CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Look at the case and the costs involved between Old Oak Common and Euston

08 March, 2018

• YOUR leading article on HS2 draws attention to the difficulties that objectors have experienced in having the possibility of transferring the terminus from Euston to Old Oak Common (OOC) looked at seriously, (Get rich quick – the real reason for this faster railway, March 1).

It is important to continue these efforts now. The case is stronger than ever. Historically the government has relied on the claim that moving the terminus to OOC would impose unacceptable time penalties on those HS2 passengers for whom Euston would be a more convenient interchange.

However we have finally got an official estimate of the value of this penalty. It has been estimated at £3.8billion.

This sum has to be compared with the savings that would accrue from not taking the line east of OOC. The savings in resource costs, that is, building the line itself and the associated works at Euston, probably comes to more than £8billion.

In addition allowance has to be made for the saving in local disruption and the very heavy social and environmental costs near Euston under the present plan.

The government has never tried to put money values on these costs, which is one of the reasons why its cost benefit analysis is a poor guide to policy. As a matter of judgment, I would have thought they were of comparable magnitude to the savings in resource costs.

Recently another argument has been used; that the physical difficulties at OOC would make it impossible to build a terminus there, rather than just a stop as now planned.

The physical difficulties are real but the question, which the government has never addressed, is whether they can be removed by spending enough money.

As mentioned, there should be plenty of money available from not taking the line into Euston. In addition, according to the report of the House of Lords HS2 select committee, the disruption at OOC under the present plan would rival the disruption at Euston.

Public money would be well spent in trying to reduce this disruption, so that is another possible source of money for works at OOC.

There is another advantage that OOC has over Euston, which has only recently entered the public debate. Lorries bringing material to the site and taking away the spoil near Euston would add substantially to the air pollution in an area where it is already above the legal limit. At OOC all such work can be done by rail.

What we should all unite on now is making the case for OOC to be the terminus for phase one of HS2. Everyone, including Lord Adonis, agrees that it has the capacity to meet that demand. There would then be plenty of time to decide what the permanent solution would be, assuming parliament gives approval to the rest of the scheme.

In fact it is very likely that parliament will not do so. This scheme has always had fatal flaws, some of which you mention, and people are beginning to realise that.

Even more important are Michael Byng’s cost calculations. Byng is a great expert on costing rail infrastructure. He thinks that the complete scheme would cost over £100billion, nearly twice the official estimate.

Even if HS2 were a sound scheme in more favourable conditions, which is not the case, to devote such resources to this scheme when all other areas of public spending are starved of resources would be the height of folly. Public anger about the state of public services is growing.

STEPHEN PLOWDEN
Albert Street, NW1

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