HS2: Anger as bosses set to ditch Euston construction debris pledge
S2 chiefs have sparked fury by preparing to ditch promises to remove construction debris from Euston by rail - meaning an extra 26,000 HGV trips over two years, the Standard can reveal. Changes to the construction of the high-speed station at Euston and the need to curb soaring costs have prompted the axing of plans to bring in materials and remove spoil excavated from the site by rail. But critics say the move, which Camden council has warned could result in an estimated 25,863 additional lorry journeys to and from the site, "beggars belief" and will heighten concerns about road safety and pollution.
It also flies in the face of written "assurances" HS2 gave the council in 2016, when the HS2 bill was going through Parliament, that it would "seek to maximise... the volume of excavated and construction material from the construction of Euston station and approaches to be brought in and be removed by rail". An average of 60 HS2 lorries a day are already allowed to use roads such as Euston Road, Hampstead Road and Albany Street but the increased number would result in about a 150 per cent increase in construction vehicles.
Camden council has formally objected to the sudden U-turn. It said many residents were already living with massive disruption and noise and had seen their neighbourhoods blighted.
More than 130 council homes have been demolished to make way for HS2. Danny Beales, Camden's cabinet member for communities, said: "We are deeply concerned that construction materials will now not be removed by rail as previously promised. "This is a missed opportunity and will have significant and detrimental impacts on local roads due to additional congestion, worse air quality and safety for local residents."
The changes have been driven by HS2's need to save cash and the switch to a quicker "single stage" construction programme for a smaller 10-platform station at Euston. This would mean there would not be spare platforms for freight trains to remove the spoil - requiring HS2 to compensate train companies whose services in and out of Euston would be disrupted. Mr Beales said: "It's not technically infeasible to remove the spoil by train.
It's the disruption [to rail operators] and cost that they're saying is untenable. "It will mean a significant number of extra vehicles on already congested and polluted roads. I don't think the broader impact has been fully considered.
It's yet another let-down for residents." A transport expert with detailed knowledge of the plans said: "The safety and environmental consequences are pretty grim." Seb Dance, Sadiq Khan's deputy mayor for transport, has called on the Government to block the plans.
He said it would "make a bad situation even worse" in terms of the number of HS2 lorries already on London's roads In a letter to transport minister Andrew Stephenson last night, Mr Dance wrote: "The potential decision by the HS2 board to accept these additional lorry movements represents a serious road danger risk to Londoners and will generate more emissions and noise in the local area. "Construction vehicles are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal collisions involving people walking and cycling in London.
25,000 additional construction vehicles, the likely outcome of this decision, is simply unacceptable." The first leg of HS2, linking Old Oak Common and Birmingham, is due to open between 2029 and 2033. The leg remains within its GBP44.6bn budget, though there are GBP1.7bn of "potential future cost pressures" and the parliamentary watchdog told MPs in February that he was "concerned at their rate of increase".
The HS2 station at Euston, which is facing a GBP400m cost increase, would eventually link in to a rebuilt Network Rail station, which has yet to be funded.
HS2 said the revamped plans for Euston shortened the construction period "significantly" and meant that less spoil had to be removed.
It said it "has been considering a number of options for how to remove spoil from the construction of HS2's Euston station and how it can minimise impacts".