WHAT ABOUT THE LINK BE­TWEEN HS2 (EUS­TON) AND HS1 (ST PAN­CRAS)?

Rail (UK) - - London Special -

The ques­tion comes up fre­quently - if you site the HS2 ter­mi­nus at Eus­ton, what are you go­ing to do about con­nec­tiv­ity to High Speed 1? It’s a con­tro­ver­sial topic be­cause at one stage it was likely that there would be a link be­tween HS2 and HS1, then the idea was scrapped. And as re­cently as last year, many of us thought the idea would come back again. So why are there no plans for a link?

Lord Ado­nis, the Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port who an­nounced HS2 back in 2009, gave a com­pelling an­swer to that very ques­tion in the House of Com­mons on Jan­uary 10.

Baroness Ran­der­son wanted to un­der­stand the rea­sons why plans for a link be­tween HS1 and HS2 had been dropped. She said that, while she ac­knowl­edged the prac­ti­cal and costly dif­fi­cul­ties of hav­ing a link, there are “huge prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with the pro­posed - and very costly - Eus­ton de­vel­op­ment, but that does not seem to have de­terred the Gov­ern­ment or HS2 Ltd”. She asked: “Why were the orig­i­nal plans to link HS1 to HS2 dropped and, im­por­tantly, could they be taken up again if de­mand was at such a level that that would be jus­ti­fied, and what firm plans ex­ist for the trek along Eus­ton Road?”

Ado­nis an­swered first by sep­a­rat­ing the two is­sues. The first be­ing through trains from Paris to the Mid­lands and fur­ther north. The sec­ond be­ing the “lam­en­ta­ble” con­nec­tions be­tween Eus­ton and St Pan­cras.

On the first point he said: “The eco­nomic case for run­ning through ser­vices from Paris and Brus­sels to Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester and Leeds is very weak in­deed.”

He con­tin­ued: “Although HS1 has been a great suc­cess in engi­neer­ing terms and has played a use­ful part in link­ing two of Europe’s great cities, it is way off all the pro­jec­tions of traf­fic be­tween Lon­don and the con­ti­nent. I do not think it is yet even at half the level of the pro­jec­tions of what the traf­fic should have been. There is still only one ser­vice an hour be­tween Lon­don and Paris for most of the day. Of­ten, those ser­vices have quite light loads.”

Ado­nis said it was “important to be frank about this be­cause ev­ery­body pays lip ser­vice to the ben­e­fits of link­ing HS1 and HS2”.

“On the face of it, it seems ab­surd that there is not a con­nec­tion be­tween the two, but be­cause the ser­vice would be so in­ter­mit­tent - with the best will in the world, only a few trains a day would run on that ser­vice - I very much doubt it would be taken up in any big way. While we have cheap air­lines that of­fer very fre­quent ser­vices to Manch­ester and Birm­ing­ham - both are highly suc­cess­ful air­ports, which are ex­pand­ing and have sig­nif­i­cant ca­pac­ity that they can make avail­able for flights to the con­ti­nent - it is un­likely that such a line would be vi­able.”

So what about the trek along Eus­ton Road?

Said Ado­nis: “Although this de­gree of work has not yet been done, my as­sump­tion with the plan­ning of Cross­rail 2 is al­ways that it will be pos­si­ble to use it also as a pedes­trian tun­nel, with a trav­e­la­tor for get­ting from Eus­ton to St Pan­cras.

“The trans­port plan­ners are not wildly keen on that idea be­cause it will add to the cost of Cross­rail 2 and they want a more lim­ited scheme that has ac­cess only for trans­port users. But it’s ob­vi­ous that if you have a Cross­rail 2 sta­tion serv­ing the two sta­tions, and you have this un­der­ground link, putting in a sim­ple trav­e­la­tor and mak­ing it pos­si­ble for peo­ple to con­nect be­tween the two sta­tions un­der­ground must be sen­si­ble.”

He fin­ished: “It has to be said that, at the mo­ment, this is­sue still does not have a sat­is­fac­tory res­o­lu­tion… Pas­sen­gers can­not be ex­pected to put up with the cur­rent state of con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Eus­ton and King’s Cross St Pan­cras. It should be in­cum­bent on the Gov­ern­ment, the mayor, TfL and HS2 to see that there are bet­ter links for that pe­riod be­tween the open­ing of HS2 at Eus­ton and the com­ple­tion of Cross­rail 2. As I say, that is the only long-term so­lu­tion to this is­sue.”

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