The boss of HS2 has warned that leaving Euston Station unimproved after the introduction of the high speed line would be a ‘disgrace’.
Speaking at a transport select committee on the progress to date made by HS2, he said that despite the fact that it was now redeveloping the station in two phases, it would be a ‘disgrace’ if the overall station was left unimproved and thought wasn’t given to interfaces and upgrades to the existing station.
“What we all want is something better for Euston,” said Higgins. “To come out of this with not a vast improvement on the public realm would be a disgrace.”
During the hearing, concerns were raised about the engineering works required, with fears of severe disruptions to passengers while the works were taking place.
In response, Higgins said that his team was currently working on minimising the disruption. He said that the disruption would be further mitigated due to the plans to build the six new HS2 platforms off-line to the west and open Old Oak Common station before the existing station at Euston was touched.
“It does mean a slightly longer programme for the whole development of Euston, but it does mean we’re not tearing apart the exiting station before we release additional capacity onto the line,” he said.
He went on to say that the engineering team was being challenged to come up with new innovations and clever designs to minimise the disruption.
“Under the existing plan, we’re hoping to continue to evolve the design to reduce the number of blockades required in the throat in Euston,” he said. “At the moment there’s a base case which is disruptive and it starts end of next year, but we’re hoping we’ll come back to an engineering solution which will mitigate a lot of that disruption.”
“It’s technically difficult because it involves a lot of tolerances, it involves how close you can go to the top on the northern line, how much of a slope you can put on the various cross overs on the railway line, so it’s complex engineering.”
He said that if the team could find ways of modifying the bridges on the way into Euston Station rather than demolishing them, that would also help to reduce the disruption.
“If we can avoid demolishing all the major bridges which cross the throat of Euston, and raising them by 6m that will be a major improvement to the community of Euston in terms of disruption,” he said. “Technically it’s difficult, but we’ve challenged our engineers to come up with a solution.”
Davies illustrated the size of the challenge, by comparing the stations footprint to that of the recently developed Kings Cross station. He explained that the whole concourse area of Euston was less than the western extension of Kings Cross and it was ‘dramatically’ less than the new London Bridge terminal.
“It’s just too full,” he said. “We’ve all tried to get down to the underground and it’s scary. So yes, all the existing car parking and taxi area gets taken out completely, that gets turned into underground concourse plus connections into Crossrail two.
“It’s a congested old station and it’s past its sell by date and whatever happens it needs to be demolished and re built.”
Asked whether the discussions around Euston Station could delay the process he said: “Perhaps it could. It’s very, very complex.”
Higgins was speaking at a one-off inquiry session into HS2 by the Transport Committee last week.