CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Get rich quick – the real reason for this faster railway

The real explanation for HS2 in Euston is laid bare by the Lendlease announcement - the company, or one like it, will no doubt make billions in profits

01 March, 2018

WHY was the HS2 railway brought to Euston?

It has been the question highly paid executives and politicians have been unable to convincingly answer since the project was first announced in 2009.

First there were claims about creating an uninterrupted service through St Pancras to the Continent. Then there was the apparently crucial issue of capacity, and the need to shave minutes off journey times to Birmingham.

One by one the official reasons for HS2 in Euston were shot down.

The entirely sensible option of ending the line at Old Oak Common, a huge expanse of empty land – as argued by Frank Dobson – was never given any real consideration.

The real explanation for HS2 in Euston is laid bare by the Lendlease announcement. The company will be given the option to buy 54 acres of land after a huge redevelopment of Euston it is overseeing is completed in 2033. The company, or one like it, will no doubt make billions in profits.

This industrial-scale privatisation of public land is largely happening across the capital without explanation or apology. There are lessons from the regeneration of King’s Cross where the sheen of modernisation – the air-brushed squares and towering identikit buildings – are mistaken for a real neighbourhood community.

HS2 is already having terminal consequences for the people of Euston. The area to the west of Euston is fast becoming a ghost town with buildings in Euston Street, Cardington Street and Coburg Street boarded up. Drummond Street traders say the loss of major hotels – the Ibis, and family-run Cottage Hotel – are causing a devastating loss to trade.

The forced closure of the thriving Bree Louise pub has struck a particular nerve among locals, as have the felling of several mature trees and the closure of St James Gardens. The exhumation of a former church burial ground is will start soon. The water main replacement works is already backing up traffic along Albany Street and through the Regent’s Park estate.

Over the past eight years HS2 has breezed through Parliament at every hurdle. Unquestionably backed by the two main parties, it has never been effectively opposed.

The huge Euston development we see today was announced by George Osborne, during a trade trip to China.

The whole project reeks of political corruption and, worse still is the sense of political impotence. That profit trumps democratic accountability at every stage in 21st-century Britain.

Residents must feel they have wasted their time appealing for change to the various parliamentary select committees. This systematic, top-down form of decision making is eating away at our
democracy.

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