HS2 and Old Oak Common

In recent months, there has been a growing consensus that the role of Old Oak Common as the London Terminus for HS2 should be reconsidered.  This is partly driven by cost; the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee pointedly asked the Government to estimate the overall reduction of cost to HS2 of terminating the line at Old Oak Common in its March 2015 report.  It is also driven by the realisation of the devastating impact on our local communities and the environment if HS2 terminates at Euston: a point repeatedly emphasised by Frank Dobson and myself when we gave evidence to the HS2 Select Committee earlier this month.  And it is partly driven by politics; each of the mayoral candidates has seen the potential for Old Oak Common as a far more effective interchange than Euston and compared that to the potential damage if Euston remains the terminus.  Interesting then, that upon his elevation to the HS2 Board recently, Lord Adonis spoke in a piece he authored in City AM of the “huge opportunities” HS2 provides in west London, “where a new Stratford is waiting to be created at Old Oak Common”; later he cites Old Oak Common as the “biggest” opportunity for HS2.  Nowhere in the article is Euston mentioned.

HS2 Ltd. seem more than a little rattled.  The test of the intervention Frank Dobson and I made before the Select Committee was how the Select Committee would receive our submissions and how HS2 Ltd. would react.  We now know the answer to the second.  HS2 Ltd. are so concerned that our arguments about Old Oak Common are gaining currency that, on 17 July, they submitted follow-up written submissions to the Select Committee weighing in at 259 pages setting out their counter arguments.

But is now transpires that they have not done their homework.  As noted, one of the questions the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee asked the Government was the cost reduction in terminating the HS2 line at Old Oak Common.  When the Government filed its response to the report this month, it dodged that question – ignoring it altogether.  Therefore I tabled the precise same question as a written parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Transport on 14 July.  Six days later, I got the following answer:

Mr Robert Goodwill

A number of options for the London terminal station for HS2 were considered as part of a strategic assessment in 2009. This included terminating HS2 at Old Oak Common. Only options that were included in the final sift were subject to detailed evaluation including a cost assessment.

Early transport analysis found that the bulk of the demand for HS2 would come from the central, north and south of London which would be best served by a central London station. Given that, Old Oak Common would not deliver the same level of benefits as a central London station and it was not included as part of the final sift and was therefore not subject to a cost analysis.

In other words, HS2 Ltd. simply do not know, and have never calculated, the cost reduction of terminating the line at Old Oak Common.  That is wholly unacceptable when, as the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee pointed out, HS2 is already one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK.  The cost reduction should be calculated forthwith, so that the true cost of ploughing on to Euston and devastating our communities can be known.

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