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Sat July 20 2024

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Chancellor scotches HS2 reports

27 Jan 23 Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has dismissed reports that HS2 will not reach its planned London terminus in Euston.

The planned Euston HS2 station
The planned Euston HS2 station

The Sun newspaper this morning reported that the government plans to save money by terminating HS2 in London at the planned Old Oak Common station in west London and not continuing the line on to a planned new station at Euston.

Other news outlets followed up the Sun’s story, giving it credence. However, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt told BBC television that there was no such plan.

“I don’t see any conceivable circumstance in which that would not end up at Euston,” he said. “We have not got a good record int his country of delivering complex expensive infrastructure quickly but I am incredibly proud that … we have shovels in the ground, we are building HS2 and we are going to make it happen.”

What his statement did not rule out, however, is that the central London section of HS2 could be slowed down to spread out the spending over more years. Phase One is HS2 is currently expected to open between 2029 and 2033, but building cost inflation has been eating into contingency funds.

A spokesperson for the High Speed Rail Group – which, as its name suggests, is not exactly a neutral observer – said: “Cancelling Euston would be the height of folly. The construction site is already very well progressed. Works have been underway there for five years and already hundreds of millions have been spent.

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“Old Oak Common station has nowhere near enough platforms to serve as the London terminus. Indeed, if it was, there would only be enough capacity to allow London-Birmingham shuttle services on HS2. In very simple terms, if Old Oak Common is the terminus, you cannot have HS2 services reaching Manchester. If you cut off Euston, you also cut off Manchester and the rest of the north.

“Finally, if the suggestion is to merely delay the opening of Euston, then it is true that you may save some money in the very short term. But by delaying works, allowing more construction inflation to creep in, you will actually add to the overall cost. It would be a total false economy. We need to take a long term view and build HS2 in full.”

Kevin Minton, chief executive of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), said: “Committing to deliver HS2 is vital in building business confidence, driving economic growth, and improving the UK’s rail infrastructure.”

The HS2 Eyston station will be set across three levels, with ten 450-metre long subsurface platforms. Main contractor is Mace Dragados Joint Venture.

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