be reviewed, but Chancellor Jeremy Hunt subsequently backed the project.
The target cost of Phase One was £40.3 billion at 2019 prices.
A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015.
What’s already happened?
A huge area to the west and northwest of the existing mainline station has been cleared to make space for the high-speed railway, and many properties have been bought.
Excavation for a new ventilation shaft has been completed, and tens of thousands of skeletons at a disused burial ground at St James’s Gardens were exhumed.
Two large office blocks outside the mainline station were also demolished.
There has been strong local opposition to the work, particularly from residents and businesses forced to relocate.
Environmental demonstrators spent a month occupying tunnels under Euston Square Gardens in early 2021.
The Government announced in October of that year that the number of HS2 platforms at Euston will be cut from 11 to 10 in an attempt to save money amid complications with the work.
HS2 intends to maintain planned peak frequencies of 17 trains per hour at the station despite the reduction, but some rail experts have warned this will affect punctuality.
The updated plan means the redevelopment of Euston is being carried out in a single stage, rather than two.
The platforms are planned to be underground and 450 metres long, while the concourse will stretch for 300 metres.
Designs for the station feature a bold roof coloured bronze or gold.
Under the plans, Euston will be connected to Old Oak Common in west London by a 4.5-mile long tunnel.
Exact figures for how much has been spent on HS2 at Euston have not been published, but the total is more than £1 billion.
In October last year, Transport Secretary Mark Harper issued an update to Parliament which stated that there is a “pressure of £400 million on the cost estimate for the HS2 Euston station”.
Press Association – Neil Lancefield and