Bill Bradshaw and I, two of the ‘Railway Lords’ who follow closely issues relating to railways in the House of Lords, have long been concerned that the current design of the southern end of HS2 is a nineteenth century solution to the problem of where to terminate main lines in cities, and how best to distribute passengers on their onward journeys. Add to this the very high cost of building railways in cities now, and the need to link our first high speed line to our second one without using a small gauge and intensively used line called the North London Line, and there is clearly a problem.
Hence our idea of a full GC gauge connection between HS1 and HS2, which would not affect existing and future passengers and freight on the North London Line, which would provide better connections between the HS2 and West Coast Main Line (WCML) trains and the Underground, and between Euston and St Pancras stations.
We were initially put off by the ‘experts’ who said that ‘all high speed lines have city centre termini, and that anybody who was silly enough to want to go from Birmingham or Manchester to Paris by train could easily walk along Euston Road between Euston and St Pancras stations. However, the problem is that if one is going to terminate 18 high speed trains per hour at a new Euston station, it needs a lot of platforms to allow adequate times to turn round, clean and service the trains; hence the need to demolish a large area of Camden to provide more and longer platforms.
So in a letter to Patrick McLoughlin Secretary of State for Transport, we suggested an underground station with two or three platforms in each direction, with a two track link to HS1 and, equally important, a link between the surface WCML lines and HS2 lines so that trains from HS2 and the WCML could either go into a lower station and onward to HS1, or into the existing Euston station. We called this link and low level station ‘Euston Cross’. We calculated that, if some of the suburban trains currently terminating in Euston were diverted directly into Crossrail, either through or near Old Oak Common station, the combination of the existing platforms at Euston and through platforms at Euston Cross could cope with the expected demand both for HS2 trains and those existing and new services which will still use the WCML.
The other advantage is that the North London Line would not be affected, and there would not need to be any demolition around Euston station apart from a construction site for the low level station.
Thus, the project would comprise two rather than three single track tunnels from Old Oak Common, via Queens Park station, then under Regents Park to a new eastwest deep station (Euston Cross) under the Northern ends of Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations. These two tunnels can then continue to join HS1 between Stratford and St Pancras.
The two tunnels at Queens Park would link to the WCML lines, to allow HS2 UKgauge trains to enter the existing Euston station and WCML trains to enter the deep tunnel station.
Euston Cross would have at least two pairs of two platforms (with a further pair possibly justified later), and would link the three main line surface stations and Underground ones. Construction would be similar in level and method to the proposed Crossrail 2; with limited surface works to mitigate the adverse effects on the local community.
There would be no HS1-2 link from Primrose Hill to York Way, currently proposed by HS2 with severe impact through Camden.
Would it work, and what are the benfits?
We are currently investigating costs, and whether the tunnel will fit between the various underground and other tunnels, but this looks promising. We are investigating the optimum link with HS1, and the optimum turn round locations for those HS2 trains not needed beyond Euston Cross, and also discussing further with the Department for Transport and the Immigration Service how best to deal with a mix of international and domestic passengers on the same train.
There are many combinations of domestic services that could use Euston Cross, in addition to the international trains and double deck HS2 ones; clearly there will be a limit to the capacity of that station, and of HS1 and HS2, but at least it should be possible to divert the Javelin service from terminating at St Pancras to some more useful destinations north west or west.
We are also conscious of the need to avoid delaying the progress of the HS2 Bill or construction of HS2. This Euston Cross proposal would probably need separate legislation from a timing point of view, but there is no reason why, for the first few years of operation of HS2 to Birmingham and beyond, the trains should not be the single deck HS2 variety built to our domestic W6 gauge. If the links to the surface at Queens Park were included in the HS2 Bill, this could be built with the trains terminating at the existing Euston station, as they could in the future even when the GC gauge double deckers are introduced to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and would then use Euston Cross.
We are grateful for the help provided by Jonathan Roberts, and for the support we have had from many parts of the industry, as well as many experts and politicians. We intend to pursue this so that it becomes first a viable alternative to the current scheme and then get it adopted as the project to build and operate.