Now that the HS2 project has become an unstoppable political necessity it must be time to think through how to get the best out of it. And starting at the beginning; a serious question has to be – why start at Euston?
The HS2 route planned for getting out of central London involves a tunnel all the way from Euston to Old Oak Common and beyond. There it will connect with the Crossrail project and, unsurprisingly, the station may be renamed Crossrail Interchange.
Even with the existing plans there are clearly huge savings to be made in time and cost if HS2 simply started from Old Oak Common. When you also consider that all the trains to and from Euston are planned to stop at Old Oak Common – most passengers from Birmingham would find it quicker and easier to leave HS2 at the interchange; even if it did not reduce the fare. Switching to Crossrail here would provide travellers with direct services to far more districts of London than Euston would. Also the Interchange is planned to link with the existing Heathrow Express service and the Great Western Main Line.
Eliminating the low-speed HS2 section from Euston would also reduce the journey times to and from Birmingham. And if the plans were revised further so that the HS2 and Crossrail tracks actually connected – rather than being just close by- then trains could run directly between Birmingham and all points served by Crossrail to the east.
So who could be against a logical scheme that reduces costs, saves travel times and links with more locations?
Well at this point we get back to politicians. Conservative MP Theresa Villiers has rubbished the Old Oak Common interchange plan as being Wormwood Scrubs International and Mayor Boris Johnson ruled that the interchange station would not receive any extra Crossrail funding. It is still on the plans only because Kensington and Chelsea Council underwrote the £33 million involved. MP Philip Hammond has said that it is not an option to .. Lug your heavy bags down a couple of escalators along 600m of corridor and then change trains at a wet suburban station somewhere in north west London. Not the brightest of endorsements but then I assume that Mr Hammond must actually live at Euston Station or has a civil service chauffeur on call. Certainly anyone arriving in London by train or plane from almost anywhere will have to lug their heavy bags down a couple of escalators, along 600m of corridor and change trains more than once to get to a wet main line station somewhere near Euston Road …
Now there was a plan to make Heathrow the interchange point with HS2 but that seems to have disappeared – like the unresolved objections to both the detail of and the overall case for HS2. Despite everything Old Oak Common station remains the key interchange on the detailed HS2 groundwork plans as at this morning. So it seems that we are heading for yet another compromise where everyone gets second best …