April 11, 2014

HS2 needs a cross-London link to continental Europe

Written by 

PASSENGERS travelling on Britain's planned HS2 line from northern England wishing to travel to continental Europe are destined to trudge along Euston Road in London to transfer from Euston to St Pancras stations for the next 50 years unless action is taken now to secure a route, or at least passive provision for one, between HS2 and the existing HS1 high-speed line to France.

The British government, having rightly cancelled its own HS1-HS2 link in London as not being fit for purpose, wants parliament to prevent the House of Commons HS2 Select Committee from discussing any future alternative link. Whilst it is reasonable to avoid discussion on the link that has been removed from the HS2 Bill, to prevent petitions and discussion in the Select Committee on alternative routes – or passive provision for them - means there will be no opportunity in the future to connect HS2 at its main interchange station at Old Oak Common in west London with any other station in London or HS1.

This is because HS2 has rightly maintained that all tunnelling from Old Oak Common eastwards must start from there because there is nowhere else suitable to erect a tunnel boring machine (TBM). Since the TBMs must be erected on what will be the future station platform area at Old Oak Common, any tunnelling works clearly must be completed before the station is fitted out and trains start operating from there. Any link between HS2 and HS1, either a single or double track, will need to be in tunnel starting from Old Oak Common. If there is to be a junction further east in the tunnel from Old Oak Common to Euston, then this also needs to be constructed before fitting out.

There are many options for the route of an HS1-HS2 link. These include a direct connection to Stratford on HS1 with or without central London stations, and the Euston Cross proposal promoted by myself and Lord Bradshaw which could provide a link if the HS2 tunnels to Euston are relocated to join the West Coast Main Line in the Queen's Park area. However, for good passenger interchange, a link to HS1 serving Old Oak Common is highly desirable.

There clearly needs to be some rethinking of the route and purpose of the HS1-HS2 link, and the extent to which it should take regional trains to provide another east-west cross-London link, and Continental-gauge freight trains, but without petitions and a debate by the HS2 Select Committee about passive provision for such a link at or near Old Oak Common, it looks as though HS2 passengers wanting to go to Paris will still be trudging along Euston Road to St Pancras 50 years from now.

I will be writing to MPs and ministers urging them to amend this instruction from the Commons to the Select Committee to allow petitions and discussion on alternatives to the now cancelled HS2-HS1 link.

Tony Berkeley

Lord Tony Berkeley is chairman of the Rail Freight Group, the representative body of Britain's railfreight industry which includes 150 companies covering logistics, train operations, terminals, and infrastructure managers. He is also a board member of the European Rail Freight Association, the grouping of private operators and other companies promoting European railfreight. Berkeley sits in Britain's House of Lords, where he was an opposition transport spokesperson in 1996-97, and is secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Rail Group. Berkeley was public affairs manager of Eurotunnel from 1981 until the end of construction of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, and is a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics, and an honorary fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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