London transport

HS2 could fail to “work properly” without Crossrail 2, executive warns

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The major proposed transport link between London and the North of England could cause intolerable overcrowding at Euston station – which is already operating at double its capacity – without the parallel construction of Crossrail 2.

Parliament has approved the first two phases of construction on the £56 billion project, which will link London with Birmingham, then with Manchester, Leeds and other major sites in the North of England. The line has the potential to reduce the length of cross-country journeys significantly, with a Manchester-London journey taking just one hour and eight minutes (the journey currently takes over two hours).

The benefits of the high-speed network, which could encourage mobility along the length of the country, could be negated, however, by issues caused by the enormous increase in commuters passing through Euston station: HS2’s London hub.

Once HS2 is in operation in the 2030s, at least 10 1,000-passenger trains could arrive at Euston station every hour. The station is already operating far above its intended capacity, with 42 million people passing through every year. The official stated capacity is 20 million people per year.

The station is set for a revamp over the coming years in order to support HS2, with six new platforms for high speed trains and five current platforms being reconstructed to accommodate high-speed trains. Without additional trains connecting Euston to the rest of London, however, the benefits of high-speed journeys into London could be offset by waiting times for onward trains.

An HS2 executive told the Financial Times: “We are dependent on Crossrail 2 for the train line to work properly at Euston.”

They added that it was too soon to say what the exact impact of HS2 would be on the station, as the details of the high-speed train schedules had not been decided.

Crossrail 2 is intended to ease this crowding, providing a link running from Surrey to Hertfordshire, with several stops in the capital.

In June, Val Shawcross, deputy mayor for transport, told the London Assembly that Crossrail 2 could make HS2 “viable” for London. She said: “As it currently stands, HS2 will generate enormous bottlenecks at Euston if it doesn’t have Crossrail 2, which is a complementary scheme in some ways to HS2.”

In July, Transport for London released a list of 17 underground stations which could “buckle” under the strain of increased traffic in coming years. This included most of the ten busiest stations in the country: Waterloo, Victoria, London Bridge, Euston, Stratford, and King’s Cross. Clapham Junction, which is not part of the underground network, is also vulnerable to severe overcrowding.

According to the document, by the 2030s – when HS2 and Crossrail could begin operations – London’s transport network could be so overcrowded that many tube stations could be forced to introduce regular closures or permanent one-way systems.

Crucially, Crossrail 2 would link Euston station to other London stations, including Victoria, Angel and Clapham Junction. The project could cost up to £32 billion, more than double the £15 billion Crossrail 1 has cost.

In his 2016 budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond expressed the Treasury’s support for the project, allocating some funding towards the development of Crossrail 2. The project has been side-lined, however, by recent political developments and in June 2017 Michele Dix, head of the Crossrail 2 project, confirmed that the snap general election would delay the submission of a hybrid bill for the project to 2020.

The additional tens of billions proposed to be spent on improving London’s transport connections have attracted criticism, particularly regarding the apparent neglect of other areas of the country. According to think-tank IPPR North, which is dedicated to Northern England, spending on public transport per head is nearly two-and-a-half times higher in London than in the North of England.

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