Aerial view of HS2's London Euston station site

UK: The government is committed to building High Speed 2 through to London Euston rather than terminating it short at Old Oak Common, according to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. ‘I don’t see any conceivable circumstance in which that would not end up at Euston’, he told the BBC.

His comments on January 27 followed speculation in The Sun that the Old Oak Common – Euston section could be delayed or scrapped. A rail industry group said this would mean ’there would only be enough capacity to allow London – Birmingham shuttle services’.

The Department for Transport told Rail Business UK ‘the government remains committed to delivering High Speed 2 to Manchester, as confirmed in the Autumn Statement’. DfT said ‘as well as supporting tens of thousands of jobs, the project will connect regions across the UK, improve capacity on our railways and provide a greener option of travel.’

However DfT noted that like the rest of the economy, HS2 was facing significant inflationary pressures.

Hunt said the country does not have a good record of delivering complex, expensive infrastructure quickly. But he had prioritised HS2 in the Autumn Statement and was ‘incredibly proud’ that ‘we have shovels in the ground we are building HS2, and we’re going to make it happen.’

‘False economy’

Construction progress at HS2's Old Oak Common station

Construction at HS2’s Old Oak Common station site.

The High Speed Rail Group said ‘cancelling Euston would be the height of folly’, noting that ‘works have been underway there for five years and already hundreds of millions have been spent’.

It said Old Oak Common ‘has nowhere near enough platforms to serve as the London terminus’, and ’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.’

Delaying the opening of Euston ‘may save some money in the very short term’, but by allowing more construction inflation to creep in would add to the overall cost and ‘be a total false economy.’

Stephen Marcos Jones, CEO of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, said last minute changes would ‘do nothing but add complication, delay and expense’. He said ‘our national infrastructure should not become a political football. We need to ensure that major projects can proceed confidently if they are – ultimately – to be successful.’