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Letters: Making the High Speed 2 connection work

Factoring Euston into the plans for HS2.

The main point


Euston’s 18 working platforms will be reduced to 13 once work on HS2 gets under way

Let us hope that as he takes his review forward Sir David Higgins takes a serious look at actually building High Speed 2 (HS2) in the Euston area.

Ministers have made a great deal of the construction that will take place off line, allowing HS2 to go ahead with minimal disruption to the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML). But this is completely untrue as the existing Euston station and its approaches will suffer 10 years of absolute chaos.

At present Euston has 18 platforms which are so congested that the rail regulator refuses to allow any extra trains to be run. From day one of HS2 construction this will be reduced to 13 platforms which will create huge problems for Virgin and London Midland trying to run any sort of adequate service.

In addition all these platforms will be the subject of major works as well as the Euston Underground station being expanded underneath. In the next 10 years the number of passengers wanting to use Euston could well increase by 50%. It is amazing that all passengers on the WCML are content to suffer such disruption.

As well as the station itself the approaches will be the subject of major works over the 10 years. The approaches are a complex of points, crossings and grade separation within massive old retaining walls that allow trains to get in and out of all platforms from all lines.

The works listed in the recent consultation exercise include:

  • demolition and reconstruction of the three main road bridges north of the station
  • demolition of the retaining walls on the west side of the line
  • filling in the two track flyover that allows trains to switch between lines
  • blocking off and filling in a twin track tunnel
  • removal of two running lines and extensive changes to line and level of track with associated electrical and signalling works.

In addition there will be a huge new cutting built on the west side of the existing tracks to allow HS2 into tunnels about a mile north of Euston. Anyone can see this will be 10 years of mayhem inflicted on all users of the WCML.

There is a way to deal with these problems but it involves the construction of the short WCML - Crossrail link in the Willesden/Old Oak Common area.

This would allow urban and suburban trains on WCML to miss out Euston and go straight on to Crossrail, creating significant benefits for passengers and interchange and also relieving Euston and its Underground station of millions of passengers a year.

Up until now neither HS2, Network Rail, Transport for London nor the Department for Transport has shown the slightest interest in this effective solution.

It does however at last get an honourable mention in Higgins’ report so let us hope he forces the issue to make the most of the WCML to Crossrail link and also sets out the benefits both during construction and after HS2 opens of such a link. It is the key to successful delivery and operation of HS2.

  • Jim Middleton (M retd), 5 Crab Tree Close, Olney, Bucks MK46 5DU


Your report of the debate concerning HS2’s connectivity in Birmingham misses the fundamental point; none of the proposals will do anything to improve connectivity, either locally or nationally (NCE 3 April).

Curzon Street might spur redevelopment of Birmingham’s East Side Quarter, but that’s all; it’s remote from New Street station and hence inaccessible to most of the West Midlands regional network, including Wolverhampton, Walsall and Coventry.

But Birmingham Interchange, 15km to the east of Birmingham is even more remote, and with only tram or shuttle links in prospect, will not deliver high quality connectivity.

Pressure group High Speed UK proposes a much simpler solution. With connectivity the priority, New Street station is the clear choice. Located at the fulcrum of the national intercity network, it has 12 through platforms and conflict-free approaches on all sides.

It might be congested, but that’s due to the excessive number of trains that terminate there, and insufficient capacity for intercity and local services on the two-track approaches.

Our strategy of resignalling, four-tracking and new links to free up New Street’s approaches will allow high speed services from all across the country to converge upon New Street.

All this is possible through operating a fully integrated railway, rather than the segregated railway developed for HS2.

  • Colin Elliff (M),


Profession: Architects of our downfall played out on TV

Regarding the recent letters on the position of the civil engineer in the view of the general public, TV seems determined to erase our role.

The BBC has many instances of ignoring civil engineering roles but the latest insult comes from Ade at Sea on ITV. In the latest episode Adrian Edmondson refers to Guy Maunsell as the architect of the sea forts. Yet if you search for him on any search engine he is always the civil engineer. I assume some TV executive decided that civil engineer is not the preferred title so changed it. Imagine if we changed TV producers to organisers or managers. I wonder how they would take it?

  • Mike Parker (M),


Water: Past plans tell all on a strategy for water

I was very encouraged to read Michael Norton’s references to the need for a long-term water strategy (NCE 3 April), and in particular the creation of a national water resources group by the Environment Agency.

At last some hope of fulfilling the purposes of the 1963 Water Resources Act, two decades overdue on the part of the Agency but better late than never.

However, we seem to have lost our historical sense, without which we will simply jerk from one bright new initiative, soon forgotten, to another.

The antecedents of the search for a rational water strategy lie back in the 19th century and its most substantial manifestation in the decade of study by the Water Resources Board 40 years ago. We must try to build on what has gone before instead of starting new foundations in each generation: a recipe for learning nothing.

  • Barry Rydz (F),


Flooding: Flood resistant floors available since 1968

Jim McColl’s letter raises the question of flood resistant floors for buildings, but his call for pooling resources to find an answer is unnecessary.

After the 1968 floods in Guildford flood resistant floors have been developed and are available on request to any building owner. They work for the three main types of flooding: upwards from rising groundwater, surface from overflowing rivers, and above from burst pipes etcetera. Both suspended timber floors and beam and block floors have problems from flooding, and the beam and block floor has a serious problem. Building owners and the insurance companies could minimise the effects of flooding by using flood resistant floors. A floor can be flooded at any time, but a flood resistant floor makes the flooding much easier and cheaper to deal with.

  • Chris Shaw (F),


Profession: Don’t put your daughter on the building site…

A recent edition of NCE included information that a high percentage of ICE members would not encourage their daughters to pursue a career in civil engineering. Are there figures available relating to their sons?

I suspect the figures are similar, and until the status and remuneration issues are addressed nothing will change.
So, are members being hypocritical when encouraging school pupils to consider civil engineering as a career?

  • John Collins (M),


Energy: Heathrow biomass plant is up and running

I refer to the biomass power plant article, which claimed to be the UK’s first biomass power plant fuelled by waste wood (NCE 10 April).

While researching Heathrow Airport I discovered that a similar project was/is being undertaken there. A new Organic Rankine Cycle biomass power plant (pictured below) was being installed in 2012/13, on a site between the British Airways cargo centre and Terminal 4 on the south side of Heathrow.

Using clean woodchip waste, the plant costing £46M will generate 1.8MW of electricity and 8MW of thermal heat and cooling for Terminals T2A and T2B plus heat to Terminal 5. Eventually, when the system is connected to Terminals 1 and 3, the central area boiler house building 448 will be decommissioned and demolished.

There is also a combined heat and power plant within the cargo area, installed around 2006, which will eventually be superseded.

  • Ian Anderson, (M retd),


  • NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed. Send your views and opinions to: The Editor, NCE, Telephone House, 69-77 Paul Street, London, EC2A 4NQ; email:

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